SBCC program to give students free copies of notable book

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Ryan Cullom

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CORINA POWELL, Channels Staff

SBCC Reads will give away free copies of the social justice book, “Just Mercy,” starting Feb. 2 at City College’s Luria Library.

Just Mercy,” written by Bryan Stevenson, outspoken social justice activist and lawyer, has been selected by SBCC Reads as its 2016 book choice.

The reading program annually selects one book to encourage students to read and provides City College students with free copies.

“The goal of the SBCC Reads book is to really create awareness about important topics in our community,” Michelle Bone, Luria Library reference librarian, said. “And to get conversations going.”

Stevenson spent much of his life defending wrongly accused individuals. He also founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation for people who may have had an unfair trial.

As a young lawyer in the late 1980’s, he defended Walter Mcmillian, a black man on death row for allegedly killing a white woman in Monroeville, Alabama. This was one of his first cases and it garnered a lot of attention.

Monroeville also happens to be the hometown of Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Similar to the novel’s plot, despite multiple eyewitnesses from Mcmillian’s church testifying his innocence, the mostly-white jury found him guilty.

Stevenson worked on this case until Mcmillian was eventually released, after six years on death row.

Stevenson, who has given a TED talk and lectured at various universities and community centers, will appear on April 18 at UCSB’s Campbell Hall.

There will also be a panel discussion on prison experience and criminal justice reform programs among experts in the field, including formerly incarcerated City College students. This will also take place in April, and its date and location will be announced soon.

On April 7, the Luria Library will host Aba Gayle, mother of a murdered child and president of the Catherine Blount Foundation. She will speak about forgiveness and criminal justice reform, also discussing the work she does with prisoners.

Bone said Gayle is a “great advocate for the book.”

Bone has worked with City College program Transitions, which works to provide access to college education for people who have been released from the California criminal justice system.

“Some students feel entitled to everything,” Bone said, referring to academic resources. “Some students wonder ‘is this for me?’”

Bone hopes that through Transitions, all students will feel entitled to the same amount of attention and support as their peers.

“A lot of people are so bogged down with homework, they don’t have time to read,” said Elizabeth Bowman, city college library director.

“Reading is such a vital and lively part of the learning experience,” she said.

All City College students are encouraged to take advantage of the book giveaway.