“Just do it!” a friend of mine pleaded early one morning trying to convince me to apply for the President’s Reading Circle. The application was recently emailed to all Spelman College students, encouraging everyone to apply. I recall not being accepted the year before, but with a push from a friend, I decided to try again.
The President’s Reading Circle was brought to Spelman by its 10th president, Mary Schmidt Campbell. It is an opportunity for students to collaborate and critically think about the many perspectives and issues surrounding different literary works. It creates a safe place for students to share what they think the book means and how it connects to their everyday life. So far, the students have read Alexander Hamilton and Alice Walker’s trilogy which included, The Color Purple, The Temple of My Familiar, and Possessing the Secret of Joy. This year, the book chosen was Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.
After being selected, I was given Just Mercy to read. Within two days the first meeting took place late in the evening. By that time, I had only gotten through the fifth page, but even then, I was emotionally connected to Stevenson’s memoir. I was so excited about being a part of a book club and visiting the President’s home, that I decided to dress professionally, just to be safe. I was overdressed, but after being welcomed into her home with a warm greeting and dinner, I became comfortable. The girls that joined me were just as eager so that by the time we sat down to discuss, we were ready.
Bryan Stevenson’s memoir was captivating and memorable. Throughout the book, Stevenson brightens the humanity of those whose humanity has been darkened after becoming a condemned man or woman. He does this by saying their name, sharing their childhood memories, their backstories, and the way they ended up on death row. This technique encourages readers to critique our justice system and acknowledge the unsung heroes like Bryan Stevenson.
Lastly, we further deepened our knowledge by taking a trip to Washington D.C. to visit the phenomenal National African American Museum of History and Culture. This museum is a must see for everyone. It depicts how far we have come as African Americans from the chains of slavery to the singing and screaming of our black power, black beauty, and black struggles. It also teaches us how far we have to go to become truly and unapologetically free. I have learned so much from the President’s Reading Circle. I know now how important it is to read books like Just Mercy, because had I not, the wonderful experience of visiting the museum and connecting with Spelman students and faculty/staff would never have impacted my life in the way it has. I also learned through Bryan Stevenson’s work, that everyone’s humanity is worth saving even those who are incarcerated or on death row.
Spelman College ‘20
Economics ( International Studies concentration)