Please welcome founder
and executive directorBryan Stevenson
and Grammy award-nominatedsinger-songwriter Andra Day.
Thank you so muchfor being on the show.
There is no, uh, easy wayto get into this subject.
You know? Uh, in a week,there's been so much talk
about history and heritage.
People talkingabout monuments in America,
people talking aboutthe history of America.
But, in many ways, Bryan,
you would argue that the history
people wish to Americais not, uh...
wish to remember of America
is not really the full story.
What is your project about?
Well, it's aboutconfronting the fact
that we're notreally free in America.
I think we're burdened bya history of racial inequality
that we have not addressed.
And it's becomelike smog in the air.
And we all breathe it in.
And it doesn't take much
to expose these conflictsand tensions.
And so we're tryingto change that.
We want to talkabout some things
that haven't tal...been talked about.
I think we needto talk about the fact
that we'rea post-genocide society.
Before white settlerscame to this continent,
there were millions of nativepeople who were slaughtered
through famineand war and disease.
But we didn'tcall it a genocide.
We said,"Those people are savages."
And we created this narrativeof racial difference,
-this ideologyof white supremacy. -Right.
And that's what ushered incenturies of enslavement.
And, for me, the great evilof American slavery
wasn't involuntary servitude,it wasn't forced labor,
it was this ideologyof white supremacy.
This idea that black peoplearen't like white people.
And we neverreally addressed that.
If you read the 13th Amendment,it talks about
dealing with involuntaryservitude and forced labor,
but it does... doesn'ttalk about ending this ideology
of white supremacy.And, because of that,
I don't think slavery endedin 1865, I think it evolved.
And it turned into decadesof terrorism and violence.
And we don't understandthat history,
and that's whywe started this project.
Between the end of the Civil Warand World War II,
thousands of African-Americanswere pulled out of their homes,
they were burned alive,they were hanged,
they were brutalized.
-And we didn't deal about...deal with that. -Right.
In communities acrossthis country it happened.
And older people of colorcome up to me, sometimes,
and they say,"Mr. Stevenson, I get angry
"when I hear someoneon TV talking about
"how we're dealingwith domestic terrorism
for the first time in ournation's history after 9/11."
They say, "We grew up withterror. We had to worry about
being bombed and lynched andmenaced every day of our lives."
And we're dealingwith a lot of issues
that were shaped by this era,
because the demographicgeography of America
was shaped by racial terrorism.The black people in Cleveland,
in Chicago, in Detroit,in Harlem, in Brooklyn,
in Los Angeles, in Oakland,came to these communities
not as immigrants looking fornew economic opportunities
but as refugees and exiles fromterror in the American South.
And we've gotto understand that era
if we're going to understandthe issues we are dealing with.
When we... when we talk aboutthe Equal Justice Initiative,
uh, you worked togetherwith Google to create a map
and to create an interactivejourney into America's past.
It's painful, and it's powerful.
Uh, it's looking at where allof the reported
and discovered lynchingshappened in the United States,
a scary map to look at,because there are...
there are far more incidences
than anyone really caresto speak about.
When you came acrossthis project, Andra,
-as-as an artist,people would think -Mm-hmm.
you would stay away from a topic
that some would considercontentious.
You know, you make music. Whatmade you want to get involved?
(sighs)Well, I think it was...
When I first heard about it,it was just...
it was echoing things,conversations that I had
in my small group of people andfriends and family for years.
But on top of that,you know, one of the things
that-that they-they stressat EJI
is that you can't getto reconciliation without truth.
And I've lived my lifeon that principle.
I-I... The last album I wrotewas based off of that.
-Right. -And so, you know, I...For me, it's...
You might want to stay awayfrom it,
but when you can see that truth
and dealing with those painfulrealities of our history
and-and people...us being accountable for those,
that's the only waywe can move forward
and the way we can reconcile
and the way we can healas a country.
Then, you know,I-I can't think about myself
and what people will thinkabout me when I engage with him
and engage with EJI.
I have to think about the futureof this country
and people and freedomand reconciliation.
-Wh-When you... when you lookat the future though, -Mm-hmm.
some people may say,"Hey, Bryan,
"I get that lynchings happened,
"but why remind peopleof such a painful past?
"Why not move forward? Why dowe have to remember this pain?
How is that helping?Is it not just dividing people?"
Well, I don't...Actually, I-I think that, um,
we haven't engagedin the narrative conversation
that we need to have.You know, the South...
Uh, the North won the Civil War,
but the South wonthe narrative war.
This idea that white supremacy,
racial apartheidwas unacceptable
was not somethingwe ever embraced.
And that's why we hadthis era of terror,
and that's why we hadthis era of segregation.
And it's also why we have thispresumption of dangerousness
and guilt that still followsblack and brown people.
Uh, in South Africa,there was a recognition
that we were not goingto be able to make progress
-without some processto give truth a hearing. -Right.
-Mm-hmm.-If you go to Rwanda,
they will tell youabout the genocide.
It's not possibleto spend time there
-without hearing about that.-Right.
In Germany, in Berlin, you can'tgo 100 meters in Berlin
without seeing markersand stones
that have been placed nextto the homes of Jewish families.
The Germans want you to goto the Holocaust Memorial,
because they're trying to changetheir identity.
They-they don't want to bejust thought of as Nazis.
But in this country,we don't talk about slavery.
We don't talk about lynching,we don't talk about segregation.
We're preoccupiedwith the 19th century.
In my region, hundreds
of Confederate memorialsand statues,
but nothing about slaveryor lynching.
And so, I don't thinkwe've gonna get free.
We will not overcomethese problems
until we confront this history.
And I agreewith what Andra said.
You know, we want truth andreconciliation, we want unity.
But we don't realize, those twothings are not simultaneous.
You've got to have truthbefore reconciliation.
And we haven't donetruth-telling in this country,
and we won't get wherewe're trying to go until we do.
-Mm-hmm. -What role do you feelmusic plays in this?
You know,there are many artists who--
from very early onin the United States--
used their music to communicatea feeling, to-to convey...
-Mm-hmm. -...how black Americanswere coping
-with what was happening.-Mm-hmm.
You know, the song you're goingto perform today was obviously
made famous by Billie Holiday.
What role do you feelthat musicians play in this?
I-I think musiciansare revolutionaries
in the sensethat they take the message
and bring it from just--in this situation--
the afflicted group of people
and they take itto the broader public.
They make... They bringawareness to what's going on.
And... and you know, you can'tactually effect change
-without knowingwhat the problem is. -Right.
And so, I thinkthat musicians are...
You know, they're activists,they're revolutionaries.
They-they...they make people aware
of what needs to happen,the change that needs to happen.
And-and you've seen itall throughout history,
starting with "Strange Fruit,"which I think
was actually our very first,you know,
-politically-driven song, and...-Uh-huh.
And then you moveall the way down...
hip-hop with Public Enemy.
You know, you don't knowwhat's going on
in these neighborhoods or whatthese people are dealing with
unless someone is saying iton a bigger stage,
on a broader, uh, bigger--I'm sorry-- platform.
Right. Uh, Bryan, before we...we let you go,
what would you want peopleto do?
What is... what is this projectmeant to engage?
How is it meantto change anything?
If someone's sitting at homegoing,
"Bryan, I see the Web site.
What am I supposed to dowith this information?,"
-what would you like themto understand? -Yeah. I...
I want themto learn this history.
There are 900 countiesin America
where lynchings took place,
where, in some instances,thousands of people gathered
in public squaresand watched folks
be tortured and brutalized.
You need to know if you livein one of those counties.
You also need to knowwhere those counties are.
And you need to begin talkingabout this era.
I think we can't reallybe honest in America
until we change the landscape.
And so we have opportunities
for people to comeand join our project,
to collect soilat lynching sites,
to claim monumentsand take them back,
to put up markers.
I think we've got to beginto create a consciousness
that is connectedto how we get free.
I'm a lawyer.I do parole hearings.
And one of the interestingthings at a parole hearing is
that they won't let you out ifyou've been convicted of a crime
if you don't give voiceto your remorse,
-if you don't acknowledgethe crime. -Right.
-They don't trust you to notrepeat that crime. -Right.
And so, I actually thinkwe have to start giving voice
about our history of slaveryand lynching and suffering.
We have to talk about it,we have to acknowledge it.
And I think,if we have those conversations,
we'll get to a better place.
We're not interestedin talking about this history
-'cause we wantto punish America. -DAY: Right.
-I think we want to liberateAmerica. -DAY: Mm-hmm.
We want to get us to the placewhere we can actually look
at one another without thisnarrative of racial difference,
this ideology of white supremacy
limiting who we areand what we can be.
Well, thank you so muchfor joining us
-on the show.-You're very welcome.
Really appreciate it.Thank you very much.
-(cheering, applause) -To learnmore about this project,
built with the supportof Google,
go to lynchinginamerica.egi...
Bryan Stevenson and Andra Day,everybody.