Global Issues

TED’s first response to Bryan Stevenson’s talk on injustice

Posted by: Chris Anderson

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Photo: Duncan Davidson

Bryan Stevenson’s talk inspired one of the longest and loudest standing ovations in TED’s history. And it provoked a blizzard of requests from audience members that we find a way to support the work of his nonprofit organization, the Equal Justice Initiative.

When I asked Bryan about funding needs, this is what he said: “We are trying to raise $1.5 million for a campaign that ends excessive sentencing of children and stops the practice of putting kids in adult jails and prisons, where they are 10 times more likely than other incarcerated people to be the victims of sexual assault and violence. We just started this effort, and support from the TED community could be huge. I’ll be arguing a case in the U.S. Supreme Court on this issue next month.”

So the next day, I invited members of the audience to contribute. In just a few minutes 6 people pledged $100,000 each, 18 pledged $10,000 and more than 100 pledged $1,000. With subsequent pledges received by text and email, and a $100,000 contribution from TED itself, I was able to write to Bryan confirming that TED will be writing his organization a check for $1.12m.

But beyond that, it’s clear that many people who saw this talk want ongoing involvement on this issue. Bryan’s organization can be contacted directly here. And TED is committed to making this issue a core part of its TED Prize initiative on The City 2.0. The thinking here is that the future of cities and massive incarceration levels are inextricably linked. If huge numbers of families are missing their fathers, it’s hard to imagine how inner-city renewal takes place. The City 2.0 initiative is all about empowering citizens in every city to work together to shape their city’s future. So we plan to work with Bryan to build a system that will allow people to take action locally on this issue. If you have thoughts on how this could be done, or wish to offer help, please write to tedprize@ted.com.

It’s truly thrilling to see what happens when someone comes to TED and induces a whole new view of the world in our audience — and does so in such a powerful and inspiring way. I suspect the response to this talk will be equally massive online. If you haven’t yet seen it, you really must. It’s here.

– Chris Anderson