EJI has partnered with DonorsChoose to provide teachers throughout the country with resources and materials that advance understanding of our history of racial injustice and the need for criminal justice reform.
Started by a history teacher, DonorsChoose is a nonprofit organization that makes it easy for donors to support public school classrooms in need. Teachers post classroom project requests online, donors find projects they want to support and give any amount of money, and when a project is fully funded, DonorsChoose purchases all the requested items and ships them directly to the teacher. DonorsChoose has supported nearly 85,000 schools nationwide since it started in 2000.
EJI partnered with DonorsChoose this summer to double donations to classroom projects that request Just Mercy alongside other books from a special list focused on racial justice. The partnership has already produced unprecedented results, involving hundreds of teachers and donors across the country.
Since it started on August 6, 253 teachers at 242 public schools in 41 states have received EJI funding for 261 project requests that focus on racial justice. At the vast majority of those schools, more than half of students come from low-income households. Nearly 800 donors from 48 states have participated so far.
Students in youth detention facilities have received personal copies of Just Mercy to read while they are incarcerated. An elementary school teacher received copies of Just Mercy for her school’s staff and teachers to challenge their thinking, engage them in deep discussions about racial inequality, and “help us be better at serving ALL of our students each and every day.”
“Many students never encounter stories they feel are relevant to their lives and interests,” wrote Mrs. Young at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. Her project to use Just Mercy as core literature was fully funded in “a record 5 days!”
In Greensboro, Alabama, Ms. Dominique echoed that point. “My students need more reading material that they can relate to,” she wrote. “Bryan Stevenson’s story and work takes place within a two-hour drive of their homes.” Providing her a class set of books was especially important because her students live in a rural community where 75% of them do not have Internet access in their homes. Ms. Dominique’s students will apply Just Mercy to their own communities. “They will learn from the story how they can take small actions to fight for their community and themselves.”
At High Tech High in Chula Vista, California, Ms. Mackenzie has been teaching Just Mercy for several years. “Students have told me that it was the first book they read cover to cover,” she wrote. “In my experience, this is a life changing book for anyone who reads it.”
O’Shea Jackson Jr., a star of the award-winning Just Mercy movie, fully funded a project to purchase copies of Just Mercy for Black high school students in Tacoma, Washington, and surprised students with a personal message of motivation.
MahoganyBooks, a Black-owned, independent bookstore that specializes in books written for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora, is supplying copies of Just Mercy for this project.
EJI is proud to support teachers, students, parents, communities, and educators who believe that a more focused effort must be made to prepare a new generation so they are equipped to understand and eliminate racism, bigotry, and inequality.