My Vanderbilt Law School classmate Kent McKeever is showing the rest of us how humble advocacy for justice is done.
For the 40 days of lent, Kent, an attorney and minister, decided to wear an orange prison jumpsuit everyday. The purpose of this provoking symbol is to express his spiritual solidarity with those who are in prison and to raise awareness of the flaws in our criminal justice system.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Kent said he decided to don the orange because:
My heart continues to break over and over again at the devastation caused by our War on Drugs and mass incarceration system and ‘tough on crime’ attitude and policy… [T]he countless other ways our world locks up the poor and marginalized… compels me to do something visible to bring attention to the issues and especially to the plight of chains of our own making. Talking about it isn’t enough.
If you’re not sure what Kent’s talking about when he references the “devastation” of “the poor and marginalized,” then check out the statistics he’s compiled here. Kent has done an excellent job chronicling his experiences and sharing the stories of people he’s met on his blog, 40 Days in Orange. I highly recommend reading it. And donating to Kent’s ministry (specify it’s for legal services). And praying for all the victims, the defendants, and the attorneys in the criminal justice system. And for our state and federal policymakers.
Kent also told the Waco Tribune:
I wanted this to be a time for repentance, sacrifice and humility in my own faith, and in a way that will lead many of us to a corporate confession of our complicity with a system that devastates individuals, families and communities, often communities of color.
What Kent says about complicity is very powerful for me. Although I work for the state judiciary and I am sworn to uphold the law, I am not unaware of flaws in the system, and my professional code also encourages me to work for positive reform. I envision drastic changes emerging in my own lifetime, and my brother Kent is a significant part of that.
But even more significant are the words of Christ’s own mission statement:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ (Luke 4:18-19 NRSV)
I believe our society can punish and protect without oppression. Educate yourself on these issues and look prayerfully for opportunities to educate others.