Equal Justice Initiative Attorney Sia Sanneh '94 works to end racism's lasting effects
Equal Justice Initiative Attorney Sia Sanneh '94 helps Americans understand racism's lasting effects. As a Senior Attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative (made famous in last year’s film Just Mercy), Sia Sanneh '94works to overturn wrongful convictions, freeing innocent people from death row. Her current focus includes teenaged prisoners — as young as 13 or 14 years old — who have been tried as adults and sentenced to die in prison. In a further layer of appalling injustice, many of these young clients have been abused while in the adult prison system.
Another aspect of Sia’s work with Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of EJI, has been to create two new cultural sites in Montgomery, Alabama: the Legacy Museum, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The museum stands on a site where enslaved people were once warehoused, a block from where they were auctioned. It aims to teach the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation, with the larger goal of challenging inequality in America. The National Memorial, a mile away, seeks to honor the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, those humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.
Sia credits her love of history to her parents and also to Shady Hill, where the immersive Ancient Greece Central Subject in fourth grade left a lasting impression. She hopes the Legacy Museum and National Memorial will, in a similar fashion, change visitors’ outlook long-term. “Seeing how people respond to the memorial has been especially moving. I’ve seen many people especially elderly folks who survived the lynching era, moved to tears.”
Thank you, Sia, for your tremendous work fighting for justice. #changemaker