Later this month, Butler University’s Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement will welcome author, poet, and activist Ian Manuel as the inaugural guest in its Visiting Black Intellectual series. 

At the age of 14, Manuel was tried as an adult after participating in a non-homicide armed robbery attempt. He was sentenced to life in prison, and that’s where he would spend the next 26 years, with 18 years in solitary confinement. Manuel was eventually released in 2016 through the work of attorney Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States. 

Manuel recently published a memoir about his experience, titled My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope and Redemption. From September 21–23, he will visit Butler’s campus to share his story.

“Ian is an intellectual, an artist, and he has a lot to say about the criminal justice system,” says Dr. Terri Jett, Professor of Political Science and the Hub’s Faculty Director. “I have certainly learned a lot from reading his book and having conversations with him. Through Ian’s visit, I hope the Butler and Indianapolis communities will be moved to act and to fight against the mass incarceration in this criminal justice system that is so racist, unfair, and unjust.”

In addition to Butler class visits and other campus gatherings, Manuel will read from his memoir and his poetry during a free, public event on September 22 at 7:00 PM in Shelton Auditorium. He will also meet with Black youth from the MLK Center, currently incarcerated individuals from Volunteers of America, and members of Leadership Indianapolis.

“I think anyone can relate to and connect with Ian,” Jett says. “I’m excited for our community to meet him, hear his story, and be inspired by him.”

Leading up to the visit, Butler’s Student Affairs team and the Efroymson Diversity Center partnered to purchase 1,000 copies of Manuel’s book, most of which have been distributed to campus and community groups. Several Butler faculty members are using the text in their fall courses, and remaining copies are available for pickup in the Hub space (Jordan Hall, Room 171). There will also be some books available during the public event. 

This will be Manuel’s third time at Butler, following previous visits for Founder’s Week in 2018 and a Desmond Tutu Peace Lab workshop in 2019. 

On October 5 at 7:00 PM, the community will also welcome Bryan Stevenson (Manuel’s attorney) to Clowes Memorial Hall for a discussion about how we can overcome poverty by attacking the systemic and social injustices that fuel it. This free, ticketed event is sponsored by the Christian Theological Seminary’s Faith and Action Project. Prior to Stevenson’s visit, the Desmond Tutu Peace Lab will host a screening and discussion of HBO documentary True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality on September 30 at 6:00 PM in Pharmacy Building, Room 106A.

All of the Hub’s Visiting Black Intellectuals will come to Butler for at least three days, during which they’ll present a public lecture or performance, visit classes, and meet with members of the Butler and Indianapolis communities. Other possible guests planned for the 2021–2022 academic year include Paralympic sprinter and Indiana State student Noah Malone—who won three medals in Tokyo and just published a memoir—and Dr. Tina M. Harris, Endowed Chair of Race, Media, and Cultural Literacy at Louisiana State University.

“Through the Visiting Black Intellectual program, I hope people gain more depth of understanding about the Black community’s cultural life, intellectual traditions, and expressions,” Jett says. 

First announced in October 2020, the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement seeks to build a more inclusive community by elevating the collective Black voice and experience at Butler, as well as leading the disruption and continued dismantling of systemic racism. The Hub recently moved into its home in Jordan Hall, Room 171. 

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About Butler University
Butler University is a nationally recognized comprehensive university encompassing six colleges: Arts, Business, Communication, Education, Liberal Arts & Sciences, and Pharmacy & Health Sciences. Approximately 4,500 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students are enrolled at Butler, representing 46 states and 22 countries. More than 75 percent of Butler students will participate in some form of internship, and Butler students have had significant success after graduation, as demonstrated by the University’s 97 percent placement rate within one year of graduation. The University was recently listed as the No. 1 regional university in the Midwest, according to the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings, in addition to being included in The Princeton Review’s annual “best colleges” guidebook.