(CBS Local)– In 2013, NYU alum John Ridley became the second African-American man to ever to win an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Ridley won the award for his work on the film “12 Years A Slave” and he’s back in New York Wednesday at the NYU Gallatin School for a talk about healing from trauma and the state of our country.

“We hope to accomplish social justice and hope to get more people involved in it,” said Ridley in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “We’re at a weird time in our society and you say social justice and for whatever reason it’s polarizing. Social justice is for all of us. Art has always been a way for audience members to find empathy in stories. We wanted to try to bring art and activism together.”

While Ridley got his start in the business as a stand-up comic and writer on shows like “Martin” and “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air,” the NYU grad has used his latest projects like “12 Years A Slave” and “American Crime” to say something larger about society.

“12 Years A Slave feels like something that is so American and in some ways slavery in America was its own unique thing,” said Ridley. “Slavery had existed in other place throughout history, but American slavery was unique and the trauma we still deal with is very unique. I don’t think we do a very good job in this country teaching history. Through this we became a stronger country and the light of the world in my opinion.”

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