August 30, 2007

Jena 6: An American Tragedy

[NOTE: The AfroSpear called for 8/30/07 to be a Day of Blogging for Justice. We want to focus the attention of the nation on the Jena 6 case. As such, I am re-running a post that I created earlier this month. It provides a comprehensive background for those that may be coming late to the party. There are some action steps for you take listed at the end of this post. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Let's show these young students in Jena, LA that we have their back. peace, Villager]

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In a small highly segregated rural Louisiana town of Jena in September 2006, a Black student asked permission from school administrators to sit under the shade of a tree commonly reserved for the enjoyment of white students. School officials advised the Black students to sit wherever they wanted and they did. The next day, three nooses, in the school colors, were hanging from the same tree.


The Jena high school principal found that three white students were responsible and recommended expulsion. The white superintendent of schools over-ruled the principal and gave the students a three day suspension, saying that the nooses were "a youthful stunt." Black students decided to resist and organized a sit-in under the tree to protest the lenient treatment given to the noose-hanging white students.

Racial tensions remained elevated throughout the fall. On Monday, December 4 2006, a white student (Justin Barker, photo shown to the right) who allegedly had been racially taunting Black students in support of the students who hung the nooses got into a fight with Black students. Allegedly, the white student was taken to the hospital treated, released, reportedly attended a social function later that evening.

As a result of this incident, six Black Jena students were arrested and charged with attempted second degree murder. All six were expelled from school. The six charged were: 17-year-old Robert Bailey Junior whose bail was set at $138,000; 17-year-old Theo Shaw - bail $130,000; 18-year-old Carwin Jones--bail $100,000; 17-year-old Bryant Purvis--bail $70,000; 16 year old Mychal Bell, a sophomore in high school who was charged as an adult and for whom bail was set at $90,000; and a still unidentified minor.

On the morning of the trial, the District Attorney reduced the charges from attempted second degree murder to second degree aggravated battery and conspiracy. Aggravated battery in Louisiana law demands the attack be with a dangerous weapon. The prosecutor was allowed to argue to the jury that the tennis shoes worn by Bell could be considered a dangerous weapon.
When the pool of potential jurors was summoned, fifty people appeared, all white. The jury deliberated for less than three hours and found Mychal Bell guilty on the maximum possible charges of aggravated second degree battery and conspiracy. He faces up to a maximum of 22 years in prison.

The rest of the Jena 6 await similar trials. Theodore Shaw is due to go on trial shortly. Mychal Bell's sentencing has been delayed. If he gets the maximum sentence he will not be out of prison until he is nearly 40.

The AfroSpear encourages all villagers to realize the following:

  1. In light of the circumstances surrounding Mychal Bell's case, we urge all villagers to support the call for a new trial.

  2. It is unacceptable to selectively enforce the law based on race. Prosecutorial discretion should be used in a fair and equitable manner.

  3. The Jena Six should be tried by juries that reflect the racial and ethnic demographics of Jena, LA.

  4. The hanging of nooses is not a "youthful stunt" or "prank." It is a hate crime. Such hate crimes should not be tolerated at any school. Jena High School must establish a curriculum which promotes cultural sensitivity and understanding.

  5. The AfroSpear calls on Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti to thoroughly investigate and monitor the trials of Mychal Bell, Robert Bailey, Jr., Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis and John Doe. The Governor and State Attorney General should do everything in their power to ensure that these young men's constitutional rights are protected.

  6. All villagers should reach out to their own congressman and senators requesting a federal investigation of this racist behavior in Jena, LA.

  7. All villagers should sign the online petition as well

We will keep this factual timeline updated over the coming weeks. Please let us know if you hear of any new information on the Jena 6!

28 comments:

Blu Jewel said...

I'm familiar with this case and find myself appalled and disgusted at the treatment of the black boys. In a case where it's evident who the real perpetrators are, it's sad that a tree as well as the black boys became the victims.

If the white boys punishment was reduced to a suspension, then the same should have been afforded the black boys.

This case is a clear indication that racism in the so-called judicial system is still swayed in the favor on whites. Blacks and others of color or mixed heritage will rarely receive a fair trial; especially in the south.

Bygbaby said...

Thx for the update. I just signed the petition.

Bygbaby

Villager said...

Blu Jewel - Thank you for sharing your insights on the Jena 6 case. I agree with you that a commonsense approach to punishment in the first place would have diffused the situation ... along with a realization that having a "white-only" tree in the schoolyard was a pretty stupid idea.

Bygbaby - Asante sana!

dcsavvystar said...

Thank you for this. I appreciate the update. We have to fight for these young men.

Claire said...

This case made it over here (UK) on the BBC news, when it first happened but as usual they didnt give a follow up story. I should of got off my arse and googled it.

Hanging a noose is a youthful stunt? thats bollocks! (rubbish)

Villager said...

Claire - Thanks for the update. You seem to get the news on the BBC about issues related to justice quicker than we do in America. Share anything that you think would be of interest to us in the future!

DC Savvy Star - Asante Sana for your kind words.

peace, Villager

Mig said...

OK, this is something I heard about, even in this small village where I live. I am not surprised to see that there are still such crimes against other races being tolerated and (encouraged?!) in the world. And Jena is unfortunately not a singular case.
Heck, we face racism every day! Even as white people we do, believe me. And it is sad, but true: it will never stop. Now, I am not saying that we can force people to love who we are for the color of the skin. But we do owe each other respect. And tolerance. Once we master these two crafts, racism will probably not be such an issue.

Once again: it's not only about black. Trust me. I assisted in Germany at a trial where a white man, a foreigner, was convicted, although he was innocent, based on some lies the German said. Do I need to say more? All the witnesses in favor of the accused were foreigners too. The judge didn't give a damn on the facts. He just protected his kind.

Racism is the illness of the World.
Now, about the Jena petition: do you think it will work? Do you honestly think that the new judges will be better?

I suggest you ask for a black judge and this will solve some important issues.

Anyway, you have all my love. Mig

Anonymous said...

I am looking to get together a group from Atlanta to go to Jena, La on the day of Bells sentencing. There is suppose to be a protest on that day and people are coming from all over THe US, if you are interested in car pooling or renting a van or bus please email me at kingdaddy2006@yahoo.com

Juliette Aiyana said...

I have also been following this case. Just ran a search today and found your blog. An organization called Color of Change is working hard to protect these youths rights. Here is a letter from them and link to thier site. They are also accepting donations-in any amount for the legal defense fund. Please give, sign thier petition and letters!!

and Please write Mychal while he is stuck in jail...

"You and more than 68,000 other ColorOfChange members have helped send a strong message that it's time for the injustice being perpetrated in Jena to come to a halt. We know it's going to be a long struggle, and we're proud that ColorOfChange members will be in this fight until all 6 young men are free. We'll be sending you information about more actions you can take over the next few weeks, but today, we wanted to let you know of a special way you can help.

While five of the students have yet to go to trial, Mychal Bell has already been convicted and sits in prison awaiting sentencing. We talked a few days ago with a lawyer who has visited Mychal several times. He says that it would help Mychal to hear from those of us who support him.

Can you take a moment to write Mychal a postcard or letter? It can be short. The key is simply that it's hearfelt. You can send your cards and letters to:

Mychal Bell
Inmate, A-Dorm
LaSalle Correctional Center
15976 Highway 165
Olla, LA 71465-4801

A few moments of your time could really brighten this young man's spirit. If you send a card or letter, please let us know by emailing mychal_letters@colorofchange.org.

Thank You and Peace,

-- James, Van, Clarissa, Gabriel, Mervyn and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
August 18th, 2007"

Villager said...

Mig - No doubt that the ignorance that results in racism exists in many places ... not just between whites and Blacks in America. It should shame all of us that we allow it to exist. As you have shined the light on that German judge ... each of us should shine the light on racism whenever it rears it head.

Anon/King Daddy - Please share more details on the road trip to Jena on the day of Bell's sentencing when you have them.

Juliette - Excellent information ... especially the address for the young man currently in prison. Thank you very much!

peace, Villager

Nae Nae09 said...

I HATE THAT THESE 6 YOUNG MEN HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS...I AM 17 YEARS OLD AND I DONT KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO IF I HAD TO GO TO JAIL FOR SITTING UNDER A DARN TREE....I MEAN COME ON IT IS JUST A TREE...AND WHAT THOSE 3 WHITE MEN DID WAS NOT RIGHT.....I MEAN WHAT IF IT WAS THE OTHER WAY AROUND THEY WOULD BE UPSET...SO THEY NEED TO THINK OF IT IN THAT WAY....I KNOW THAT THIS CASE HAS TO BE IMPORTANT IF WHEN I WAS WATCHING 106 AND PARK ON BET AND THE RAPPER DAVID BANNER ASK FOR EVERYONE TO GO CHECK IT OUT....ALL I WANT TO SAY IS THAT YOU 6 YOUNG MEAN KEEP YOUR HEAD UP....AND REMEBER THAT THEY WILL "REAP WHAT THEY SOW"....GOD IS ON YOUR SIDE AND HE WILL BRING YOU THROUGH....BECAUSE NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO SIT IN JAIL FOR HALF THERE LIFE FOR SITTING UNDER A TREE...OR BEATING UP THAT GUY...BECAUSE HE IS LUCKY THAT HE WAS THERE BECAUSE IT WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE WORSE IF HE WAS HERE IN GEORGIA CASUE THEY DONT PLAY THAT...BUT BE SAFE AND I LOVE YALL

One Brain said...

I am saddened and sickened by these events. We have gone from the cotton fields to the corporate offices and we knew that the face of racism had changed, but this is open and blatant racism. Jena reminds me of Vidor, TX an all white town that drove out any black family that moved in. Black Americans must not become complacent and content, we must remember and remind our children of the cost of freedom. We must never let it leave our hearts. What would those who died for our civil rights think about all that they had done when they see what is being done for these young men? We must save our children. Our villages must have no boundaries. We must stand together with one common goal. We must fight and pray for these young men and all African American men. If we don't save our men, what will happen to our women?

Villager said...

Nae Nae09 - No doubt that the Jena, LA community treated these six brothers wrong. However, Nae Nae ... keep in mind that we often put ourselves in a position to have others mess with us when we make bad choices. If you take a lesson from this ... just remember that your CHOICES have consequences. Make good choices young brother!

One Brain - Thank you for visiting our village. Your comment is on point. All I can say is, "Amen"!

Anonymous said...

DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY INFORMATION OF A BUS OR VAN GOING TO JENA FOR 9/20 LEAVING FROM THE JACKSONVILLE AREA?

Villager said...

Anon - I don't have Jacksonville bus information. You may want to try www.freethejena6.org/ as a resource.

peace, Villager

plez... said...

as the old saying goes, "none of us are free, until we're all free!"

those words resonate in my mind every time i read about this tragedy. we are witnessing the post-modern trial of the Scottsboro Boys... and that is sad commentary on the state of affairs in America!

Black Woman in Europe said...

People often ask me why I left the States and livein Europe. Don't get me wrong, it's not paraside for black over here either, but one only has to look at the Jena 6 case to understand why I breathe a lot easier in Sweden.

Yobachi said...

Wow brother, I'm no hero, but I appreciate the acknowledgement.

Hey, I first learned about the Jena Six right here at the Village. And anytime I want new info on the Jena 6 I check in here cause you’re always on it.

As a matter fact I came here right now to get some info on Genarlow Wilson, to see if you had some good links.

Villager said...

Plez and Adrianne - It boggles the mind that the white citizens of Jena, LA don't see the hypocrisy of the situation. Hopefully, a way will be found to make this right ... sooner rather than later. Hopefully our Day of Blogging for Justice will be part of the solution.

peace, Villager

Villager said...

Yobachi - You earned the title of Village Hero. You are the one that drove the process towards the Day of Blogging for Justice that is taking place worldwide today. That is a heroic activity.

My next hero is going to be Eddie for his work on getting a stay of execution for Kenneth Foster.

peace, Villager

the teach said...

Wayne, I'm sure you know but Governor Rick Perry commuted Kenneth Foster's death sentence to life after a recommendation from the parole board.
(BBC News)http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi
/americas/6970441.stm

Yobachi said...

anonymous, for information about who's organizing in your area, contact jena@colorofchange.org

Sociologik said...

I've been following this case for some time and yes, I've signed the petition, made phone calls, asked prominent associates to put the issue on their radar. But I'm also of the mind that we need to do more than secure "justice for the Jena 6" -- we also need to probe the underlying issues around why they reacted the way they did to the hatred and intolerance they encountered -- and whether those reactions should be lauded or re-examined.

Villager said...

Sociologik - I haven't seen anyone indicate that the Jena 6 shouldn't be punished for fighting their white assailants. Nobody is lauding them for getting into a fight with some white boys.

The argument that I've seen is that the punishment given to them (22 years in prison for Mychal Bell) is ridiculously out of proportion ... to the point of seeming racist in nature. Especially when you consider that their white counterparts simply had to miss a few days from school from a suspension.

In any case, thank you for taking time to visit our village!

Yobachi - Methinks that I didn't highlight the need to reach out to mainstream media in my Day of Blogging on Justice post. I missed the significance of that part of the campaign. Sorry.

peace, Villager

Anonymous said...

I believe both parties are wrong here. No matter who hit who--the same consequences should be given. As a white woman, I am tired of hearing about all of this racism. Come on people it is 2007--everyone should be treated equal--but I don't feel that I owe black people anything, other that the same respect I give white people, Asian people, etc--as I didn't have anything to do with how my ancestors treated black people. These boys deserved to be punished-what they did was wrong--but I agree that they should get the same punishment as the white boy. I am far from racist--if fact, I have a mixed daughter, but this issue gets old

Native Son said...

Does anyone know of any buses leaving from the DC area? hit me up at mtbrown75@yahoo.com

ArtfulSub said...

Newsflash 5 against 1 with an additional person acting as "look-out" isn't a "FIGHT". It's a MUGGING and one in which there's likely to be severe harm done to the ONE person that the FIVE (plus a look-out).

Further, you defame the victim's character with this "alleged" taunting claim.

The mugging monsters ADMITTED that they chose their victim randomly. The first White person they found alone.

Villager said...

Artful Sub - No question that the Jena 6 were wrong in their actions. They should be punished. Can we agree that the punishment should not be 22 years in prison (original sentence of Mychal Bell)? The white kids involved in the escalation of drama were suspended from school for a few days. The Black kids were placed in criminal justice system. Can we agree that Jena criminal justice system went too far?

peace, Villager