Monday, September 17, 2007

The Journey to Jena

This is the tree that ignited a racial firestorm in Jena, Louisiana last fall.

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I debated on whether I would post a story on the Jena 6 because so many websites and bloggers have it covered. I thought, one more blog? Will it make a difference? But with a rally and protest scheduled for this Thursday in Jena that is expected to draw over 60,000 people, I decided to feature this because this case shows that when people mobilize for an important cause, it can effect change. No doubt it influenced the judge in the case to overturn one of the students convictions from an adult charge to a lesser juvenile offense this past week.

Brief Background: In September 2006, a Black student at a high school in Jena, Louisana challenged school officials about sitting under the “white tree” in the schoolyard where the majority of the school’s 80% student body would gather (Blogger note: What?!? A white tree?!?). After the student was told they could gather anywhere they wanted, three nooses were found in the school colors hanging on the tree the next day.

Three white students were identified as the culprits and recommended for expulsion by the school principal. But, the white superintendent of schools overruled the recommendation and gave the students a three day suspension saying the nooses were just a playful stunt, “Adolescents play pranks, I don’t think it was a threat against anybody.”

Sidenote: What exactly is a noose? I looked it up on wikipedia and the definition says “the noose is a simple knot, normally made from a small-diameter rope that is often used by campers and hunters to catch small game.

When a noose is hung on a tree? That’s an entirely different meaning.

The following are comments I found on Diversity, Inc. about what a noose hanging from a tree means to them:

What they appear to have intended is exactly what it means for me: intimidation, fear, racism, danger.”

"A noose signifies the means by which death was inflicted on blacks since slaves were brought here to America. It is so sad to see that it is still being used as a threat.”

"A noose is a tangible, visual, silent and deliberate threat intended to indicate hatred and bring about fear, terror and panic."

"To me, a noose is a symbol of killing and death…"

With the superintendent’s decision that the nooses hung on the tree weren’t a threat against anyone, the racial firestorm began. Black students organized a sit-in under the “white tree” at the school to protest the light suspensions given to the noose-hanging white students. Several black male athletes took the lead in this protest -- the same students who were eventually accused of attacking a white student. After the demonstration under the tree, Robert Bailey, Carwin Jones, Mychal Bell, Theodore Shaw, Jesse Beard and Bryant Ray Purvis became infamous, now known as the Jena 6.
I’m not going to go into details of the case because I’m sure you heard it by now. The Michael Baisden website and Color of Change have additional information.

My purpose for highlighting this issue is to announce the Journey to Jena, a rally and march for peace and justice that is spearheaded by national African American radio personalities, among them Michael Baisden and Steve Harvey, as well as entertainers such as Tyler Perry (who was born and raised in Louisiana).

The rally and march will be held this Thursday, September 20th in Jena, and everyone in the country is being encouraged to wear black to show support and protest unequal justice. Marches are also being planned in other cities on this day to show support.

It is my hope that the media (particularly the Black media) continues to use their powerful platform to bring attention to the many other issues impacting the Black community, such as the 50% school drop out rate among African Americans and Latinos and the staggering HIV/AIDS rate in the Black community, among others.

Tyler Perry said on the Michael Baisden show today, "No doubt that the footsteps heard in Jena will be heard around the world."

Sources: Diversity, Inc.,,


Anonymous said...

The problem here is that the color of your skin does not matter. The fact is these 6 teenages brutally attacked another child. YOu are condoning brutality, bringing up the race issue which just continues more segregation and discrimination because YOU are continuing the cycle. The other white teenagers, as wrong as they were to put nooses up, did not hurt anyone. That is the difference. Please look beyond peoples skin and see what the underlying issues are!

Anonymous said...

So much anger on both sides. Just shows us how much we retain the past. Educate these children don't support stupidity and brutality. They are at school to get an education. Not to play at being in the 1960s. Ask anyone of them about Fredrick Douglas, W. E. Dubouis, or anyone other than Malcom X, or MLK and see if they even know what they are talking about. Sit where you want to. This should have been handled better at the school level before it got blew out of proportion and went so far as to have 6 youngsters beating down another. I predict much worse this during the rally when so many young people try to pretend they are on a civil rights march instead of a free the wanna be thugs march.

Anonymous said...

Jena was where 3 nooses were hung in a tree. Jena was where 6 took on 1 and beat him down. with their fists, with their kicks,with objects in their hands did they beat him not only on his body but to his head. Not only when he stood but also when he laid on the ground. The Jena 6 lashed out with their hate when they did it. So I ask do you march for justice,do you look a this beat down kid and say that they deserved it. Hate. It is an ugly thing.

Anonymous said...

I think so often unfortunatley blacks in America strive so hard for recognition they use race as an excuse to gain recognition. It is sad, I do admit the sentences were rather harsh but we can not having groups of people regardless of race beating down anyone and getting away with it. How can anyone say that they were innocent to do such a thing. Maybe people need thicker skin, if we start down this path I think instead of bring races together we will drive a wedge right through them. Crime in America needs to tone way down, our jsutice system should be swift and strictto discourage violent crimes. I would also like to say parents need to start being parents, most of the troubled kids come from broken homes or homes with little discipline. We got to wake up America, united we stand divided we fall.

Anonymous said...

This isn’t about hiding behind your race. The whole Jena situation is racially motivated which led to the attack. These children have been through a lot. This isn’t just about excusing them attacking a white student. They shouldn’t spend their whole lives in jail over a fight which may have been provoked by the other person. I’ve read so many stories about all these boys went through that I can sympathize with them. Imagine attending a school with “white tree” and just because you asked to sit there someone hangs three nooses on a limb. Getting turned away from a party you were invited to and getting into a brawl over it. Then the next day having a gun pointed at you by the same people from the party with nothing being done. Getting attempted murder charges over a fight that may have been provoke by the boy yelling racial slurs at them. Not to say fighting is right but these boys tried other means and saw nothing being done. They protested after the noose issue and seen nothing being done. Everyone who had a part of the Jena situation should be held accountable in some way. If the school board and teachers were doing its job in the first place it wouldn’t have gotten this far.

Anonymous said...

I agree that 20+ years is too severe a sentence. However, these 6 kids are charged with jumping 1 kid. That is pretty serious in my mind. I agree that racism has no part in American society, but neither does violence. By totally freeing these kids, you will be advocating violence to anyone that uses racial epithets. You can not justify the beating of 1 by 6 just for saying nigger to many times.

Anonymous said...

All the marchers want is equal time. If balcks have to do years for assult. then the white kids who assaulted the black kid with beer bottles, and the white folks pointing shotguns at unarmed black kids should do time too. Fair is fair, right? (We know the answer to that one). The media only focuses on the tail end instead of the whole story. As usual.

Anonymous said...

jena 6 on 1

Anonymous said...

Would this even be an issue if they had been jocks against geeks or hispanic against hispanic or any other race or group. What bothers me so much is the race to get on the civil rights bandwagon and be a part of history. The treatment of these 6 students as martyrs and victims. Yes they were called a couple names. And they made those words have power when they responded to them. If we are called nigger and we are angered by it it is simply because we have let people have power over us. Six people beating done one stupid person is not righ, it is not noble, it is not even heroic. They should be punished for assault and battery and that is what they are charged with.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how an Indian American ever got elected with all those bigoted people down there.Yuo don't think they actually voted for him ?do you?