Thursday, August 16, 2007

Jim Crow Meets the 21st Century

Hey, this is going to be quick but more reminiscent of where I thought I was going with this whole bloggity thing anyway, so I appreciate you bearing with me. I'm seriously so flabbergasted I can't even comment intelligently yet, maybe in a few days.

A friend of mine sent this to me today and I'm just so enraged that this crap is still going on in 2007, well, I just had to share. The title link above will take you to the wikipedia entry on Jena, Louisiana with a detailed section on the racial tensions there and a list of references. The links in the call to action I responded to (shown below) will take you to the "Color of Change" website.

Dear friend,

I just learned about a case of segregation-era oppression happening
today in Jena, Louisiana. I signed onto's campaign
for justice in Jena, and wanted to invite you to do the same.

Last fall in Jena, the day after two Black high school students sat
beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the
tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more
Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney
then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded
that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best
friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke
of my pen."

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA
did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard
fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted
murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges,
lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in
"their place." But it's happening today. The families of these young
men are fighting back, but the story has gotten minimal press.
Together, we can make sure their story is told and that the Governor
of Louisiana intervenes and provides justice for the Jena 6. It starts
now. Please join me:

The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the
stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the
next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building
Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same
weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party.
The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by
young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran
away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students
were later arrested for the theft of the gun.

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter
of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was
beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black
students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and
kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital, but was
released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17),
Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an
unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged
with second-degree attempted murder. The first trial ended last
month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was
convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated
battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his
public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's
parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court
prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the
judge could see them.

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail
for 22 years. Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail
this week.

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting
tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are
standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone,
their sons will be a long time coming home. But if we act now, we can
make a difference.

Join me in demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get
involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that
DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet
gone to trial.


That's all for now, check back later for spitting, sputtering, cursing and vitriol!



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