Tuesday, August 21

Take Action: The Jena 6

Because social action is always more important than what's poppin' off in the celebrity world, I urge all of my readers to read about this current monumental upcoming civil rights case. There is a lot of misinformation circulating right now about the "Jena 6" case. It's great that people have finally taken notice of this modern day lynching case, but having correct information and donating prayers and monetary help are even more important.

In the town of Jena, Louisiana (pronounced Jee-nah), September 2006, a group of black high school students asked their school administrators if they had permission to stand underneath what is known at Jena High School as the "white people's tree". It stands in a section of the campus traditionally claimed by the white students. After being told to "sit wherever you want" by school officials, the group of black students did just that. The next day, they came to school to encounter nooses hanging from this tree with black faced "dolls" hanging from them as well. After much outrage by students and parents, three culprits were identified and expelled by the principal. The school district/superintendent overrode the decision and gave the culprits a 3 day in school suspension instead.

This act by the school district of course sparked ongoing racial strife throughout the school and small town. Several fights took place on and off campus between white students and black students (white students were also "reprimanded" for bringing guns on campus and starting fights with black students). The Parish District Attorney allegedly told the school at an assembly that everyone must stop causing ruckus about the tree incident and allegedly faced the black students and said "If you don't stop, I could destroy your life at the stroke of a pen". The fighting came to a peak December 4th, 2006 when a group of black students allegedly fought with one white student (a friend of one of the noose hangers) on campus. The white student spent a few hours in the hospital with no serious injuries, but the Parish District Attorney filed charges against six black male students for the "attack". They were charged with attempted second-degree murder and other offenses, for which they could face a maximum of 100 years in prison if convicted. All six were expelled from school.

Mychal Bell, a 16 year old star athlete with a court appointed lawyer, was the first defendant to go to trial. Three weeks ago he was convicted of the reduced charges of aggravated 2nd degree battery and conspiracy to commit 2nd degree battery. These hold a 22 year max sentence. The D.A. successfully argued that the tennis shoe worn by the defendant suffices as a weapon--leading to a "valid" aggravated 2nd degree battery charge. Bell was tried by an all white jury and was tried as an adult, even though he shouldn't have been since his charges were reduced. His new attorney, Louis Scott (who also happens to be my dad), is appealing the conviction. The first motion in arrest of judgment will be filed on September 4th, but sentencing is still taking place on September 20th.

Issues on appeal:

Should the D.A. have recused himself since he also is counsel for the School Board?

Was there a conflict of interest/obligation to take certain action?

Was there discriminatory prosecution? There was no prosecution of the noose hangers or one of the known white children who beat up one of the black defendants off campus or one of the known white students previously in fights who brought a gun on campus.

So why should we help Mychal Bell?

Attorney Louis Scott has given the following statement:

“We’re dealing with a 1957 issue here in 2007—whether backs and whites can sit under the same tree. Symbolically what was done at Jena…if you can’t stand under the same tree…if you can’t stand under the same shade...we could be pushed back to where we were in 1957. This is simply a case where a kid was trying to stop being pushed back to where [our] mothers and fathers were years ago.”

How can YOU help the cause?

Many national organizations (Rainbow Push Coalition, Congressional Black Caucus, ACLU, etc.), Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson have been raising money for Jena Six. A separate account for Mychal Bell-the first and so far the only convicted person in this case- has been established as well. To keep the lives of our young people at least at the same quality of life as their peers, action must be taken. The YBF community and others can take action by donating monetary assistance and prayers to the Mychal Bell Legal Fund. Having the best defense possible is vital in fighting for the cause. And the Ku Klux Klan has already held its own "rally" recently in Jena to uphold the court's decision.

Please send all donations to the Mychal Bell Legal Fund paypal account. Go to http://paypal.com and click the "Send Money" tab at top. The e-mail address of the fund is mychalbelldefense@gmail.com. All questions regarding the Jena 6 can be directed to mychalbelldefense@gmail.com. Tons of you have hit my inbox about this issue, so let's spread the word.

The most accurate articles about this case: 1 and 2.