Today’s the day.
A year ago, Mychal Bell was a star on the Jena Giants football team, looking at graduation, and considering his future. Today he will appear before a Louisiana judge, and his lawyers will argue that his conviction should be thrown out.
Bell’s the only of the Jena Six to be convicted of beating a white student in 2006. If you haven’t heard about this case, then please watch this video to get up to speed. Some of your favorite blogs have also weighed in on the significant story, including YBF, Clutch, and Concrete Loop.
Mychal Bell’s father Marcus Jones, spoke to BlackAmericaWeb.com about the case. â€œWe prepare for the worse,â€ he said. After the way his son’s been treated in their local justice system, and the history of race relations in this small town, he seems to have little reason to feel optimistic.
The history of racism evident in Jena scares the bejesus out of me. I find it terrifying that there are place that remain so unevolved, where the shadow of Jim Crow is an inescapable, looming, real presence. I mean, a “white people tree”? Nooses hung to send a message, and a school superintendent who would dismiss the action as “a prank”? These are the kinds of stories that were tragically commonplace fifty, sixty years ago. The fact that they still persist today is an awful sign that we’ve still got so much further to go as a society before we can truly all get along.
The actions of the Jena Six came after a history of racism, taunts, and unequal justice in the face of escalating violence. Days prior to the beating of Justin Barker, Robert Bailey, one of the Jena Six, was attacked and beaten by white students at a party at the Jena Fair Barn. No charges were pressed against the perpetrators of Robert Baileyâ€™s beating. But when the tables turned, instead of receiving the standard Jena High School punishment of three-days suspension for getting into a fight, the six boys accused of beating Justin Barker were expelled, then charged with attempted second degree murder, charges that could give them a possible maximum sentence of a century in prison if they’re convicted. A CENTURY. If that isn’t uneven justice, I don’t know what is.
Click here to see this CNN video update, which features an interview with Justin Barker’s parents, who say that they don’t know why their son was targeted for a beatdown. Hmmmm. Could it be because — as this Broward Times report declares, Justin Barker joined in the taunting, supported the students who hung the nooses, and called black students the n-word on the high school campus?
Despite his alleged racist taunts, still, Justin Barker did not deserve to be beaten. It was wrong for the students to take matters into their own hands. But I can’t blame them for feeling powerless and angry, and that anger all exploded on December 4. It’s an anger many of us can more than understand.
This Chicago Tribune story reveals the extent of Justin Barker’s damages — “…On Dec. 4, a group of black students at the high school allegedly jumped a white student on his way out of the gym, knocked him unconscious and kicked him after he hit the floor. The victim — allegedly targeted because he was a friend of the students who hung the nooses and had been taunting blacks — was not seriously injured and spent only a few hours in the hospital.” He attended a social function that very evening.
Justin Barker was able to go out and party the very evening of the fight. So why the attempted second degree murder charges? Why the uneven justice meted out by this town’s officials? People are being dissuaded from speaking out in Jena. High school officials banned students from wearing “Free the Jena 6″ shirts. Why has this story not been given the mainstream attention it deserves? Even this morning on CNN’s Headline News — the newscaster mentioned it as a main story, but the Jena Six were quickly scrapped from the news heap as the threat of a category 5 hurricane and a SWAT team standoff at a synagogue took precedence. I’ll let you be the judge. For now, my eyes remain on Louisiana.
The first motion will be filed today, sentencing is scheduled for September 20th. If you want to support Mychael Bell, make a donation to the Mychal Bell Legal Fund Paypal account. Click the “Send Money” tab at top. The e-mail address of the fund is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can click to sign the Petition to the Department of Justice, and to the District Attorney. Keep the Jena 6 in your hearts and minds today. Hopefully, real, honest justice waits for the Jena 6, and Mychael Bell’s family can once again feel stirrings of optimism for this boy’s future.
** edited at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday September 5 — Click here to read the latest headline — charges reduced for two more of the Jena 6. Still not enough, and it seems to me it’ll be mighty hard for these kids to get a fair trial in this town. I think the charges should be dropped, and the students should be charged with not much more than assault, if that.