Jena’s Judgment Days

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. “We prepare for the worse,” 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 Bailey’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 mychalbelldefense@gmail.com. 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 5Click 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.

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Comments

  1. I think that the handling of this case was disgusting from beginning to end. This story is quietly being picked up by the rest of the world. Earlier in May/June a documentary was shown on BBC2 in the UK. It was the first I heard of this case, despite being shown on BBC2 it doesn’t seem to have been picked up by the British press. I am dissapointed by this.

    London

  2. Good morning Bella,
    this story is so sad and I’ve been trying to follow it since it all started. It just goes to show that racism is still alive today. True, the young man did not deserve to be beaten…however, the punishment that is being given to Jena 6 does not fit the so- called crime. Hell, it was a school fight and the fire was fueled by the ignorance of..Justin Barker. His parents know the truth and are in denial. I pray that justice will be served and that this “wrong” is made “right”. Thanks, for keeping this story going…Bella.

  3. How sad…another story of the double standard. This needs exposure, that is the only way more people can be made aware of what is still happening in many places. Thank you for doing your part, bella. I agree with StAr…this punishment does not fit the crime, and if it results in yet another black male being placed in the prison system, what an absolute waste, what a shame. What were the injuries to Robert Bailey? Had the administrators at that school been doing their job, instead of writing off the precipitating events as a “prank” there would have been immediate attention in the form of a meeting with the students, their parents, the teachers. With schools being put on lock down in a second, it seems, in this age of school violence, the way this particular school handled this from start to finish is totally inexcusable. Again, a double standard. Young men who are not of color can go on actual shooting rampages and kill people, and while people abhor their actions, still there is the whisper…but they were bullied! Not so, usually for young men of color. They’re just labeled violent, over the top. That being said, we have got to reinforce to our young people that violence is not the answer, though it may seem the only recourse, the only way to be heard.

  4. Hey bella, you kept to your word and quickly brought this very important topic back to the spotlight. The unfortunate truth is that racism is still rearing it’s ugly head in America. We all tend to pretend that racism does not exist and think that we have made great strides in equality but the reality is that many of us bury our heads in the sand or isolate ourselves in our own little utopia. We forget that the world is a vast place and there are minorities that are suffering at the hand of those that THINK that they are above everyone else. I am deeply sadenned that this is happening to these 6 youngsters. We must make others aware and spread the word ourselves; the media is just not giving this the coverage that it desparately needs. Thanks again for keeping us informed.

  5. I have called all three major news stations in my area, asked them were they going to cover this, and why they should. This story has got to be told so that people can be made aware of what is happening. They didn’t even know what was happening, and they were in the news room! Anyway, we all have to make a living, take care of the kids, etc., but maybe if enough of us take about 5 minutes, makes some calls, send some emails and demand some air time they will actually give this story the attention it deserves. Let me see if I can contact Nancy Grace before I go back to work.

  6. All of America should be up in arms about this case. It is a blatant example of unequally applied justice, and there are many examples I’m sure everyone can find in their own communities. The punishment should fit the crime–PERIOD. When folks apply unfair standards willy-nilly based on race, gender, social class, etc., they should be expected to be called into question about their motives.

  7. Niki, I agree wholeheartedly! The punishment should fit the crime and this here is a disgusting show of injustice. Bebroma, I took a page from your book and started contacting the media to let them know about this story…hopefully someone will pick this up. Let’s all keep this going.

  8. It’s not even a main story on MSNBC (that would be the “skinny gene”. Give me a break). CNN has a big story today — http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/09/04/bell.jena.six/index.html

  9. This case infuriates me.

  10. ladydandridge says:

    Hi Bella- I wanted to let you know that Mychel Bell will be sentenced on Sept 20th. Not today.

    I have been so disturbed by the events in Jena that my boyfriend and I are planning on flying to Louisana to join the protest that will start at 7:30am on the 20th. Michael Basdin and Steve Harvey have both aired information regarding the case on their nationally syndicated shows. Michael Basdin and a few other groups are behind the protest that day. I hope that if you can’t go, which I understand why, its a work day, its hard to spend $400 bucks on someone you don’t know, at least sign the petitions. For a while I thought about not going, I’m in grad school, beyond broke, shouldn’t really take days off from work. But how can I not stand up for what’s right? I can’t continue to sit at my computer and be brought to tears by injustices that others swear aren’t happening in this day and age, and not do something. Hopefully I’m not the only one who feels this passionately about this.
    love.

  11. ladydandridge says:

    Sorry. Just finished the very last paragraph where you clarified the sentencing.

  12. This pisses me off. Not to sound mad at anybody but it pisses me off when people say “It shows that racism is still alive.” Well racism never left, it just hides behind things now. If we as black people can’t realize the fact that racism never left then where are we going? We always say, “Violence isn’t the answer.” But I’m going to have to go with Malcolm on this one and I’m going to paraphrase, ” It’s ridiculous to ask a man who is the victim of violent attacks to be non-violent.” Violence is not the answer? I don’t know. I mean if we keep being passive-aggressive about these situations we are going to be near extinct. Why should we always try to take the non-violent approach to things? That’s denying how we really feel and as long as we live in denial we are not going to solve anything. Can someone tell me where are we going? Do we even know? It seems white people never have to deny there feelings towards us. He– they can even kill us and not get convicted. We can’t keep on having blinders on to these situations. Like I said not to offend anybody, but this is how I feel. I’m sick of what’s going on, but the problem with a lot of African-Americans, black people etc. is that we don’t stick together, we are passive and don’t expect nothing better. I’m sick and tired of being in this world and all I can look forward to is being attacked, killed etc by people who are ignorant and destroying the very planet we live on. Who are imbalanced in nature. I hope that Bebroma, Trinichica and whoever else can get this story the attention it needs. I mean look at the media, they don’t even care about a situation like this. Again, not to offend, just venting because pissed.

  13. No offense taken, lioness. This is the kind of thing we as a community should be pissed off about. I’m just glad that we’re aware of the issues. Next, we need to focus on making positive, real, lasting change. I’m still waiting for news from the rulings today, and I’ll follow up with more immediately after Sept. 20.

  14. No offense taken, lioness. It makes me mad, too, so much that my hands were shaking. I still don’t think violence is the answer to violence, but that argument is as old as King and Malcolm, who were both fantastic leaders IMO. Anyway, I hope that we as a community will stand up and say this is not okay, this is NOT okay, and use our anger to keep this injustice from going any further. We each have to do something to try and keep this young man from being thrown away, ruined and forgotten in the prison system, for the same infraction that apparently got the other side perhaps a slap on the wrist, if that.

  15. Hmmm…I’m mixed about this whole incident. The Jena 6 really dropped the ball on this one. Regardless of what those white people did to them, once you respond to violence with violence, you’ve lost all of your bargining cards and open yourself up to the flames. I, as a black woman, know that I live in a very unfair world but that just makes me all the more cautious because my wrong choices may be my undoing.

    I doubt that those obscene charges will stick. But should they get off scott free? Absolutely not.

  16. A person who can respond to violence with an action other than violence, in my opinion, is an evolved soul.

  17. I was listening to the Warren Ballentine radio show via the Internet. It was reported that one of the jurors that convicted Mychael Bell was a childhood friend of the white child involved in the altercation. That is grounds for a mistrial.

    Also, it is my understanding that the Town of Jena gave over 60 percent of the vote to David Duke, former KKK when he ran for Governor.

    David

  18. This really sickens me. Where is al sharpton now is he up on this.

  19. So much senseless violence. There’s no way to condone that but this case shows us just how little progress there has been in racial justice.

  20. Trinichica says:

    Lioness, no offense taken here either. I just want to be clear that in no way am I saying that racism ever left the building. It is “still” very much running rampant…..and frankly it’s not going anywhere. Violence is not the answer but the alternative (basically sitting quiet and trying not to ruffle feathers) is not the answer either. This is a sensitive topic but the postings here have kept me informed and kept my mind going all day.

  21. I have a question edesse: When is trying to protect yourself from a person who is trying to hurt you and your person losing your bargaining chips and opening you up to the flames? It should be opening up the flames to the ignorant racist pig who tried violence as a way to deal with his own self-hate. That’s what I’m trying to say, why is it bad for us to defend ourselves against people who don’t give a rat’s a– about if we live or die. A person who can respond to violence with non-violence is an evolved soul? Yeah they’re going to be a soul alright, especially when they die at the hands of their attackers. Not to offend you, but it’s just my opinion. It just seems that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you fight back you can get killed, if you don’t you can get killed. We live in a battlefield everyday not knowing if this day is our last or not.

  22. You need to define “defend” lioness because I think that that is where we disagree the most. Defending does not have to include violence. The Jena 6 have lowered themselves to the same level as these racists and this is where they dropped the ball. I really don’t think that the Jena 6 were trying to defend anything. I think it is a simple case of revenge and that is that.

  23. lioness,

    you did not offend me at all. we just disagree on our approach and that is fine. we are not the same person, we don’t live in the same area, we have had the same experiences so I would dare not say that your opinion is wrong. i just wanted to express mine.

    what i am glad to read in your responses is that you have passion and conviction–some of the key elements needed for change.

  24. Very thorough post…thanks for putting this up…it was in NO NY newspapers at the time that this was happening or is happening, I should say…

    Seems I have a new blog to watch! Take care :)

  25. thank God they got reduced charges and thank God for all the publicity surrounding this case, cos Lord knows the Judge would have loved to put them away for 2 lifetimes if given the power!
    PS: I got my bronzer yesterday, thank you!

  26. The charges should be dismissed. Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson have been all over this. You haven’t heard about this because the mainstream media has collectively blacklisted both Al and Jessie. Mainstream media will only quote or spotlight those two when when they make mistakes or say something extremely controversial. My question is, where are the hip/hop artists. Where are Russell Simmons “Poets”. These so called reporters of the ghetto and black injustices. It seems like whenever there is a social injustice rappers are no where to be found. People need to stop screaming for Al & Jessie all the time and demand these hip/hop stars to become involved but they won’t. Because they too exploit black sorrow for profit but not do anything to make change.

  27. This is sad and I can only pray for them.
    To sign the Jena petition please visit this site.

    http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=2077-311616

    It only takes a minute. Stay blessed.

  28. My Honors English III students are reading Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass. One of my insightful students asked if she could share an article about Jena six with the class. She said it reminded her of Douglass’ autobiography. It amazed my students, both white and black, that so little has changed since the horrors of slavery.

  29. This whole Jena 6 thing puts a bad taste in my mouth. It’s totally screwed up for a multitude of reasons.

  30. I think cases like this is when you can see racism in this country. It’s not when you’re on your best behavior, but when you mess up. What happens to people when they do beat up someone. What happens to people of different races if they do use drugs. What happens to two races of people who both have bad credit. People think it’s perfectly fine to be racist if you’re not acting on your best behavior 24/7, but unfortunately for most of we are human and we do make errors.
    My boyfriend and I go round and round in regards to racism. He’s white. One day I watched a video with him in the 1990s, he was very involved in the punk scene. There was a tape of him throwing a trashcans at the cops. Him and his friends were yelling at the cops and telling them to go f*** themselves. Do you know what happened to him. Nothing. Not only that he went to court to testify against the cops because the punk rock promoters felt the police went overboard with their policing of them and violated their civil rights (the cops did.) Everytime we have discussions on race and he forgets…I always remind him of the tape. Having the priviledge of throwing a trash can at a cop and telling them to go f*** themselves without a fear that you’re going to go to jail, that’s racism right there.
    Jane

  31. “The Jena 6 have lowered themselves to the same level as these racists and this is where they dropped the ball. ” Edesse
    This is exactly the kind of thing that makes people think it’s perfectly ok to be racist. The bill of rights doesn’t just apply to minorities who are perfect. It applies to everyone. This isn’t a third world country. You are innocent until proven guilty. The punishment should fit the crime, no cruel and unusual punishment. Black people also need to figure this out, even black people who do things you don’t agree with, whether they are drug addicts, criminals, sluts, drug dealers, hip hop artist they are still protected under the law. The bible and morals have nothing to do with this. Black people seriously need to get off the whole Christian moralistic train. This has to do with the law and too often than not the law is unfair in regards to black people.
    Jane

  32. Kenya Minor says:

    I am a 32 year old black female who lives outside of philadelhia,Pa. I have just recently heard of this incident. It is a shame that racism still is existing today. I have never had any real experience with racism personally.A few co-workers and I are trying out what we can do to help. We will definitely be wearing t-shirts to work as long as our employer don’t try to stop us.

  33. This was a schoolyard fight that should have stayed inside the school. The Principal should be fired. The DA who are probably friends should be thrown out of office for abuse of power.

    Stop the unfocused outrage and give to the Jena six legal defense fund of your choice. And let DA Reed tell someone like Billy Martin about his grounds for indictment.

  34. Thanks so much for posting this, Bella. Awareness and rapid spread of information are the essential keys to our mobilization and success as African-Americans in fighting for our own. Glad to see that finally, people are rallying to the cause of the Jena Six.

    The white racists are quaking in their boots b/c they know that African-Americans, Muslims and other people of color will soon be the majority in Michigan and in Deep South states such as Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. And it burns them up.

    Already, we’re seeing more and more African-Americans and Muslims (most of us Muslims here also African-American) leave states where we’re dispersed and powerless– states like Wisconsin, Ohio, West Virginia (we *know* what happens to us in West Virginia as those white thugs recently showed), Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa, Delaware and California where we’re badly outnumbered and too weak– to move to Michigan, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and some parts of Illinois.

    Dispersion is the enemy, and so long as we stay dispersed, we’ll continue to be pushed around. There’s strength in numbers, and concentrating ourselves in these states, our historical core, is the key to gaining a majority and resulting political control. And when we have political control there, we’ll no longer have to put up with being treated like dirt, humiliated, being second-class citizens in states where we’ve lived for so many centuries. We’ll be able to stand up and tell the white racists that they don’t own us, support our own businesses and finally earn for ourselves the respect we have long deserved. I’m proud that the Blacks of Louisiana and throughout the nation are converging to help the Jena Six like this, we need to see more of this solidarity.

  35. Remember, hangmen wear masks for a reason. See pictures tell a thousand words.

    Stay strong and keep your head up. We all want this taken care of as quickly as possible and it’s not going to be easy.

  36. From the details reported of what the Jena 6 did, they have committed a crime and deserve to be punished accordingly. You talk about racism against blacks but this was black (6 blacks) on (1) white violance, and yet the law, the school, everyone is racist against the blacks? It is the blacks that are guilty of making race an issue. In fact, how do you know these blacks didn’t beat the student up because he was white? How do you know there is no mutual hatred among the races at the school? The Jena 6 committed a crime and should be punished, that is all there is to it. You can march around, riot, kill, etc but the law applies equally to all. Free the Jena 6? No, put them on trial like anyone else would be. The issue should not be whether the Jena 6 deserve to be prosecuted but that they receive a fair trial.

  37. Tex, I’m not sure it even makes sense to try rebutting your statement, clearly you’ve already got some views here. But I will express mine again. YES some of the boys were responsible for the beating (not all six of them, if you take the time to read the details of the case). I agree, they should be punished for letting their anger erupt into violence. BUT LET THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME. This was a high school fight, and the beaten accuser was completely able to attend a school function that evening. So is it then fair that the Jena 6 be charged with such weighty sentences? The more typical punishment for such an incident would have been suspension from school, NOT indeterminable jail time and an adult trial.

  38. F*CK the JENA 6! The SIX bast*rds picked out a random guy and beat him UNCONSCIOUS.

    I don’t give a sh*t who was black and who was white. They were a gang that decided to f*ck someone up. They deserve everything that’s coming to them in prison.

    You don’t get to pick someone out and beat the sh*t out of them. If you do, then you’re a CRIMINAL. Period.

    All you people whining “FREE JENA 6″ need to go the f*ck home. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  39. I WAS NOT HAPPEN ABOUT WHAT HAPPEN TO THAT YOUNG MAN. BUT GOD HAS AND WILL TAKE CARE OF ALL THINGS. I AM ASKING FOR HELP FOR MY BROTHER JOHN A. MCKENZIE. HE WAS ACCUSED OF RAPEING A WHITE FEMALE WHICH IS NOT TRUE. I THINK A LOT OF RACIALNESS WENT ON THROUGH THE TRIAL. HE WAS CHARGED A 100YRS. THE ATTORNEY THAT HANDLED THE CASE WAS UP FOR A SEAT AS A JUDGE THAT YEAR. HE WOULD NOT LET WITNESS TESTIFY, ON BEHALF OF MY BROTHER HE ALSO RUSHED THE CASE AND DIDNOT EVEN CHECK ON ONE OF THE JURIORS WHO SAID THAT SHE DIDNOT KNOW MY BROTHER NOR THE FAMILY MEMBERS WHICH WAS A LIE BECAUSE SHE WENT TO SCHOOL WITH HIM AND THE SISTERS ALSO THE LADY WAS GOING WITH JOHN PROBATION OFFICER AMATTER OF FACT SHE LIVES WITH THE MAN NOW. THE ATTORNEY WAS INFORMED OF ALL THIS. MY BROTHER HAS BEEN IN PRISON FOR 10YRS OR MORE. I WORK FOR THE SHERIFF DEPT. AND I KNOW MY BROTHER WAS FALSELY ACCUSSED. THE WHITEVILLE DETECTIVE I THINK DID SOME SINKY THINGS. I NEED SOMEONE TO HELP US IN CLEARING HIS NAME AND SETTING HIM FREE. I AM WILLING TO SEND TRANSCRIPTS OR WHAT EVER I NEED TO DO PLEASE HELP. HIS FAMILY WANTS HIM HOME. THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME MAY GOD BLESS YOU.

  40. I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in writing this website. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming also. In fact your creative writing skills has inspired me to get my own blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

  41. Great site!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] And out of all the incidents that accord after sitting under the “white” tree (WTF???), this is the most interesting: In one incident, a young black student was assaulted by a group wielding beer bottles at a predominantly white party. But only one person was charged — with a misdemeanor — in the attack. In another incident, a white Jena graduate allegedly pulled a pump-action shotgun on three black high school students when they left a local convenience store. The teens managed to wrestle the gun away from the man. [...]

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