As I write this (and you read this) — thousands of black men and women have descended upon Jena, Louisiana. CNN just reported that numbers could well be in the tens of thousands.
CNN also reports that most of Jena’s residents have left. The town’s businesses have closed. But the crowd is enormous and the strength of the movement is growing. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are giving speeches and rallying support behind the Jena 6. And those who were unable to attend were asked to wear black today. The request to wear black reminded me of one of my favorite songs of all time — Johnny Cash’s Man in Black. You can read the lyrics here.
The lyrics are timeless and completely applicable to the tribulations of the Jena 6.
“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, Livin’ in the hopeless hungry side of town. I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, But is there because he’s a victim of the times.”
Today, we wear the black for Mychael Bell, whose conviction’s been tossed, but still remains shackled in a jail cell. The wheels of justice are turning for him, but so, so slowly.
Seeing the crowds gather in Jena — click here for CNN’s videos from the scene — is reminiscent of those days of the civil rights movement, when people gathered to speak out against the injustices that were at that time, considered widely accepted throughout the south.
As the Rev. Jesse Jackson said earlier today , “There’s a Jena in every state.” Today, we wear the black to symbolize that need for change. And one day of symbolism isn’t enough. “Just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back, there always ought to be a man in black.”
I hope the strength of purpose created in today’s protests inspires real change. I hope that the symbolism of the clothes we wear today, the solidarity we display, is just the first spark of a new movement.