The Men (and women) in Black

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. GREAT post! I particularly liked the Johnny Cash reference.
    L

  2. Afrobutterfly says:

    I just want to say that i’m extremly proud of my fellow college students, who went to march today. It gives me hope that maybe some that “back in the day” sense might influence my generation. It’s good to see them out there standing up for what they believe, and that we(this generation) don’t all have our heads in the clouds thinking that racism is a thing of the past but its here and now too.

  3. The energy in the air today is truly amazing. I live in Los Angeles and there are rallies in various parts of the city all day. Of course, I wore all black AND picked out my ‘fro (LOL). But in all seriousness, this is so much bigger than those boys and bigger than the town of Jena. I am so proud of my people for getting the word out, mobilizing and fighting for what’s right.

  4. I am rockin’ my black today and am so proud of my people. I have been watching the live video of the rally on CNN.com all day and I’ll be attending a rally tonight at a local church.

  5. I am wearing the black today and monitoring news reports from the scence. I was just having a convo with my niece (who is 10 years younger than me) and she had just heard about Jena 6 this week. I schooled her on it and she’s really hooked. I love that today’s events are organic–people educating themselves, spreading the news, and organizing. There was only one MLK, only one Malcolm X, etc. We don’t have to wait on ‘leaders’. Each one of us has the power in our hands. I think that is an exciting thing to realize.

  6. ladydandridge says:

    Wearing Black with Pride all day today. I am with you Toya…..so so proud that we can come together peacefully.

  7. I am so proud of my people taking collective action. For one day….Martin and Malcom are not turning over in their graves. I wanna give a shout out to Thamani Tomlin for leaving her three year old son with a trusted babysitter and trooped from NYC on a Charter Bus to Jena, LA to capture herself in a moment of time. Her son will be able to look back at this moment and know that his mother gave a damn about a brother(s) in need.

    Now what about this sista in West Virginia who was sodomized, and forced to eat rat feces in West Virginia…

    Bella…I’d like you to post that ker-razy story….

    M.

  8. Oh yeah…wore my black proudly to work today….

    M.

  9. What’s going on in Jena today is beautiful. Everyone who’s sick of this madness, black and white, wearing their black today is beautiful. But can we keep the spirit going? Like one of the previous posts mentioned, many didn’t know about what was going on in Jena until recently. Many just found out today. The problem I feel is that we seem to think this is a black thing. It’s not, and we’re not the only ones who care. My old boss is Korean, and she is outraged by this but she didn’t know anything about it until I told her last week. She never heard about it. I found out about it earlier this year when someone sent me an email telling the story, but like a lot of people I ignored it thinking, “this can’t be real” “This isn’t happening in 2007″. I heard the story about Megan Williams in W. Va last month. There are still people that still don’t know abou that. I’ve read her police reports. There are people that don’t realize that although this child was told by her female attackers they were doing this to her becuse she was black they are not being charged with a hate crime because she had been previously involved with the boy that kidnapped her. She had a domestic assault charge against him a year ago. They repeatedly raped this girl. They made her stay in an out-house for 4 days without food or water. They stabbed her in the leg. They cut her hair off. They sliced her ankles. They poured scalding water on her. They made her lick her own blood off the floor. They made her lick her rapists mother vaginally and anally. They threatened to kill her if she tried to escape. They beat her. They made her eat dog feces. But again, it will take a while for this and many other stories to be told because we think that the rest of the world doesn’t care because they aren’t black.

  10. I’m wearing black today and so many of my friends across the country at different colleges, black white asian hispanic mixed et al. are doing the same. Social injustice touches all of us and I’m so glad my fellow students recognize this should not just outrage one group of people, but everyone.

    I was humming johnny cash on my way to class this morning. Afrobella and I must be on the same wavelength.

  11. Hey nikki, thanks for bringing up the west virginia case. I’m still surprised by how many people don’t know what is going on.

  12. I am so glad that the support for Jena 6 has been a peaceful. The numbers are amazing, and there are smaller demonstrations in other states, too. It is so good that we as a community are not turning our anger on ourselves with riots, but instead taking it and turning it into a strong, unable to be ignored stand….asking for justice, asking that the punishment fit the crime, bringing to the world’s attention the inequality in administration of justice that still exists in the “land of the free.”

  13. It’s true, racism is alive in America, whether it be Klansmen, or in this case, Al Sharpton and his followers. I just hope that if someone beats me within an inch of my life that they sit in jail for a long time, no matter what color they are.

  14. Even if the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, Wayne? Even if the justice isn’t anywhere near equal, given the circumstances? From all reports, Justin Barker was quite able to get on up and go out to a social event the very evening of the beating. I’d hardly call that “within an inch of my life.”

  15. If, in fact, Justin went to a social event that evening then I would agree that no one should do jail time. However, I would not base my opinion on rumor and main-stream media. It just seems to me that Sharpton (and Jackson) benefit from racial issues like ambulance-chasing lawyers and they should encourage calm instead of social unrest.

  16. I just finished watching the CNN special on this situation. It was quite informative. It is not merely rumor that Justin Barker attended a ring ceremony at the high school the same night, incidentally. I watched the special with my daughter, and used it in part to help her see that violence is not the answer, oftentimes it only leads to more problems for the person who returns the “slap” instead of the first slapper. And while I do believe that those boys should have had to have some accountability for beating up someone, I very much think that their punishment was not commensurate with what they did. I have said before that the last thing we need is more young black men in prison, or with a felony on their records, so that it makes their chances of being productive in society so much more difficult, making the social structure of the black community even more friable. Apparently one of those young men was not even actually involved, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the issues here, I think, is that had this beating been black-on-black, or white-on-white, or white-on-black, it would not have been handled by the DA in the same way, if it had even gotten as far as the DA’s office. If this whole issue had been handled differently from the very beginning, I don’t think it would have gotten as far. Even many in the white community of Jena were shocked by the extent of the charges. This is a matter of class, too. I am sure that the DA knew it would be difficult/impossible for those families to raise enough money to meet the high bails set. As was stated by one of the demonstrators, there is a Jena in every state, and a lot of times you know which little town or towns it would be in your best interest to steer clear of if you’re a minority. I know of a couple in my own state in the Midwest, and I lived close and personal to a few in the South. You cannot believe that there is equal justice in a town where a grown man can hit a legal child with a bottle and be charged with simple battery and sentenced to probation, a young man can get a shotgun because he “feels” threatened and himself apparently threaten three black young men, and he is charged with nothing while they get a range of charges, including theft of a firearm, and in that same town, when young black men attack a young white man — which again, was wrong, and I’m not saying that they should not have been punished at all — are faced with the possibility of spending all of their 20s and 30s in prison. I understand that young Mr. Bell has a history of assault. I hope that this whole experience, and the outpouring of support, will help him to not use his anger in that way, and instead direct it in a positive manner that hopefully will effect change. I understand that he was a “big man” on campus before all this. He must therefore have leadership qualities, and he can be one of the many young men who leave one path and begin on another, and help other young men like him find their potential and use it to the full. This is a really long post, I know. It’s just that things like this really do happen more than you think.

  17. Wayne, I cosign with Um, Hello. This is from the MSNBC article — click here

    “The six black teens were charged a few months after three white teens were accused of hanging nooses in a tree at their high school. The white teens were suspended from school but weren’t prosecuted. Five of the black teens were initially charged with attempted murder. That charge was reduced to battery for all but one, who has yet to be arraigned; the sixth was charged as a juvenile.

    The beating victim, Justin Barker, was knocked unconscious, his face badly swollen and bloodied, though he was able to attend a school function later that night.”

    I also found this interesting post: http://pursuingholiness.com/2007/06/27/jena-six-justin-barker-testifies-at-mychal-bell-trial/

    It comes from an opinionated perspective, but is definitely worth a read if you’d like to educate yourself more about the specifics of this case.

  18. I hope we can keep this spirit going long after this case is dismissed. I love what one of the earlier poster said…we don’t need to wait for “our leaders” let us organize ourselves.

    I agree class and not only race has a lot to do with this.

  19. It is a sad truth that America has came so far and still be in the same place it was 50 years ago. What will it take for the nation to treat us as equals instead of inferior? We are presidents of major corporations, scientists, doctors, soldiers, nurses, lawyers, lawmakers, presidential candidates and voters yet we are seen inferior. It warms my soul to see that our strength displayed in the media for a change.

  20. I have read alot about this story and am very disturbed by it. First off, a hate crime is a hate crime — the students who hung the nooses should have been expelled and charged with a hate crime. What would the reaction by the school been if nazi flags were flown to intimidate and harass Jewish students?? Secondly, the students who stomped this other student should be charged with a hate crime as well. Does it really take 6 kids to beat up another?? I’ve read that he was OK to attend a function later that night. That point is moot. The fact of the matter is that he was knocked out and then repeatedly beaten, any one of those blows to the head could have killed him — why do you think a boxing or ufc match is stopped after a knockout –permanent damage can result as well as death. The sentence was pretty harsh for something that happened in the heat of the moment, but jail time should be imposed.Kids don’t think with their heads and a case like this shows this.I do not pretend to know the sentiments and attitude in the south, being a northerner I still see my share of racism on a daily basis. My neighborhood is pretty diverse — Peruvians, Mexicans, African – Americans, Haitians, and Asians within a block…I respect and interact with evryone one of them. I have two daughters and hope I am raising them to respect everyone and not see in terms of race or religion. I am disturbed though by one thing — my 4 yr old daughter would play with a 5 yr old African American boy every day. He would come over and play on the swing set, eat snacks, and color with sidewalk chalk all the time..he is a great kid ..at one point in the summer his mother came over to see who he was playing with every day, after that the visits stopped. My daughter would ask about him all the time. One day he went riding by on his bike and my daughter yelled hi to him…he ignored her. I saw him the next day and asked him why he doesn’t come play anymore. He said his mother wanted him to play with other African American kids. That really killed me. My daughter is too young to understand and only knows that she has lost a friend…I see on a daily basis the way reverse racism is used. It’s OK for African Americans to say or do things but once a white person says or does the same thing they are labeled a racist. Take Isaiah Thomas’ remarks..he called a woman a “bitch” and a “ho” and said his reasoning was that it is alright for a black man to call a woman that, it’s in their culture, but when a white man says it it is not OK.In my opinion, disrespect is disrespect. Call me naive but sooner or later something is gonna happen where we all will have to unite as a world and no one will care about race , religion, or sex….the sorry part is, by then it will be too late.

  21. warrior11209 says:

    It was a beautiful thing to see the peaceful demonstration in Jena on Thursday. I was not able to attend but my husband, children and I all wore black to show our support. We have used this case to show our children that prejudice based on race and class are alive and well in the US. Yesterday reminded me of the marches in the 60′s and 70′s that I participated. Unfortunately I also realized that I have become way too comfortable in the ‘burbs and I need to get re-involved in the real issues that are affecting this nation.
    Thanks for the info about Megan Williams – I am doing a search now because I am totally clueless about her situation.

  22. Northerner:

    You bring up great points. Both parties SHOULD be charged with hate crimes. I don’t and never did believe that the Jena 6 should get off scott free. The punishment for them was obsessive but some jail time should occur for both parties. For me, your cries for help fall on death ears if your hands are bloodied as well. Now, I’m not talking about self defense–cleary this was not a case of self defense but a case of retaliation. For me, once you start to take matters in your own hands then you open yourself up to the wind.

    As for your daughter, well, it is time for her to learn, you can’t raise her in a bubble.

  23. To Northerner, who poasted above, I agree that violence is not the answer and if only the recommendation of the principal to expel the original 3 students who hung the nooses was followed, we would not be having this discussion today. To charge the 6 young men for attempted murder for what amounted to a serious schoolyard fight (we used to call it “getting jumped” when I was in school) is ridiculous. Disciplinary action had to be taken, but not at the expense of these young men’s lives when others who have threatened them got a slap on the wrist. I feel bad that the mother of your daughter’s playmate was so narrow-minded, but realize that not everyone feels this way and this should not discourage you or your daughter from connecting with people of all backgrounds. As far eveyone pulling together, we had 9/11 and people were nice to each other for a couple of months before people went back to business as usual. Humans have a great capacity for love, but the capacity to hate seems to dominate these days.

  24. Northener, you are very much mistaken if you believe that it is black people feel it’s “okay” for a black man to make statements like those you listed about black women. That is the opinion of a small group — most in the black community feel that it is wrong and that it makes other people feel it is okay to disrespect black women. As far as your daughter, I’m sorry that she had to experience that, but as another poster stated, certainly not all people in the community are that way. Perhaps this can be a learning experience for both of you. Reverse racism seems always to be so devastating to white people, but imagine if it were not just an unusual incident, but pretty much a part of life, something you have to teach your kids how to deal with early on….continue to teach her respect and tolerance. Good for you. It sounds trite, but children really are the future, and how we train them now determines the future they will have.

  25. Sorry for misspelling your handle, Northerner.

  26. Edesse said,”As for your daughter, well, it is time for her to learn, you can’t raise her in a bubble.”

    Time for her to learn what edesse, that her friend won’t play with because she is white?? What good would that do? How would you go about telling your young son/daughter ? I will not instill in her somebody else’s ignorance. The innocence and ignorance of children is the most beautiful thing in the world. It allows them to see a world without color or beliefs. Too bad it doesn’t carry over into adolescence and adulthood.

  27. Northerner, guess what? I’ve already had to have that talk with my daughter, and she’s 7. I just told her that some people believe untrue things about black people, and they teach those things to their children, so perhaps her little friend has some mistaken ideas. It didn’t mean anything was wrong with her, and maybe her friend would learn differently. One thing I’ve found is that when kids go to school, they make friends with each other and sort out a lot of issues like that themselves. They might keep it from their parents, but they do. So, explaining to your daughter that some people make bad decisions based on mistaken beliefs is not instilling someone else’s ignorance in her. It’s just letting her know how things are sometimes. I will not presume to know what edesse meant, but what I got from her comment was that things like this are going to happen, and it’s up to you to help her through it. Not explaining anything to her, who knows what she will think?

  28. And obviously I didn’t mean all kids all grades all the time. The topic here is the Jena 6, after all. I just meant in the early primary grades, sometimes the kids make friends with each other in spite of what their parents might think.

  29. I am appalled by this entire Jena subject. On the one hand you have students who insult the black race through disgusting comments and behaviors. On the other hand..you have students who physically and criminally inflict bodily injury on a member of another race. BOTH are wrong.. but let’s face it.. the system recognizes the severity of each and every crime that occurs and applies the right amount of justice to fit the bill.
    This was created out of unforgivable acts..but to take vigilante justice against another person ..bringing them close to death.. is even more unforgivable.
    Most whites I have spoken with are appalled by the behavior of the whites in Jena.. but even more appalled that the blacks chose to take justice into their own hands and deliver their own choice of punishment.
    THEN you have the TYPICAL scenario where civil rights leaders Martin Luther King III and Al Sharpton come running to establish a platform. The platform has been questionable in the past and is definitely questionable in this case. The platform has changed.. and their arguments are becoming historic in nature.
    Blacks are afforded the same rights and luxuries as the whites. I am surrounded by successful, respected black members of our community. I am also surrounded by poverty stricken whites. The choice to succeed in life is not left to opportunity but to the individual desire and drive within each of us. It is time to be comfortable in our own skin.
    I believe that change is in order in Jena.. but I also believe that marches in a Jena only aggravate a volatile situation. This is a matter for the court.. not a platform. This is a matter for the school board.. not a platform. This is a matter within families.. not a platform. This is not a divided issue.. blacks.. whites.. Hispanics.. we all feel that this situation deserves swift justice through proper channels. Tolerance.. empathy.. love… brotherhood… these are things that we instill in our children. Obviously.. the parents involved in this situation miserably FAILED their children and society. The parents should be held as accountable as the children. It all starts at home…children learn what they live. If children are grow up with racist parents..they will develop those same lowly qualities. If children grow up with violence then they develop those lowly qualities.
    This is not a national issue. This is upbringing! None of these individuals -BLACK OR WHITE- reflect my views or social beliefs. They are all under one God..they are all under the laws of our land..they are all sons..daughters. THEY each made choices.
    Think about this… a type of “shoe on the other foot” reflection..
    The whites should unite…march against the savage beating of a member of our race. As a matter of fact.. we should march against anything and everything we feel insults our race and heritage. Where is our NAACP?? If we created a NAAWP… could you imagine the outcry that would be shouted from the good Rev.’s and Al’s platform then?? It is a fact that minorities and women in this country obtain benefits unavailable to those of a different race or gender. (I am a woman by the way). Progress brings about balance? Or does it? I do know that I love my country …and it’s citizens who treat me with love and respect..no matter their color or nationality.
    GET real.. my family embraces the black race. My son is the only white member of an all black football team. His participation was voluntary and the community center he plays for is in a neighboring town. My views are not based on race..they are based on moral decency and respect for the judicial system of our country.
    It is time to remove the race card and treat all of the Jena participants in a manner that is within the fullest extent of the applicable laws. If you hung a noose.. you should suffer a consequence. If you beat a person in a criminal manner..you should be prosecuted to the fullest extent under applicable laws.

    Read this excerpt from a news story … SLOWLY…take in the information.. understand what is dividing the issue..proper JUSTICE.

    “Last week, they led about 15,000 marchers to Jena, a town of 3,000, to protest how authorities handled the cases of Bell and five other black teens accused of beating white high school student Justin Barker.”

    “Many said they are angry the students, dubbed the “Jena 6,” are being treated more harshly than three white students who hung nooses from an oak tree on high school property.”
    SEE… each side is angry… seeking justice….and that is what the community should get..EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW.
    I do not feel this is a racial issue for the nation. This is a single town corrupt from a lack of discipline..morals..standards..and proper upbringing. It is also a town that needs to establish a more reliable and stringent system of behavioral correction within its schools.
    This can stop today… all that it takes is morals, unity, values, and tolerance…NOT just tolerance…acceptance. We all bleed red…we all shed tears..we all have hearts and minds. This world would be a boring place if we all looked the same..had the same accent..the same desires and needs. Of course…Hitler would thrive in that environment … wouldn’t he!
    I would also like to say a quick comment to the white students in Jena…
    We are with you in your desire to seek justice… however…we do not stand with your hate and racial discrimination. Your ideas seem historically back woods and are shunned by the majority of your race. If you ever desire to move from Jena…your ideals will not survive elsewhere and you..in fact…will be the outsiders wherever you go. Find it in your heart to change…catch up with the rest of the world.
    To the black students in Jena….
    I understand your pain…and your desire for justice…and share your thoughts that racism is unacceptable. I do not share the thought that personal vengeance or justice is the answer. Violence is a disease that spreads hate.

    It starts at home…. Stop the cycle.
    Seek justice…not hate.

  30. FLtheSouth — I get the overall point of your post, which for the most part is pretty much how most blacks feel….the “Jena 6″ should be disciplined for what they did, BUT commensurate with the crime. The point that I think you missed is that it is generally believed and seems to have been demonstrated by previous action taken against other acts committed by whites is that they were punished differently than they would have been if they were white. And there is a racial bias in this country, there is racial profiling, and not just of blacks. People get so they assume a Hispanic person is illegal. They assume a Muslim family is extremist. They assume all kinds of things. There are illegals who are from Russia or whatever, but that’s not as noticeable, is it? As far as the NAAWP comment, you don’t need an organization to look out for your interests, most people who aren’t white would feel. You’re already there, and you quite possibly have an organization with letters already that looks out for the interests of your race and speaks out against any perceived injustices and in fact marches in rallies and parades. Of course, that organization is probably perceived in different ways by the members of its own race, but hey, we all have our opinions. My opinion is that these issues are not “historic” in nature. Of course there’s been progress made, things are much different in a lot of ways, but from my perspective there’s still a ways to go. Take the recent comment made by a well-known person about how “civilized” blacks were acting at a Sylvia’s Restaurant in New York! Wow, blacks know how to eat correctly in public and behave decently. Goodness. I don’t think you’d see that comment made about white people. I too teach my children to respect all people, love everything made by God. But you have to temper that with reality.

  31. Wow, amazing blog, I was thinking how to do this. and found across your website by yahoo, tons of great things here, now that I’ve got an idea. I’ve bookmarked your web page and also added rss. Please take a look at my site: dating service and please keep us informed about your site :-), thanks!….

Speak Your Mind

*