About Me

My photo
Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

Popular Posts

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Justice Everywhere Now, Always

Today on the campus of Shaw University, students from at least seven North Carolina colleges rallied to join their voices for justice in the legal system. The occasion for the rally was the September 20 protest against the treatment of six black high school students accused of attempted murder and aggravated assault against a white student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana. Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP spoke powerfully to the crowd, and he suggested the acronym for Jena that I used for the title of this entry.

The rally was not a call for ignoring any acts of violence which have been committed. It was a call for fair treatment of blacks and whites caught up in the same legal system. Numerous web sites and newspaper articles tell the story of the events which unfolded in Jena. Whites assaulted blacks in Jena during the period of unrest which followed the racist threat of nooses hung in a tree outside the high school, but district attorney Reed Walters brought no charges in those cases. But in this case against a group of blacks who beat a white boy, leaving minor injuries which allowed him to return to a school activity the same day, the district attorney brought charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and aggravated assault. Setting bonds very high for these students meant that they spent weeks and months in jail. The case bursts with examples of the unequal application of the law.

It is a case which has caught the attention of black students across the country. It has touched a nerve in their world. Many have friends who have been victims of legal injustices. Others fear what might happen to themselves. Primarily, they recognize that this widespread problem affecting African Americans long after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts must be challenged. As Jesse Jackson was widely quoted to have said, there is a Jena in every state of the United States.

Apparently, blogs and social networking sites became powerful tools in organizing the large protest in Jena on September 20, as well as many local events. It was only in the last week that the brewing protest was noticed by major news organizations. Prior to that, it was only a few news sources, such as the Chicago Tribune, the BBC, and NPR, to name some, which made note of what was happening in Louisiana. I tried to get local news coverage in Durham, but had to settle for writing my own Op/Ed article. So clearly some other form of information exchange and organizing made the difference.

Some used existing organizations, churches, and just plain word-of-mouth organizing. In Durham, a father named Kevin Williams became agitated by thinking about his own teen-aged son getting caught up in an unjust legal procedure. He became a leading organizer to bring attention, and ultimately busloads of North Carolinians, to Jena.

At Shaw, Dean of the Chapel Quincy Scott and his staff deserve praise for their work to facilitate the student rally. President Clarence G. Newsome and other administrators joined their support and presence to the event. Over half of the participants were Shaw students, but large contingents came from North Carolina Central University, Livingstone College, and St. Augustine's College. Other groups of students came from Elizabeth City State University, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and North Carolina State University. There were also Shaw alumni and other community members who joined in the event.

Well-deserved attention is finally being brought to this case. Recent developments seem promising. The bait and switch tactic of lodging a charge of attempted murder allowed Walters to bring underaged Mychal Bell's case into an adult court. After the trial started, the charge was reduced to a charge that did not justify taking Bell out of juvenile court. Yet the case was carried through, and Bell was convicted. The appeals court threw out the verdict on the grounds that it should never have been tried outside of the juvenile court. Charges have been reduced for the other youths who have not yet stood trial. Will the legal officials of Louisiana rein in this rogue prosecutor? Will the full story be told, rather than the abbreviated version which focuses only on the one event which led to these students' arrest?

Finally, we must remember the important early publicity given to this case by a couple of ministers. Eddie Thompson of Jena spoke frankly about racism in his town, at the same time acknowledging that it is not unique to Jena. Alan Bean of Texas worked hard to get the details of the case publicized.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

AFter reading about the Jena 6, in America small rural town, is there justice for our black children? During slavery time we had no freedom and no one to fight for the blacks. But when I read this article, I recognized one of the spokemen among the group as mighty giant of a man that stands for God and his word. Dr. Williams Barber does stand for righteousness and he expects to p.u.s.h. (pray until something happen) With all of the various universities representing and ralling with great force, this let this town know that they are not strong enough to take a stand against God's people while being wrong in picking whom is suppose to receive justice. They fail to realize to that they were trying to persecute our black children while over looking what the white children had started in the beginning. Today, the believers must take a stand for the people. Who is on the Lord's side. Then stand up for what is right. Florene t. canady

Baptist Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf
Christian Peace Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf