Revolution#114, December 30, 2007

Jena and the Big Picture

The following statement was written by a white resident of Jena, Louisiana and sent to Revolution for publication:

The Case: Six Black youth face decades in jail for standing up against racism—the nooses, the six white on one Black youth at the fair barn, the gun pulled by white youth at GottaGo and the result is a theft charge on the Black victim, and the racist slurs faced every day at Jena High School.

The Cause: Men, women, and children lynched throughout our nation, this is our history, this is our present struggle. In Jena, LA: Bobby Ray Smith, Billy Ray Hunter. Money, MS: Emmett Till. Texas: John Byrd, and in the north even. When I think of how this goes on, I am angry. I am eager for change. A system unchanged in its racism and oppression of Black people, today has prisons and police to carry out this terror and discrimination; prison facilities, low wage dead-end jobs, or unemployment, even very real police brutality and harassment of minorities to Black youth to “keep them in place.”

Black men and women are working hard at low wage jobs to feed their families while their children attend internally segregated schools and the whole family lives in the “Black” section of town. The low wage housing, the projects, or as it’s called in Jena, the quarters. Repression of our youth is especially prominent every day.

This case is representative of so much more of our society, and of this community. This cause including but not only is the Big Picture! Now I see why this case is such a huge part of this even larger cause. Now that I’m looking at our society and not just the Jena 6. And when you look at that, the big picture is worth making sacrifices and taking risks to take a stand around both the case and the cause of the Jena 6. The Big Picture, the struggle to free Black youth and other minorities from the oppression faced every day in every place, is worth the time, the effort, the strength of a united movement to free our youth and society from oppression.

As a white member of the small town of Jena I am calling on the “majority”—those who oppose the oppression of society, the racism, white supremacists are trying to justify—to stand up to protect the future of our youth.

One young man, 16 years old, convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy of this charge. Both convictions overturned and then retried for the same crime as a juvenile. He spent a year in custody, 10 months mostly in adult prison sentenced to eighteen months in a juvenile facility for supposed probation violation. Then given two bad options and forced to take a plea bargain and given 18 additional months, when he should not have been tried, re-tried, held in PRISON, or charged in the first place. This young man could be anyone, your son, your neighbor, your brother, uncle or grandson, But he’s not. He’s Mychal Bell. Son of Melissa Bell, brother, cousin, grandson, neighbor to an entire community of Black youth, sentenced to a life of discrimination. Would you allow our youth, your son, your brother, to go unspoken for? To spend years in prison for standing up for his rights, for protecting himself from the oppression of Black people? I will not and I’m calling on you, every mother and father, to stand up. Do whatever it takes and encourage others to do the same.

I will be there for the ongoing trials, for any protests, supporting the Jena 6 and demanding they be free. Where will you be? What will you do?

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