Friday, September 14, 2007

Jena, Louisiana: Stand in solidarity with 6 black youth

Sisters, brothers, friends,

Are you aware of the situation in Jena, Louisiana? 

Please read on to find out about how six black youths are threatened with years in prison in a spiraling situation of race-based intimidation and injustice. Source:
        (The mission of Color of Change: exists to strengthen Black America's political voice. Our goal is to empower our members­Black Americans and our allies­to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone."

Below the story, you will find background info, including several other media links, and several requests for action. 

Please consider visiting the Color of Change website, signing their petition, and then taking action next week.


Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace ~ Church of the Brethren

Additional background:,1,3186370.story?coll=chi-news-hed


Last fall in Jena, Louisiana, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."1
A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place"--but it's happening today. The families of these young men are fighting back, but the odds are stacked against them. Together, we can make sure their story is told, that this becomes an issue for the Governor of Louisiana, and that justice is provided for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please add your voice:

The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were arrested for the theft of the gun.2

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.3

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder. Bail was set so high -- between $70,000 and $138,000 -- that the boys were left in prison for months as families went deep into debt to release them.4

The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.

Jena 6 Day of Action: September 20th, 2007

Thanks for your interest in the Jena 6 National Day of Action. We know thousands of us acting locally will have an enormous national impact. There are several actions you can take. Read the descriptions below and check all the ones that are interesting to you. Click submit, and we'll get back to you with everything you need to make it happen.


Early next week, we'll provide flyers that you can download and print that will give background on the Jena 6 case and actions folks can take to support the Jena 6. On the 20th, you can pass them out, set up a table in a public place, or post the flyers in local businesses or in other public places.

We'll also provide a quarter-sheet version of the flyer, so if you're wearing a Jena 6 t-shirt, you can have flyers in your pocket, ready to pass to everyone who asks about your shirt.

Phone Calls

On the 20th, you'll be able to use our call tool to make calls to Louisiana officials, stepping up pressure on the Governor and making it clear she needs to act now. You can make as few or many calls as you like. All you need is your computer and your phone­the tool provides you with the phone numbers and the call script.

Vigils, Rallies, & Meetups

One of the most powerful ways to take action is by organizing or participating in a rally, meet-up, or vigil. These events truly bring people together as a community, and they often attract local press which is great for making more people aware of the situation. Vigils could happen the evening of the 19th or the day of 20th. Rallies can happen before work, at lunchtime, or at the end of the workday. Easier to plan, but no less important, would be a meet-up, where you and others get together in a high traffic spot in your community to raise awareness and spread the word with flyers and/or to engage folks in writing postcards for the young men and their families.


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