STORY BY CHANTELL LEAK.
The Jena six issue, and the unfair way they have been treated, has rattled us down to our souls. September 20, 2007 was supposed to be the day that Mychal Bell, one of the six teenagers charged with beating a white student, was sentenced to 22 years in prison, but the appeals court recognized the week before that he should not have been tried as an adult and the conviction was overturned.
Though Bell may be released, he is still in prison while the courts consider an appeal so there was a large rally in Jena on September 20 to support him. At the same time a rally was held at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. People dressed in black, pumping fists into the air chanted, “Free the Jena Six! Free the Jena Six!” and “Enough is enough!”
I believe this case has brought us as a black people closer together in unity than we’ve been in a long time. If we don’t stop the unfair treatment of young blacks in the legal system now, who is going to fight for us? We can’t depend on anyone but ourselves, as many people in the crowd at the Capitol agreed.
I interviewed West Virginian Caroline Tyler who stated she felt that black people, “especially our young black men,” are always targeted for crimes we didn’t commit. She felt as though there is an anger that flows from us, “through our kids and into the schools” where events like this are likely to take place. Saddened with the thought that racism is still so prevalent, she was there to support the Jena Six and to ensure that her kids have a future in which they don’t have to worry about hate crimes.
I still can't believe what has happened in this case. The people who are charged with our protection can’t even be trusted. The superintendent of Jena High was supposed to insure that his students have a safe and secure environment in which to learn. Instead six of them await unjust and unrighteous trials that shouldn’t be.
And what about the nooses that several white Jena students hung from a tree months before the beating occurred? I believe we have come too far to be sent back fifty years because of something people are dismissing as a ‘youthful stunt’. There was nothing youthful or playful about three nooses hanging from a tree. That is a hate crime! It shows that racism is still running rampant.
But like Kris Natesan, from the Community of Hope AME Baptist Church, said, “racism has always been strong, it’s just been discreet.” And it took the Jena Six to bring the issue back to the public consciousness and into public debate. Now that we’ve taken it this far, it’s up to us to take it the whole nine yards and put a stop to it.
Natesan was one of the speakers at the rally. “We need true recognition of what happened,” he said. When asked what effects this will have on teenagers, he said, “It depends on what happens. If we come out on top then our children as well as ourselves can use it as a learning block. However, if Mychal Bell is convicted then it sends negative messages."
Nothing’s going to happen if we are silent. We must speak up about what’s going on and that’s exactly what we did at the rally. Common sense flowed through the speakers in the form of poetry, song and chants. Even the teenagers had things to say about the Jena Six issue.
“It’s crazy. It’s not fair,” said Antoneice Long, 15, who also attends the Kamit Institute. “We need support. We need to support the boys down there because what happened to them is not fair. I just thank God it’s not at my school.”
I believe everyone , from parents, to teachers, down to middle school children would agree with Antoneice. Because, it could have been one of us. But like she said, thank God it wasn’t.
No, we can’t change people and how they are, but we can ensure that hate crimes are punished as hate crimes, that shoes aren’t seen as deadly weapons and that the Jean Six are free.