Monday, January 7, 2008

Jena Six Resistance: An Example How Determined Activism Can Make A Real Difference

If the Jena 6 prosecution had not been resisted by the pressure brought to bare by the outcry of millions against this injustice, and the physical demonstration of tens of thousands in Jena on September 20th and in demonstration across the country; Reed Walters would have railroad 6 Black boys into prison for decades.

Whites jump one of the Jena 6 and beat him with a beer bottle and only one gets prosecuted with probation. Blacks jump a white, and the same prosecutor goes for 100 years against them. And the worst part is that this is typical as this study I posted about, which comes from the Louisiana legislature, demonstrates that Black teens are punished 6 times more harshly than whites for the same crimes.

The folks at Friends of Justice, who have been on the ground in Jena since the spring of '07, have a post about how relentless activism brought this case to the fore.

Relentless Activist Digs into Racial Controversies
January 6, 2008

Many thanks to Wade Goodwyn of National Public Radio (and Craig Franklin of the Jena Times) for making this Weekend Edition piece sizzle. Franklin insists that no one was paying attention to the Jena story, nor would anyone ever have paid any attention, had Alan Bean stayed in Texas.

Midway through the almost ten-minute report Mr. Goodwyn filed this morning, Franklin quotes from a document from February of last year in which I predicted that the trophy for the “most racist town in America” would soon be transfered from Tulia, Texas to Jena, Louisiana. “The awards ceremony,” I said, ”is tentatively scheduled for soon after The New York Times, 60 Minutes and other national media outlets wake up to the doings in Jena, Louisiana.”

Franklin conveniently ignores the next line: “Tulia never deserved the Most Racist Town award, and I doubt Jena (pronounced JEAN-ah) does either. But, like the Texas panhandle community I call home, the isolated central Louisiana town in the pines seems determined to bring home the trophy regardless off the cost.”

The good folks in little towns like Tulia and Jena are frequently their own worst enemies. I can’t help liking these folks. They take their religion very seriously and most of them are trying to be the best people they can possibly be (something I can’t say for the city slicker cynics who routinely put them down). These aren’t snarling Southern bigots straight off the set of Mississippi Burning–for the most part, they’re kind, polite and gentle.

Unfortunately, they are also blind to their own blindness. A lot of people took DA Reed Walters for just another zealous prosecutor until he announced on CNN that the 20,000 black people who descended on Jena in September would have reduced his town to a smoking ruin had not the Lord Jesus Christ thwarted their evil designs. “You can quote me on that,” he announced (I have actually paraphrased–but I think I caught the spirit of his weird remark).

Reed Walters never understood that the folks who rode the buses to Jena were motivated by their devotion to the same Jesus he worships. The experiences of the last year have convinced me of the need for inter-racial dialogue, starting in the churches and moving out from there.

Craig Franklin makes it sound as if I snuck into Jena under false pretences. I attended the white First Baptist Church my first weekend in Jena and spent over an hour introducing my unorthodox ministry to pastor Dominic DiCarlo. The next day I spent a good part of the afternoon with Sammy and Craig Franklin at the Jena Times. I told them about my work in Tulia and said I intended to advocate for the Jena 6 and their families just as I had stood up for Joe Moore and his friends in Tulia. I told them that the media could not always be counted on to be fair, so it behooved them to talk Reed Walters into reducing the charges. They didn’t think that would be necessary.

Wade Goodwyn did an excellent eight-minute synopsis of the Jena story for NPR’s All Things Considered in July that became the most emailed NPR piece for several weeks running. Goodwyn’s reporting was remarkably even-handed; he just laid out the facts, featuring comments from people on both sides of the developing controversy. Black bloggers used Wade’s piece as a succinct-yet-thorough vehicle for spreading the word.

Craig Franklin is right about one thing: a lot of fluff and nonsense has been written about his home town. Wade Goodwyn is effective because he tells it straight.

1 comment:

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