Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Howard University Paper Takes Students Lowered Temperature On Jena 6

After High Temperatures, Jena Outrage at a Low Fever

Hundreds of students gathered in Cramton Auditorium to rally for teenage boys in Louisiana -- more commonly known as the Jena "6" on Sept. 5, 2007.

Student leaders, along with representatives from African-American progressive organizations gave stirring speeches. Adorned in "Free the Jena '6'" T-shirts, the campus of Howard University was reminiscent of the days of Stokely Carmichael and other revolutionary figures. The spirit to effect change was contagious as students embarked on their journey to Jena, La. But now, after Howard received such accolades for organizing the fight for the Jena "6," the fight seems to be over. Jerome Brooks, of Bay St. Louis, Miss. who was a member of the planning committee for the trip to Jena, said that Howard students are essentially over it. "It was great to see students around the nation mobilize in order to seek justice for the proper punishment for the Jena "6," but there has not been a push to end the clear segregation and mistreatment of African Americans in Jena," said Brooks, a sophomore biology and political science double major. "The politics are the same as they were before the case." Following the rally that had an estimated 20,000 people in attendance, a defense fund was established by Color of Change, an empowerment organization with a desire to mobilize the black community. Close to $300,000 was raised in order to secure payment for attorneys and other legal fees.

But the segregated environment of Jena continued when the FBI became aware of a white supremacist Web site that listed the names, addresses and phone numbers of the Jena "6" and their closest family members and friends.

The FBI investigation surfaced after threats of lynching were received by the Jena "6" and their family members. Another member of the planning committee, sophomore finance major Brian Cox from Harrisburg, Pa. said conscious students are aware of what is currently happening with the Jena "6," as well as what is going on in Jena, La. "Students who were already actively involved with politics are aware of what is going on. For others, I think they were mainly involved only because of the hype surrounding the case, so they are completely over it now," Cox said. "But politically-aware students understand that Jena is still a conservative, Southern, Baptist town that has little to no plans on changing their politics."

The teens known as the Jena "6" have received less harsh charges and await trials scheduled for later this year.