Jena 6 Update: Keep Marching

by matttbastard

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Click on the above image to join the ongoing Virtual March for the Jena 6 (if you haven’t already) and leave a link in comments to the site your picture is posted at. Pics will remain up until real justice (not the all-too-common Jim Crow variant) has finally been served. With Mychal Bell once again detained (out of spite apparent spite) and an increasingly overt racist pushback occurring, PurpleZoe is absolutely correct: “now more than ever we need to maintain our show of solidarity and then some.

Related: via Carmen D., after “pointed questioning” at a House Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday [update 10.18: “boycotted by most Republican members of the House panel” *cough*], U.S. Atty. Donald Washington finally admitted that the initial noose-hanging incident in Jena was actually a federal hate crime, but said “federal authorities opted not to prosecute the case because of the ages of the white youths involved.” Funny, age considerations didn’t stop ol’ DA Walters from (initially) charging all but one of the Jena 6 as adults with attempted second-degree murder, even though only Carwin Jones was an adult at the time. Apparently us neegros mature faster or something.

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Jena 6 Update: On Good Samaritans And What Happens Next

by matttbastard

x-posted @ Comments From Left Field

Was wondering who actually posted the bond to get Mychal Bell out of jail; figured it would have been Al or Jesse finally taking heed of Earl Ofari Hutchinson’s words of wisdom (to summarize: show Mychal the money!)

Well, I figured wrong:

Dr. Stephen Ayers didn’t join a massive civil rights march to support the so-called “Jena 6,” but he played a unique role in freeing one of the six black teenagers charged with beating a white classmate.

Ayers, who lives about 135 miles from the small central Louisiana town where more than 20,000 protesters gathered last week, posted the bond that let 17-year-old Mychal Bell go home for the first time in 10 months.

Ayers, 42, of Lake Charles, said today that he isn’t politically active and isn’t one to “get into things like this,” but felt compelled to help Bell’s family.

“I was concerned about what was going on up there and thought the district attorney was a bit harsh in his treatment of Mr. Bell,” Ayers said. “I really thought it was overkill.”

[…]

[One of Bell’s attorneys, Carol Powell] Lexing, who called Ayers a “good Samaritan,” said she thanked the doctor over the phone. Many people offered to donate money for Bell’s bail, but Lexing said they accepted Ayers’ help because he and a friend, Lawrence Morrow, were willing to handle all the logistics.

Morrow, a magazine publisher and host of local radio and television shows, met Lexing when he went to Jena for Thursday’s march. Morrow went home to Lake Charles with swollen feet, so he called his friend and family doctor for a prescription.

Ayers asked him about the march and offered to help Bell and his legal team. “He said, ’Whatever the cost is, go get him out,”’ Morrow recalled.

Ayers said he isn’t helping Bell because he thinks he’s innocent.

“What he did was in no way right, and he should be punished for this,” he said. “We’re not condoning his behavior. We’re just saying he needs to be punished appropriately.”

Elsewhere: Dr John Carlos laments the fact that there is a need for a modern civil rights movement in this day and age, cautioning that the significance of the 09.20 solidarity march shouldn’t be overestimated, nor should it be a singular undertaking:

“I can’t believe we still have to be marching,” he said. “I can’t believe how injustice has taken root and has become normal. It appears that there is a message being sent that we can’t go anywhere, aren’t worth anything. And that’s not just black people. It’s brown people. It’s poor white people. It’s the millions of our kids who go to school every day in the wealthiest country in the world and don’t even have books. We are raising a generation with no knowledge, no chance. If people are products of their environment, we are in a great deal of trouble. We see no money for books but they keep building these prisons.”

[…]

“Now [thousands] marched and that young man [Mychal Bell] is still in jail [at the time this interview was conducted – mb],” Dr. Carols said. “We need to have our eyes on the prize. We need our young people also hitting them where it hurts. Not just marching, but figuring out ways to do the unexpected. In 1968, that’s what we did. You have to do what’s contrary to the norm to give them something to think about. We have to give them something to think about because we had the audacity to act. I want to see people marching on the courthouse. I want them using their minds to do the unexpected, to make people in power think long and hard about the weight we are carrying.”

Erin Aubry Kaplan says that civil rights and social justice activists shouldn’t wait for ‘moments’ like Jena 6 to occur before confronting injustice, but acknowledges that ‘selective agitation’ is a universal phenomenon:

Of course the Jena Six campaign hooked neatly into broader complaints against the racial inequalities of the whole criminal justice system, which is a biggie — it imprisons young black males at an astronomically disproportionate rate — and Jena provided a good moment to express that. But agitation and organization shouldn’t wait for a moment. That would be like waiting for the entire Ross Ice Shelf to melt into the sea to sound the alarm about global warming. It’s a good photo op, but it probably comes too late.

This is not just a black thing. We’ve all been conditioned to agitate selectively, especially in matters of race. Americans of all colors have come to think of news as only moments — a plane crash, an election, a lofty acceptance speech. With race, the “moment” is almost always violent or criminal, like the beating of the white student in Jena. Yet here’s the irony: The worst things happening to black people are not only not moments but are things not happening at all — not getting a good enough education, not getting enough jobs, not getting equal treatment. It’s a public relations quandary that nobody’s been able to fix since the ’60s, when we had plenty of visuals — that is, moments — to illustrate complicated historical grievances that were finally making it to television. Demonstrations, riots, flag burnings, resistance to arrests, concerts, ceremonial signings of landmark legislation — these all fed a narrative that the public understood, whether they agreed with the particulars or not.

There is no such narrative now. In this age of deconstruction, what’s missing in the Jena case is a cumulative understanding and connecting of dots on racial issues, something that would prevent every American from asking stupid questions like, Are nooses hanging from trees really that bad? (Another version of the wearisome question: Is “nigger” really such a negative word?) We’ve detached racially charged incidents from a racial context, which sounds liberating but actually skews the racial balance of power even further: Without context, blacks always seem reactive and overreaching, while whites seem calm and fairly neutral. So in Jena, the black citizens say the Jena Six experience confirms pretty much every aspect of the racism they’ve experienced; whites admit to some lingering problems but insist that things have changed in Jena for the better. The facts are not in dispute as much as what the story of the Jena Six means — a manifestation of institutional racism that’s never gone away? An isolated case of prosecutorial excess in an otherwise idyllic town? The media tends to settle into a noncommittal, “fair and balanced” discussion that avoids conclusions and judgment of any kind, at least on the surface. And that’s where we leave things until the next moment hits. If we’re lucky.

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Jena Miscellania (Stay Up Forever Edition)

by matttbastard

x-posted @ Comments From Left Field

Having trouble collecting my thoughts. The sleep deficit I’ve been racking up the past week has rendered me cognitively insolvent. So, just a few quick Jena links, followed by some vids (and then, hopefully, a respite from perpetual somnolence):

As expected, LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters will allow Mychal Bell to be retried as a juvenile. However:

It remained uncertain when or whether Bell — one of the group known as the Jena Six — might be released from jail.

His case remains in juvenile court and the prosecutor, District Attorney Reed Walters, said he did not know whether a judge would set bail. Pending a decision on bail, Bell would be transferred to a juvenile facility, Walters said.
[update: elle, phd reports that Bell has FINALLY been released on bail. About GODDAMN time. – mb]

[…]

Walters had said he would appeal that decision. On Thursday, he said he still believes there was legal merit to that decision but he decided it was in the best interest of the victim and his family to let the juvenile court handle the case.

“They are on board with what I decided,” Walters said of the Barkers.

Well, that’s certainly mighty white of y’all.

Elsewhere: Carmen D. doesn’t think very much of the Gray Lady’s decision to give Walters prominent space in Wednesdays’s opinion section:

The New York Times and other news outlets of record refused to cover the story of nooses, unequal justice, unequal protection under the law and the beating of a high school student until these events sparked a protest so massive that they simply could not ignore it.

Now, the New York Times has given Jena district attorney Reed Walters a global platform to make his case without the slightest challenge.

Political Affairs (ZOMG Marxists!!!11) interviews People’s Weekly World correspondent Tim Wheeler, who was on the ground at the 09.20 Jena 6 solidarity march:

PA: A lot of Southern people are getting nervous about the focus on the South again, and they are pointing out, I think correctly, that this isn’t just a Southern problem. Do you have a comment on that?

TW: Oh definitely. First of all, the last cases in which the attention of the nation and the world was focused on racist injustice in this country in such a dramatic way were Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima in New York City. They were the victims of terrible, genocidal violence, one shot down in a hail of 41 bullets, and the other sodomized in a police station by police officers. So this is not just the South. This is a nationwide problem, and we have to take action to stop it. It is absolutely crucial to turning this country around and turning it in a progressive direction – to fight back and defeat this creeping racist offensive we are seeing against Black youth. Of course, there is also the anti-immigrant movement, all the immigrant bashing, which is another form of this attempt to split and divide us. There were many people I interviewed there in Jena who were calling for unity against racism, and they really need white people to join in this fightback. I think it is our duty to respond to that call.

Wheeler includes some interesting examples that illustrate the diversity of those who felt obligated to answer the call in an article published in this weeks issue of PWW:

Curtis Nelson and 149 other members of a motorcycle club in Moss Point, Miss., joined by 72 bikers from Baton Rouge, roared into Jena on their Harley-Davidsons. “Penitentiary for six teenagers for a fist fight? That’s cruel!” Nelson told the World. “When I was in high school you got suspended for getting in fights. And what about the white student who brought a loaded gun to school? They confiscated his gun and hushed it up. That’s not equal justice.”

Or, as the incomporable Liza Sabater put it last Friday, “justice is not served when we need to ask for permission to be black.” Once again, to quote Rachel:

[A] word of advice to people who are discussing the Jena 6 case, when people try to frame the discussion around only the fight or only Jena, Louisiana, don’t let them. The case itself is much broader, and the issues of our criminal (in)justice system are way bigger than Jena, Louisiana.

Rachel also offers an up close and painfully personal glimpse at her own all-to-familiar (and familial) relationship with bigotry, noting that:

[r]acism is so insidious that it anesthetizes people to suffering of others (even others who they care about). It destroys empathetic reactions to human suffering. The victims of racism are expected to be the “bigger people” while the perpetrators get the “Get Out of Racism Free” card. Even when they know racist behavior is wrong and harmful, many white observers of racism suffer from moral paralysis. Rather than doing what is morally right, they do nothing.

Finally, after the fold, some music (both new and not so new) that has kept me from declaring mental bankruptcy this week. Wish me luck tonight, brethren.

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Mychal Bell To Remain Imprisoned; Pushback Gets Ridiculous

by matttbastard

x-posted @ Comments From Left Field

So tell me again why Mychal Bell is still in jail (other than his complexion)? As Carmen D. points out, “He has been in jail since DECEMBER 2006“. Kevin’s right: “The Jena Courts seem intent on giving the middle finger to any notion of decency. ”

Speaking of a distinct (and disturbing) bird-flip to decency, CNN also reports that “the FBI said it was looking into an online posting by a neo-Nazi white supremacist group that published the home addresses of all six of the African-American teenagers, as well as the phone numbers of some. The group said on its Web site it is calling on followers to “let them know justice is coming.””
This sort of response, (and more asinine varients, such as this) are hardly unexpected, alas. I have a feeling the noose is going become a rejuvenated icon of hatred for the racist far-right.

Related: via Hatewatch, skinhead style goes haute couture; David Neiwert offers a mea culpa for going AWOL on Jena:

None of the top-tier liberal bloggers paid the Jena situation much attention in the weeks leading up to the march, and those of us on the left dedicated to civil-rights and race issues — like myself — tended to let it slide. The bloggers who made this happen were all “bloggers of color” whose own burgeoning network turned out to be truly potent.

Fortunately, their energies made the difference in Jena, and now the whole world is watching and paying attention. That includes those of us who should have been doing so in the first place.

Update: Earl Ofari Hutchinson: enough with the tears; show Mychal the money.

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