Tuesday, the College’s chapter of the NAACP held a rally to show
support for the Jena 6, a group of six black students from Jena, La. currently facing serious charges for their alleged involvement in a high school fight.
p. About 100 students, dressed in green and black, attended the rally. The students walked from the University Center Terrace to the Wren Building, where they heard speeches from various members of the College and the Williamsburg community. Ashley Shuler ’08, organizer of the College’s Jena 6 campaign, Justin Reid ’09, president of the College’s chapter of the NAACP, and Clarence Wilson, president of the Williamsburg NAACP were among the speakers.
p. The theme of the rally was “it is time for change.” The rally focused not only on the Jena 6 campaign but also on other aspects of the continued racial inequality in the nation. It concluded with Nubia Dickerson’s (09) rendition of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’
p. The Jena 6 were arrested after a period of high racial tension
stemming from several violent encounters between black and white students.
p. According to the Chicago Tribune, the tension began when a
black student sat under a tree that was apparently considered white students’ domain.
p. By the following day, white students had hung three nooses from the tree limbs. The white students responsible were suspended from school for three days, enraging members of Jena’s black community, who wanted to see more severe punishment for the students.
p. The hanging of the nooses and the suspension of the culprits
were followed by several altercations within the community. In one fight, the Jena 6 were arrested and charged with the attempted murder of one of their classmates.
p. The boy that the Jena 6 allegedly beat was knocked unconscious but did not suffer any serious injuries.
p. The only boy to stand trial as of yet is Mychal Bell. According
to the Washington Post, Bell was convicted of aggravated battery,
but the case was appealed and the charges reduced because Bell
is a minor and cannot be tried as an adult for battery. Bell is also
the only boy who has been unable to pay his bond.
p. The Jena 6 students are facing what many think are inflated
charges, considering that they inflicted minimal damage and that their white counterparts face much less serious charges. According
to CNN, the boys deny all guilt.
p. Figures such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson,
Martin Luther King III and Sen. Barack Obama have all participated in denouncing the proceedings, online organizations have formed the core of the support effort.
p. The website ColorOfChange.org organized an online petition in
support of the Jena 6. The site has over 215,000 signatures and plans to send the petition to both District Attorney Reed Walters and Gov. Kathleen Blanco, asking them to drop all charges against the Jena 6. The other main online support effort has been on Facebook., where over 340 groups concerning the Jena 6 have formed.
p. The College’s Facebook group supporting the Jena 6 has over 750 members.
p. “This is an issue we’ve got to confront on a personal level, in our everyday lives and in everyday interactions,” Student Assembly President Zach Pilchen ’09 said in his speech at the rally.