Live from Jena

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/09/04/bell.jena.six/index.html

An enormous CNN truck was parked at the LaSalle Parish courthouse all day yesterday and it’s still there today.  You can imagine how surreal it feels to walk into the lobby of the Townsmen Inn in Jena, or sit down with an Egg McMuffin at the Jena McDonalds and see the Jena story broadcasting live on CNN.  The coverage hasn’t always been accurate, but the response has been immediate (my cell phone has been ringing every five minutes).

I will have more to say about developments in Jena when I get home.  The big news is that Mychal Bell now faces a maximum of 15 years in prison after the conspiracy conviction was vacated by judge JP Mauffray.  That is still unacceptable, of course, but it is a baby step in the right direction.

The courtroom was crammed throughout the day–at times it was difficult to get a seat.  Half of the people in attendance appeared to be attorneys, many of them recent recruits to the legal fight.  When a story gets the kind of round-the-clock coverage the Jena 6 has been receiving from CNN it is on the verge of becoming a national story.  I was on a Pacifica radio program from Washington, DC this morning with Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School (who has agreed to lend his prestige and expertise to the legal struggle).  Dr. Ogletree told the host that Jena was the most important civil rights legal case since the Tulia drug sting (the case that created Friends of Justice).  I think he’s right.

More when I return to Arlington.

Alan Bean

Friends of Justice
3415 Ainsworth Court
Arlington, TX 76016
806-729-7889 or 817-457-0025
https://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com

Jena on CNN, Dailykos

Yesterday, the Jena story was featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.  Finally, the mainstream media is picking up this story!  This is a great day for our democracy, when the real news cuts through all that celebrity gossip nonsense.   I agree heartily with all the folks who are leaving comments on our site like: “Why haven’t I heard about the Jena story on TV?  I’m so tired of hearing about Paris Hilton while our democracy falls apart!”  Hang in there, now we’re cooking with gas!

And thanks to Blueintheface for posting this excellent update on DailyKos!

peace,

Lydia Bean

Get on the Bus!

Friends of Justice
3415 Ainsworth Court
Arlington, TX 76016
806-729-7889 or 817-457-0025
https://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com

On September 20th, 2007, the world is coming to Jena, Louisiana. While themainstream media waits for the next “news hook”, the plight of the Jena 6 has caught the attention of nationally syndicated radio talk show hosts.  Everyone has the same message: “Get on the bus!”
A rally is planned for the LaSalle Parish courthouse in Jena, beginning at 8:00 in the morning. If you want to be there, you better move
fast–especially if you need overnight accommodations. I suggest you book a room in nearby Alexandria–Jena has only one motel, and the rooms probably disappeared a long time ago.
How many people are coming to Jena? A crowd of 1,000 appears to be a very conservative estimate. Most people who say they want to come will end up abandoning the idea for practical reasons. But the groundswell of enthusiasm has been so unprecedented that a crowd in excess of 5,000 is possible.  Can tiny little Jena (population 3,000) handle that many people? It doesn’t appear that they have much choice in the matter.

Friends of Justice is trying to make sure that all the primary organizers in various cities are on the same page. So, if you are organizing a bus to Jena for the rally on the 20th please contact Friends of Justice and we’ll post your information. If you’ve got bus seats that need to be filled, let us know. We are currently being swamped with calls from across the nation asking, “Is there a bus going to Jena from my city?”

When I first visited the LaSalle Parish courthouse in early January, Friends of Justice was the only organization working with the Jena 6 and their families. Court appointed attorneys weren’t returning our calls. Motivated lawyers had been dismissed from the case and suitable replacements weren’t on the horizon. But as we listened to the families tell their stories I knew this legal outrage would not stand. I was determined that it would not stand, and I could already see a vast throng of concerned citizens gathered in front of the courthouse, standing in solidarity with the Jena Six.

So get on the bus and come on down to Jena, Louisiana. Come in peace and a spirit of non-violence. Come with an open mind. Come for the Jena Six and their families. Come for America.
Alan Bean
Friends of Justice

Howard University students for the Jena 6

For the past several weeks Howard University students in Washington D.C. have been meeting to organize events in defense of the Jena 6. Students representing the range of Student Government organizations, and activist groups on campus such as Amnesty International, the NAACP, and the ANSWER Coalition, have begun making plans for activities beginning close to the start of the school year. On Sept. 5th, students will be holding a rally/forum, to raise awareness on campus about the Jena 6 case, this forum will also be preceded by intensive outreach activities, to maximize awareness on the case. Student activists plan to follow this rally with a series of events, as well as a fund raiser, T-shirts and other promotional material is being prepared, the message from the Howard University student body, to the rest of this country, will be Free the Jena 6!

The Re-segregation of America

Last night I was on Bev Smith’s nationally syndicated program with two of the Jena 6 parents. Ms. Smith learned about Jena from an article in Jet magazine (the first media outlet to cover the Emit Till story half a century ago). Bev asked me why the national media has been so slow to pick up on the Jena story. I responded with my usual explanation. The media generally avoids the travails of poor black people; generally it’s the legal troubles of high profile people like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Martha Stewart, Kenneth Lay and Scooter Libby that get the attention. Normally, shows like Law and Order and CSI feature the dastardly deeds of rich white people. Television cameras follow celebrated black defendants like O J Simpson, but stories about poor black people don’t play well in prime time unless the details are particularly lurid. Michael Jackson and Michael Vick get a lot of attention; folks like Jena’s Mychal Bell are ignored.

Given these unpleasant and unyielding realities, the Jena story has received phenomenal coverage. You know a case is getting big when columnists insert the story into a list of well publicized outrages. Hazel Trice Edney, the author of the piece below, mentions the Jena 6 saga in her laundry list of high profile race stories. I’m not familiar with Ms. Edney’s work, but if Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson return her calls she must have a following. In Ms. Edney story about the rapid re-segregation of America, Jena appears as an anomaly or “fluke”. America may be re-segregating; but where but Jena do you find “white trees” and nooses dismissed as childish pranks?

Back in 1976, I occasionally visited the high schools of Louisville, KY in my role as a youth minister. Black and white students were being bused across town on the theory that the lack of racial diversity in Louisville’s schools vitiated the basic assumption behind the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education: separate is not equal. Tensions were high in Louisville in 1976, and burly security guards patrolled the halls and lunch rooms of the high schools. The only fight I ever witnessed was between two black girls. With few exceptions, the white and black students ate and socialized separately. Some of the black students told me they handled the stress of entering an alien world by smoking a joint before getting on the bus every morning.

As a Canadian, carpet-bagging, do-gooder, I tried to bring the black and white students together. My strategy was to hold the occasional Bible study on the black side of town. I remember meeting in the home of a black school teacher in a black working class neighborhood where all the houses were painted and all the lawns were mowed. Nonetheless, the white students were shocked by the deprivation they encountered. Compared to the unbridled affluence to which they were accustomed, this modest 1600 square foot home looked like a tarpaper shack. Black students visiting the white side of town were equally overwhelmed by the obvious wealth gap.

Life in poor neighborhoods is hard. The poorer the neighborhood, the harder it gets. It is hardly surprising that affluent Americans should want to distance themselves from the pain of the inner city. When poor people follow, the affluent keep moving. Recently, we have seen a trend toward “gentrification”. Wishing to live closer to the city center, wealthy people transform squalid tenements into state-of-the-art condos and apartment buildings. As property values rise, poor people are forced to leave the streets and avenues they know as home. Whether rich people are fleeing or invading the heart of the city, the end result is the same: the re-segregating of America. This process is rooted in fear, not hate. The white folks who live on my street in Arlington, Texas don’t hate black people. In fact, if a black family with all the accoutrements of professional standing moved in next door, most of my neighbors would heave a sigh of relief. Now they could say they live in an integrated neighborhood! Integration is still prized as an American ideal-just so long as the minority folk moving in can keep up with the Joneses in dress, speech and the spoils of conspicuous (and tasteful) consumption. We just don’t want to live around poor people. As a practical matter, that usually means we don’t want to live around people of color. Black professionals are little different from white professionals in this respect. But since there aren’t enough black (and brown) professionals to go around, the practical result of people-being-people is segregated neighborhoods and segregated schools.

Last night, Bev Smith asked me a pointed question: why won’t white people acknowledge that racism is a serious problem. “When black people get together,” Smith told me, “that’s all we talk about.” I replied that white people generally define racism in terms of overt, Mississippi Burning, hatred for black people. Since most white people don’t hate black people, they see themselves as part of the solution, even if they live in all-white neighborhoods and send their kids to all-white schools. Cut off from the pain of poverty, white professionals see no evil and hear no evil . . . and as soon as they do, they move.

The price of segregation is an appalling and pervasive ignorance. We don’t think racism is a problem because, frankly, we don’t know any better. I spent most of Monday afternoon in the company of an intelligent, articulate and musically gifted young African American. He had recently graduated from Southern Methodist University, holds a degree from a prestigious university in Austria and speaks fluent German. But he understands the streets. He knows the prisons. His roots in the black community bind him to the pain of poverty. Only half my age, he knows things I cannot know as a white man. That’s how it is. So what do we do to reverse the re-segregation of America? Where does the conversation start? One place it can start is on the Friends of Justice blog. Your comments were precious-please keep them coming. I need to hear you far more than you need to hear me.

Alan Bean

 

____________ http://www.btimes.com/News/article/article.asp?NewsID=13963&sID=3
Mounting Racial Tensions ‘Resegregating’ America, Activists Say
by Hazel Trice Edney, NNPA Editor-in-Chief. Originally posted 8/21/2007 WASHINGTON (NNPA)

More than 100 years since W.E.B. DuBois declared that the “color line” would be the key problem of the 20th Century, civil rights activists and race experts now say the problem of racial tensions are still so pervasive in the 21st Century that some have labeled it as a resegregation. “It’s undeniable that we are resegregating education in a dramatic way and we are also resegregating or becoming more segregated residentially than we were. And so those things are clearly going backward,” says Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors racial hate activities across the nation. “I don’t think race-relations are doing terrifically well.” Potok says what appears to be a rise in racially charged incidents publicized this year alone coincides with the rise in race hate groups nationwide. * In January, the story was still blaring about comedian Michael Richard’s calling a Black man the N-Word from the stage in a crowded Los Angeles comedy club in November. * Within a few months, now former talk show host Don Imus’ on-air “nappy-headed hos” insult to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team dominated the airwaves and the streets. * Meanwhile, a list of racially charged criminal justice cases began heavily circulating. They include: * The Nov. 25 wedding day killing of unarmed Black man Sean Bell by New York police officers, which sparked protests into the new year; * The case of Genarlow Wilson, 21, who is serving 10 years in a Georgia prison as he awaits the state Supreme Court’s decision on his conviction of consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old White girl that happened when he was 17; * The U. S. Supreme Court’s ruling against race-conscious public school assignments in Louisville, Ken. and Seattle, Wash. that sent a chilling affect over other such plans across the nation; * And the Jena Six case, now at full throttle in Louisiana, where 16-year-old Mychal Bell and five other Black high school students could face up to a combined 100 years in prison after a school brawl that started with them being insulted by nooses hung in a so-called “White Tree.”

Coinciding with consistent news reports on such cases, Potok says the heated immigration debate that railed in the U. S. Senate well into the spring apparently exacerbated negative reaction to the racial climate. He says the perception of the rising number of Black and Brown people in America is directly connected to the rise in hate groups. According to the Intelligence Report, 602 such groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations, were documented throughout the U. S. in 2000. That number has now risen by 40 percent to 844 in six years, he says, calling it “quite a significant rise and a real one.” Potok describes, “The reaction of very many people is that, ‘My country is changing all around me. This is not the country that my forefathers built. It must be because those brown-skinned people are coming in and destroying it.” Actual hate crimes and attacks soon follow, he says: “When hate crime gets the worst, it’s when the neighborhood starts to approach sort of a tipping point like 49 percent. But, once you get a significant number of whatever it is, Black people in a White neighborhood, brown people or whatever it is at the 30 or 40 percent mark, then some people start to feel ‘My town’s been stolen from me by these interlopers.'” Some places, such as Jena, where Mychal Bell was convicted by an all White jury in a case with a White judge and a White prosecutor, just appear to be a fluke, Potok says. “The civil rights movement just never made it there.” But, as the cases and the atmosphere of racism mount, activists say Black people can fight back non-violently – and win.

Activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has organized community marches in response to all of the most high-profiled criminal justice cases, says community mobilization is still among the most effective responses to racism and injustice. “Unquestionably, the color line was not solved in the 20th Century and it is absolutely facing us in the 21st Century. The difference is there has been in the last decade those who are in our own community who have been tricked into going to sleep and thinking that the relative progress of a few individuals has changed the plight of the masses,” he says. “Therefore, it has emboldened racists to come back out of the closet.” Sharpton says that those who criticize marching and having rallies in response to injustices are shirking what has proven to work. “The civil rights movement worked. They changed the laws that we are fighting to keep…How did they fight them? They fought one battle at a time. They fought Birmingham and then Selma. And those battles have broad ramifications…So, as we fight these battles, we must fight single battles that have broad ramifications. For example, we fought one battle of Imus and the whole industry now, including the record industry, is changing the N-Word and all,” he says. The Rev. Jesse Jackson agrees. “The laws changed, but the culture keeps kicking back,” Jackson says. “We will keep struggling, that’s what we are going to do.” Jackson says the period resurgence of overt racism in America is associated with the fact that an “undercurrent of fear” does not realize the benefits of diversity. “When the color line is dropped you have more talent developed…I think that we are making progress, but we are swimming uphill. We are running, but we are swimming uphill,” he says. “There is a layer of change that’s significant and there’s an undercurrent of resistance that’s surreal. The undercurrent will take you down.”

While Jackson and Sharpton often focus on community marches, Dr. Julia Hare, national executive director of the San Francisco-based Black Think Tank, says mobilized Blacks could take other direct action. “To maintain any kind of supremacy, you’ve got to maintain some kind of inferiority,” says Hare, a psychologist. “The people who put you under this oppression, why should they free you?” Hare says Black people must free themselves by taking direct action beyond marching such as collectively boycotting and removing their money from banks that redline in Black communities and by refusing to deal with stores and businesses that disrespect or fail to hire significant numbers of Black people. She says Black churches, under the inspiration of conscious Black preachers, could play a major role in organizing such targeted protests. Hare says the same strategies could be used to mobilize Black people to “take over school boards” and establish disciplinary and academic policies that could spark progress for Black children. Even as the perceived enemy is racism and White supremacy, another major problem in dismantling racist policies or in changing the racial climate in America can actually come from within the Black community, says Sharpton. He says high profile Blacks who try to marginalize racism in America or downplay it is doing the community a disservice. “When they talk down race, they give a lot of White America a cover into operating in the dark where they can do what they want and it’s no longer front page and front burner,” Sharpton says. “Everybody should be saying what is obvious – that there is a spike in racism from decisions by the Supreme Court all they way down to a Don Imus… And anyone who is saying we are beyond race is deluding the public for their own edification.”

Upsetting White Folks

Posted by Alan Bean
From Sherrel Wheeler Stewart of Black America Web comes this carefully researched account of Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III’s recent visit to Antioch Baptist Church in Jena, Louisiana.  If you click on the link below, you can hear Rev. Al discussing Jena and other issues of moment with radio personality Tom Joyner. 

Civil Rights Leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are frequently downed as opportunistic self-promoters.  One television station in Alexandria (about forty-five minutes southwest of Jena) received a flood of calls asking (a) why the station was publicizing the activities of men like Sharpton, and (b) why they were giving so much attention to the Jena 6?  The station told its critics that they just report the news; it’s up to the viewer to decide what’s what.

Yet, as a blogger recently noted, Sharpton and Jackson don’t chase the cameras so much as the cameras chase Shapton and Jackson.  From the standpoint of the Jena 6 and their supporters, that’s a good thing.  The news media only covers “happening” stories: that is, stories where something is shaking.  Since there is currently little action at the LaSalle Parish courthouse, we should be glad that Brother Al and Martin Luther King III have deigned to visit this isolated central Louisiana community.

If you listen to Sharpton’s comments on the Tom Joyner show you will realize that the New York preacher is a bit fuzzy on the facts.  That’s not surprising.  Activists like Sharpton live inside a whirling vortex of information and activity.  Everytime they turn around, some staffer is whispering about the latest piece of breaking news.  Leave it to others to get the details straight; Sharpton helps the cause by showing up.

In the story below, I am quoted as saying that Jena’s black community was divided on the Jena 6 issue prior to Sharpton’s arrival.  Let me clarify.  I have yet to speak to a black person in Jena who isn’t outraged by the events of the past year.  But outrage doesn’t always translate into involvement.  Many black residents have a “Let’s not upset the white folks” take on this issue.  In fact, a week after the Jena 6 were arrested, five hundred Jena residents, black and white, held a racial unity rally at the football field.  They joined hands and sang “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place”. 

But the price of unity was steep–no one, black or white, was allowed to reference the plight of the Jena 6, the “noose incident” or any other real-world event.  As a result, the six young men accused of attempted murder were left to twist in the wind.  When Friends of Justice got involved and the LaSalle Parish branch of the NAACP was organized, only Rev. Brian Moran of Antioch Baptist Church allowed us to meet at his church.  The doors of the five other Baptist churches in the community were locked shut.  Folks were happy to see champions of the Jena 6 when we visited on Sunday mornings–they just weren’t prepared to overtly sanction our struggle.  That would mean getting the white folks upset, and, Lord knows, we don’t want that.

Unfortunately, you can’t confront injustice in little towns like Tulia, Texas or Jena Louisiana without upsetting a lot of white folks.  I am not an agitator.  I take no delight in creating social turmoil.  When the media talks about little southern communities as if they are uniquely racist, I am just as offended as the mayor and the president of the Chamber of Commerce (this isn’t about one isolated community; this is about America). 

Nonetheless, if justice is to roll down like the waters, the feelings of white folks cannot be protected.  Jena’s brand of racism may not be unique; but it is deadly.  The fact that the yankees and Golden State folks sponsor the same two-tier system of justice currently on display in Jena does not justify what happened in September and December of 2006, nor does it justify what happened to Mychal Bell in June of 2007. 

If white folks must be upset I can’t think of a better man to do the honors than the Rev. Sharpton.  Go get ’em, Al!

Alan Bean
Friends of Justice
https://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com
(817) 457-0025

http://www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/bawnews/jenasix815
Sharpton, King III, Other Ministers and Attorneys Offer Encouragement, Services to Jena Six
Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2007
By: Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, BlackAmericaWeb.com

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III walked into a jury room Tuesday afternoon at a Jena, La., courthouse, and the face of the teenager seated at the table “just lit up,” said Marcus Jones, the father of that teen, Mychal Bell.

Bell is the first of the Jena Six to be convicted for a Dec. 4, 2006 fight, in which black students were accused of beating a white student following weeks of racially charged incidents in the small Louisiana town.

Problems were touched off after nooses were hung in a tree after black students sat in an area that was a traditional gathering place for white students, around the start of the school year.

The white students who hung the nooses were suspended for three days. The black students who retaliated were expelled and charged with felonies.

“Sharpton told my son, ‘I told you I’d be back,’” Jones told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “Martin Luther King III told him he would stay involved in the situation until he is freed.”

Jesse Jackson is scheduled to visit Jena on Sept. 4, according to published reports.
Bell is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 20. He has been in jail at the LaSalle Parish Correctional Facility since his June conviction on charges of aggravated second degree battery and conspiracy. A bond hearing is set for Aug. 24, and Jones is hoping Mychal can be freed on bond after an Aug. 24 bond hearing.

“He’s has a $90,000 bond. That means we have to come up with about $12,000 to get him out,” Jones said. “But Mychal is encouraged.”

About four other ministers, as well as representatives from the Nation of Islam, visited Mychal on Tuesday.
“They all formed a circle,” said Jones. “They prayed. Before it was over, he cried. I couldn’t help but cry some tears too.”

Bell is a gifted athlete, family and friends say. This time last year, he was getting ready for another good year running the football for the Jena High School football team. In his 11th grade year, college scouts were looking at him as a prospect because he was both a good student and a strong athlete.

School starts in Jena on Friday, and unless things change dramatically, Mychal will not be in school. “When he goes back to school, we’ll have to put him in a private school,” Jones said.

Sharpton made his first visit to Jena last weekend and vowed to return. Alan Bean of Friends of Justice said his involvement has galvanized the community.

“Before the Rev. Sharpton began coming, it seemed like the black community was divided about this issue,” Bean told BlackAmericaWeb. com. “Now, all of the ministers are together.”

Tuesday night, there were more than 200 people packed into the Antioch Baptist Church, Jones said.
In addition to the energy in the religious community, change is also happening in the legal representation for the Jena Six.

Bell had a court-appointed attorney when he was first tried. Since then, family and supporters have pulled together funds to pay for a team of private lawyers to lead his defense. Attorney Lewis Scott, who leads Bell’s defense team, has told BlackAmericaWeb.com he hopes to get the verdict tossed out or be granted a new trial.

Also, the nationally recognized Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, has stepped in to provide support for the defense of Robert Bailey, Bean said.

“What this means is that we have one of the best criminal lawyers in the state on this case,” he said.
Bell is the only one of the six to already face trial. The others — Robert Bailey Jr., Bryant Purvis, Carwin Jones, Theodore Shaw and another student who has not been identified because he is a juvenile — still await trial.

Parents of Justin Barker, the student who was beaten, have said in broadcast interviews that they consider the beating attempted murder.

During Bell’s trial, District Attorney J. Reed Walters argued that the shoes used to kick Barker after he was knocked unconscious constituted weapons. He also said that because Bell took part in an attack with others, that was a conspiracy.

The national attention and visits from people like Sharpton and King have helped boost the interest in the case.
“To think that people who really don’t know us are coming to this country town to help,” said Jones. “That’s something. That’s what we needed.”

View from the Bench

A guest post from C. Victor Lander, Presiding Judge of City of Dallas Municipal Court:

**************************************************************************

View From The Bench – Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

By C. Victor Lander

**************************************************************************
When I first started writing about the situation in Jena, Louisiana,
I made it clear that I was not going to let you forget about it.  It is
truly amazing how quick we are to say, “That’s terrible”, and then go about
our business, oblivious to the ramifications of the lack of justice
somewhere as close to us as the state next door (remember that we took in
30,000 Louisianans after Katrina, so it’s not so far away).  Well, when I
said I’m not going to let you forget, I meant it, and so I report again for
you on the Jena 6.

You remember the Jena 6, the 6 black high school students from Jena,
Louisiana who were arrested, expelled from school, and charged with
attempted second degree murder for getting into a fight with a white student
who had taunted them because they protested the hanging of three nooses on
the “white tree” at Jena High School.  The charges were reduced to second
degree aggravated battery and conspiracy, and one student, Mychal Bell, who
was a 16 year old sophomore at the time but still tried as an adult, was
convicted by an all white jury (the required deadly weapon being young Mr.
Bell’s tennis shoes) and now awaits sentencing.  On the day of Mr. Bell’s
jury trial, 50 potential jurors appeared for jury service, every last one of
them white.  The all white jury selected deliberated less than 3 hours
before finding Mr. Bell guilty of aggravated second degree battery and
conspiracy.  The sentencing of Mr. Bell has been postponed from its previous
setting of July 31, 2007 to September 20, 2007, and Mr. Bell now sits as an
inmate in the LaSalle Correctional Center (he can be reached by writing
Mychal Bell, Inmate, A-Dorm, LaSalle Correctional Center, 15976 Highway 165,
Olla, LA 71465-4801).  Bail for the others students has been set at from
$70,000.00 to $138,000.00, clearly excessive and designed to keep them
incarcerated for as long as possible.  Remember the names of these young men
– Robert Bailey, Jr., 17; Theo Shaw, 17; Carwin Jones, 18; Bryant Purvis,
17; Mychal Bell, 16; and a still unidentified minor.  You will see and hear
these names again.

If Mr. Bell gets the maximum sentence on September 20, he will be forced to
serve 22 years in prison for standing up and opposing the white power
structure of clearly racist Jena, Louisiana.  The hanging of these nooses
was not a youthful prank, as stated publicly by LaSalle Parish District
Attorney Reed Walters.  This action by the white students of Jena High
School was a hate crime, pure and simple, and the perpetrators of this hate
crime have gotten away completely free (they got 3 days in-school
suspension) while the protesters of this hate crime face decades in prison.
Something is seriously wrong in Jena, Louisiana – and by extension, anywhere
we allow injustice to continue.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Office of the NAACP
will be participating in a mass demonstration and protest in Jena planned
for September 20, 2007, and I encourage everyone who can do so to find their
way to Jena to show your support (go to http://www.naacp.org
<http://www.naacp.org/>  or to http://www.colorofchange.org
<http://www.colorofchange.org/>  for more information).  Thanks to the Rev.
Alan Bean of the Friends of Justice (https://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com
<https://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/> ) (who was introduced to me by my
pastor, the Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes, III), I can continue to give
you information about the Jena 6 and keep this issue in the front, rather
than in the back, of your mind.

As long as I have breath, I will continue to bring this and other similar
situations to the attention of the public, until “justice rolls down like
water”.  In the words of Dr. King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to
justice everywhere.”  Don’t you ever forget that today it’s Jena, but
tomorrow it could easily be Dallas, or Arlington, or your home city – and
your son or brother could easily be next.  The best way for evil to triumph
is for good men to do nothing.

C. Victor Lander serves as Presiding Judge of City of Dallas Municipal Court
Number 7, and has served in that position full time for over 10 years.
Judge Lander can be reached at victor.lander@sbcglobal.net.