Category: Jesus

Christian Broadcasting Network takes on race, inequality and power

Christian Broadcasting Network filmed this interview with Friends of Justice’s Executive Director, Alan Bean. (You may know CBN as the network built by Pat Robertson of the 700 Club.) Notice that the Christian Broadcasting Network gave us the space to talk honestly about the problem of race, inequality, and power in America today. Contrast this with the lukewarm coverage of the allegedly “liberal” New York Times, which ignored the Jena story entirely and then let D.A. Reed Walters write an Op-Ed.

So we’ve got the conservative Christian media letting us talk openly about race, inequality, and power, while the New York Times sticks their fingers in their ears and focuses on “important” news (like, uh, the buzz around Guiliani’s effort to rebrand himself since 9/11.) Congratulations to CBN for stepping up to the plate–shame on the New York Times.

Clarence Page takes a few determined steps toward a new civil rights strategy in this probing column. We need to get the churches and college students into the fight while minimizing the role of self aggrandizing shock jocks and polarizing prima donnas. The release of Mychal Bell will be a Pyrrhic victory if we can’t swing the support of Middle America behind the Jena 6. Question: can we organize an effective civil rights movement void of celebrities? Could we win justice for the Jena 6 without the support of folks like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? Yes, but only if we create a new advocacy model from the ground up. As Clarence Page suggests, we need to stress the principle of equal justice and we need to be racially inclusive. Morally, this is the right approach. Pragmatically, it is the only strategy capable of producing a profound cultural shift.,0,2383627.story

Last week, Friends of Justice spoke at a conference in Washington D.C. on the “Cradle to Prison Pipeline” sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund:

Give us Rosa!

If the New York Times had its way, no one would know about the Jena 6. It’s not the kind of story they like to cover. “Give us Rosa Parks,” the editors say, “we aren’t comfortable with Mychal Bell.”

Rosa Parks is doing just fine these days. Although the literal Rosa has gone to her reward, her respectable, upwardly mobile sisters are reaping the benefits of the civil rights movement. They don’t live in a perfect world; but things are a whole lot better for America’s black middle class. You don’t find Rosa Parks in jail these days, nor do you find many of her sons. Rosa’s boys get pulled over a lot more than their white counterparts; but a quick flash of middle class credentials and they are back on the road.

Mychal Bell is another story. Mychal grew up poor. He grew up without a father in the home. He grew up angry, and his success on the football field did little to quench the flames. As Reed Walters never tires of reminding the media, Mychal Bell has issues.

He may also be entirely innocent of the charges filed against him.

But the Times isn’t satisfied with a maybe, so they aren’t satisfied with Mychal—they want Rosa.

Mr. Walters tells us that Justin Barker, the victim of the December 4th assault, should be the center of media attention. “As he passed through the gymnasium door to the outside, he was blindsided and knocked unconscious by a vicious blow to the head thrown by Mychal Bell.”

Mr. Walters doesn’t tell us that several white students insist that Mychal didn’t throw the punch that separated Justin Barker from his senses. Even more significant, a football coach who insists he witnessed the attack from close range, says Mychal didn’t throw the punch.

When Mychal Bell’s attorneys emerged from the LaSalle Parish courtroom last Friday they had no comment. Since this was now a juvenile case, they explained, they couldn’t discuss the details with the media.

Mr. Walters feels no similar compunction. The knockout punch was “thrown by Mychal Bell.”

The mere accusation is enough to make white progressives run for the exits.

This afternoon, Mychal Bell will walk free—on Al Sharpton’s arm no less. At a press conference a few hours ago, Reed Walters was asked if this fight is stressing him.

“I’m not going to say that I haven’t been stressed by this,” Walters replied. “But let me say this. The only way that I believe that me or this community has been able to endure the trauma that has been thrust upon us is through the prayers of the Christian people who have sent them up in this community. I firmly believe that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened.”

Then, asked why the protestors had been so peaceful on September 20th, Walters explained that “the Lord Jesus Christ” put his influence on those people and they responded accordingly.

How will America respond to the freeing of Mychal Bell? There is a growing tendency to view Mr. Bell as a thug. As such, the reasoning seems to go, he has no right to due process. This soap opera ain’t over folks—we haven’t even gotten to the first commercial

The closest thing to being there…

This Youtube video does a great job of capturing what it was like to be in Jena, Louisiana for the protest this Sept. 20th. The video also conveys the deep faith that motivated so many people there to stand up for justice. The film ends with the words, “9-20-07. Today we made history and God was there…Victory has been declared…We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” Thank you to ManofGod Productions for making this film: ( and thanks to Glittering Generalities for alerting me to this video.

In other news, I guest-blogged on Jena for tpmcafe this afternoon: “A new Civil Rights movement is born in Jena, LA?”  Which means I have to eat crow now, because just this morning I posted on Foresight to complain that so many progressive blogs missed the boat on the Jena story.


Lydia Bean

Three ‘Beans’ for the Stew


Leon Wynter is a journalist, writer and occasional NPR commentator. Friends of Justice ran into him at the recent Sojourners conference in Washington DC. You will probably want to click the link on this one because the “player” he refers to doesn’t transfer with the old cut-and-paste technique. Thanks so much, Leon, for the thumbs up.
Alan Bean
Friends of Justice
(806) 729-7889
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Three ‘Beans’ For The Stew
Perhaps the only lasting contribution from Rev. Al Sharpton’s largely
symbolic 2004 presidential run is this quip (my paraphrase):
It’s not about the Christian Right, it’s about lifting up right Christians.
With that injunction in mind, please meet The Beans, and their most vital mission and ministry, Friends of Justice
<> . It’s a little outfit that ought to restore pride to the term ‘Mom & Pop’ operation.
This seemingly unlikely trio-dad Alan, mom Nancy and daughter Lydia-has made it their business to get in the way of the most blatantly racist part of the criminal injustice system: cops and county courthouses in the small-town South. They tend to get involved and have an impact on the ground way before national media or recognized civil rights groups.


How to Create an Insurgency (in America or Iraq)

In the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time on airplanes and sitting around in airports. During these interminable hours, Thomas E. Ricks’ Fiasco has been my constant companion. As a devoted military man, Ricks is far more sanguine about the U.S. military than I am, but his basic thesis is sound: America fought the war it knew how to fight (blowing away a hapless enemy with overwhelming firepower and the weapons of intimidation)-not the war for hearts and minds the situation required. Faced with a rapidly evolving insurgency and mounting casualties, the American army panicked. In its pell-mell pursuit of “actionable intelligence” American soldiers burst into private dwellings, sticking their automatic weapons into the faces of Iraqi men, women and children, and hauling off entire neighborhoods of young men to detention facilities like the notorious (and soon grossly overcrowded) Abu Graib.

“In the spring and summer of 2003,” Ricks writes, “few U.S. soldiers seemed to understand the centrality of Iraqi pride, and the humiliation Iraqi men felt to be occupied by this Western army. Foot patrols in Baghdad were greeted during this time with solemn waves from old men and cheers from children, but with baleful stares from many young Iraqi men.” (Fiasco, p.192)

In the course of two long chapters Ricks calls “How to Create an Insurgency,” he discusses directives from senior command calling for “the gloves to come off” so that the insurgency could be “broken”. One young commander with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment responded with enthusiasm.

“I firmly agree that the gloves need to come off.” With clinical precision, he recommended permitting “open-handed facial slaps from a distance of no more than about two feet and back-handed blows to the midsection from a distance of about 18 inches . . . I also believe that this should be a minimum baseline.” He also reported that “fear of dogs and snakes appear to work nicely.”

America is confronted with poor, drug infested neighborhoods marked by high crime rates and a growing disrespect for the rule of law. We have responded with policies predicated on threats and intimidation. Doors are kicked in. Scores of officers flashing firearms sweep into an apartment. Babies scream for their mothers and elderly women are brusquely pushed aside. The f-word abounds. The young men are thrown to the floor and handcuffed while the apartment is ransacked. Maybe the police find illegal drugs; maybe they don’t. Maybe they got the right apartment; frequently they don’t. But it doesn’t matter. “The only language the bad guys understand is fear,” police officers tell one another.

The residents of poor neighborhoods tell me they are tired of being humiliated and disrespected by law enforcement and the criminal justice system. They are tired of being called “mother f&%*#@s”. They are tired of the sneers and the dismissive glances. They are tired of being suspects.

Like American soldiers in Iraq, police officers working poor neighborhoods have a hard time distinguishing the “good guys” from the “bad guys”. In both cases, the solution is the same: treat everyone like bad guys. If a few innocent people wind up doing long stretches in prison, that’s just the price we have to pay. No one in a poor neighborhood is ever innocent. Not really. They are suspect because they are poor. If residents are poor and black, the suspicion deepens.

But Thomas Ricks notes that not all military officers embraced the policy of intimidation and humiliation. An officer with the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion responded quite differently to the new call for neighborhood sweeps and brutal interrogation.

“It comes down to standards of right and wrong-something we cannot just put aside when we find it inconvenient, any more than we can declare that we will ‘take no prisoners’ and therefore shoot those who surrender to us simply because we find prisoners inconvenient.” This officer also took issue with the reference to rising U.S. casualties. “We have taken casualties in every war we have ever fought-that is part of the very nature of war . . . That in no way justifies letting go of our standards . . . The BOTTOM LINE,” he wrote emphatically in conclusion, was, “We are American soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there.” (more…)