Baton Rouge residents planning actions in support of the Jena 6...

(THIS WEBSITE IS UPDATED FREQUENTLY SO KEEP CHECKING IN, Check out the links to media reporting)


  • Next planning meeting:

Bringing Jena Home: Baton Rouge Summit on Community Action Suggested Program

Monday, October 1, 2007, 6 pm - 8 pm, Unitarian Church
click here for details

Our Understanding

One reason that the story of the Jena Six is so upsetting to us is that it is such a flagrant demonstration of both bigotry and institutional racism. Examples abound of African-Americans’ unequal access to and treatment by institutions in Jena, LA:

• It started when three white boys were given a slap on the wrist for hanging three nooses in response to black students’ desire to integrate “the white tree.”
• The Jena School Board escalated racial tensions when they refused to give black parents audience at one school board meeting and allowed only one representative of the parents to speak at the next meeting. The representative was not allowed to discuss the noose incident because the matter had been “settled”.
• When Robert Bailey was beaten at a party in Jena, the lone attacker who was arrested was charged with simple battery, despite having attacked Bailey with an empty beer bottle. He was eventually placed on probation. The boys charged in the attack on Justin Barker were each charged with aggravated second degree assault. The aggravating factor? The boys’ tennis shoes.
• The boys’ bonds were set so high that several parents had to leverage their homes to get their sons out of jail. Mychal Bell was never released on bond.
• Mychal Bell had inadequate representation during his trial. His court-appointed attorney did not challenge the composition of the all-white jury; did not argue for a change of venue; did not challenge key contradictions between witnesses’ depositions and testimony on the stand; and did not call any witnesses for the defense.

What happened in Jena is just the latest example of bad – or at least irresponsible – actors harming the public image of this state. For decades Louisiana has been portrayed as a state where institutional racism is rampant, poverty is tolerated, and the most important concern is whether or not people sag their pants:

• David Duke’s electoral success in Louisiana has been noted by national media time and time again.
• The Washington Post, NPR, The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the BBC, CNN and many other prestigious news outlets have named racism and the toleration of it as a primary cause of New Orleans residents’ predicament in the days following Hurricane Katrina.
• The beating of 64-year old Robert Davis in January of 2006 was shown around the world. Municipalities which attempted to discriminate against people of color and the poor were treated to headlines such as “Housing Watchdogs Call Post-Katrina Ordinance ‘Racist.’” The recovery effort was characterized by such headlines as “Nagin: Racism, red tape slowed recovery.” It was brutally difficult to argue anything to the contrary.
• The story of the shotgun attack on local DPW workers has been told in The Advocate and on Channel 2 and Channel 9 news. These news outlets reach across South Louisiana.

John Spain joined a chorus of state civic leaders in pointing out on Monday’s edition of The Jim Engster Show that Louisiana’s recovery and growth is dependent on the good will of the American people. We endanger eroding that good will when the leaders of our great civic institutions endorse injustice with their silence. Government officials and media outlets from around the world have covered the Jena Six story.

• The list of media outlets which have produced original coverage of this story includes: Democracy Now, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Associated Press, the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, ESPN, National Public Radio, Newsweek, and the LSU Daily Reveille.
• The title of the BBC story? “Race Hate in Louisiana.”
• The mayors of several US towns and the Cambridge, MA city council have spoken up against the injustice in Jena, LA.

As this matter continues, it is important that we communicate with our local media and policy makers.

It would be wrong to characterize what’s happening in Jena as a story of interest only to blacks. When reasonable people of any race hear the whole story of the Jena Six they react with outrage. Equal treatment under the law is a fundamental American ideal, the violation of which is an affront to our basic values and the social contract. The bottom line is that the African-Americans in Jena, LA are citizens of the state of Louisiana. The Jena Six story implies a fundamental disregard for this population as equal participants in a free society.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What happened in Jena could have been avoided on numerous fronts:

• Had school officials been more proactive in breaking up the 30+ year tradition of segregated areas of a public high school campus, this never would have happened.
• Exacerbated racial tensions might have been avoided had the Jena School Board not chosen to overturn Principal Scott Windham’s expulsion of the three students responsible for hanging the nooses.
• Had African-American parents been allowed to express their legitimate concerns about a perceived threat to their children at two separate school board meetings, race relations might not have sunk to such low levels. Similarly, black students should have been allowed to protest the hanging of nooses without reprisal from the administration, police force, and district attorney.
• The white man who attacked Robert Bailey at The Fair Barn was slapped on the wrist. When police arrived at the scene of the attack, Bailey and his friends were told to get back to their side of town.
• Adults tolerated the ratcheting up of racial division in Jena High School. Now, students are not permitted to wear t-shirts which read “Free the Jena Six” at school.

This case shows that race relations are often determined by racial justice. Relations are poisoned when power in a community’s institutions remains imbalanced and is bluntly wielded.

Baton Rouge residents concerned and angered over the injustice in Jena, Louisiana have started meeting together and talking about several different ways to bring more attention and hopefully a brighter outcome to this situation. Some strategies include organizing a public forum in Baton Rouge, getting local churches on board, getting the story covered more in local media, talking to friends, neighbors and co-workers about the case, and joining thousands of other people in Jena, Louisiana on September 20th.

Email moc.liamg|rb6anej#moc.liamg|rb6anej if you would like to get involved locally with others in Baton Rouge on this issue.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License