All Eyes on Jena

As I am writing this, there is breaking news in the case of the "Jena 6." That was the subject we devoted most of our broadcast to today, including interviews with reporters covering the story and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The case began with a confrontation at the high school in this small Louisiana town — the black kids asked if they could sit under a tree used as a gathering place by white kids...when they did so, several nooses were hung in the tree.

Several tit-for-tat racial incidents ensued as a result, culminating in a white teenager being beaten by a group of black students. Those boys — now dubbed the "Jena 6" — were charged with attempted murder.

The black parents are outraged because they say that threats and mistreatment of black students by whites (including a beating and an incident where a white student pointed a shotgun at a group of black kids) have been treated far less severely.

Anyway, this story has become a huge national cause celebre. We devoted most of the show to it today, including a conversation with Rev. Jesse Jackson on how he views his role as a faith leader in a situation like this. And, we had a very interesting commentary by a long-time Jena resident. You have to hear it. That's all I can say...

As I'm writing this...the conviction of Mychal Bell — the only of the "Jena 6" to be tried so far (before an all white jury) who was facing 15 years in prison — has been thrown out by an appeals court.

We'll try to update you on Monday... Until then, have a great weekend...



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We can start with asking why they had to ask permission to sit under a tree on the school campus. The school administration was missing something to allow that situation to exist and that reflects their beliefs and prejudices right off the bat. Did the students ask in order to alert the administration and, in a round-about way, request protection of their rights? That was a good move, but when the nooses were hung the administrations slap-on-the-wrist response must have left the students with the impression that there was no one to turn to to ensure their rights. When there is no one in authority who will enforce the law and protect the citizens, then the citizens are forced to take the law into their own hands. If this sounds extreme, look at the next step, when black and white students fought, the whites were charged with misdemeanors and the blacks with felonies. There was, and is, no protection for the rights of those students in Jena... or, I should say, no protection from within Jena. The response of the national community via the internet is a wonder, it tells small town dictators that if they attempt to continue to deny the rights of a certain segment of their population that the word will get around and plain old folks will pour in to voice their objections and publicly shame those officials. The leaders of this protest are not the Reverend Jackson or the rest of the folks who will be sitting on the dais... the leaders are the people on nthe ground. The people up high are the followers who may be able to help with their experience to define the problem and refine the response, but make no mistake about it, the leaders are on the ground.

Sent by Carl H. Lopez MD | 10:48 AM | 9-20-2007

There must be a differentiation between the actual and implied acts of violence. A noose in a tree is implied, beating a person is violence. A group of people beating one person is barbarious. I do not agree with this, as I am sure many others do not either - and the students should be punished of course - but not as harshly as they were! If it was one-on-one it would not be as bad, teenagers get into fights! Adults get into fights! A mass beating is wrong no matter what, but jail time is inappropriate - they didn't kill the guy.

A judgement is exactly that, a judgement! The only way to change the way any one person is sentenced is to change the way they judge and think. A protest in a town that may have more racism then others will make people think, and attitudes are often taught. I think that peaceful protests sending a message of equality is important, because often people forget.

Sent by Anonymous | 2:43 PM | 9-20-2007

I listened to Michel's commentary on the show today relative to Jena 6 anticipating the direction she would be coming at it and on a intellectual level I totally agree with you, but I don't think that is what's at play here. I am so use to hearing African American's and others saying we should just get over it, let it go, move on but at some point we have to stop and say wait this is to much. When I listened to the talk about the march on Jena today I thought here we go again. Jackson and Sharpton talking loud and nobody listening. But I was at an event in Chicago and a young lady approached me and gave me a flyer telling about a group of Delta Sigma Theta and Kappa members organizing to go to Jena for this march. I thought wow this is how it happens, when young people get it and are motivated to act they bring about change. It was student non-violent marches that makes it possible for us to get that education you talked about. It is the self preservation, look out for myself mentality that has taken us backwards and makes it possible for people like Don Imus or the system in Jena to exsist. African American's are so disconnected and if nothing else comes from this I am so very proud of seeing my people come together for a common purpose.

Sent by Yvonne Armstrong | 2:44 PM | 9-20-2007

today's visit is great but lets start the fix for this right in the center. lets not forget to get this single convicted brother out of jail.

Sent by jim rounder | 10:46 PM | 9-20-2007

While the "Jena 6" case has rallied and awoken many African Americans on the continuous issue of prejudice, we should also pay attention to some of the "leaders" in our societies, whose lackadaisical attitude flourishes the issue of prejudice. It appalls me to think that the president of the United States had nothing to say concerning an issue of such magnitude. Does he not think that African Americans are also Americans? He fumbled over his words, as if to say they burned in his mouth. Also close attention should be paid to the principal of that school. Here we are, as parents and educators entrusting our children into the hands of the school system in the hopes that they might teach them the valuable things in life. Ironically they're been taught to hate and exercise prejudice against each other. Can someone please tell me when it was okay for an educator to sit aside and do nothing as students go wayward? I think the principal fostered and promoted an environment where racial slurs would be a norm. How are we, as a nation suppose to move forward if the future (our children) are not given the necessary education they need.

Sent by Edwin B. | 10:11 AM | 9-21-2007

OK first understandable to ask permission to sit under a tree that's cool. But, people I'm sorry they beated a kid until he was really messed up and he was knocked out for three hours in a coma. That's attempted murder in my state I'm sorry it's not a racial issue it's a living human being that they beated. I know there's racial tension down there but regardless of color it's not ok to hurt someone. I know the laws they almost killed him, anyone who thinks they are being treated unfair let's have 5 or 6 people beat you up with no one to have your back leaving you for the ambelance to get you. I'm sorry people but if it would have happened to hispanics, whites,asians, or any other color than black it wouldn't even make it around to CNN.
I'm a hispanic the Jena 6 to me is telling me it's ok for a group of people to beat on one person what's right about that? Other Races can beat up whites and not get into trouble? who's the right one then?The law or Race? We all must go by the law it's against the law to beat a person senseless almost to the point of killing them.
I know I'll get bad feedback from this but I stand by the laws they seperate us from the uncivilized. Just take into consideration of what I'm saying and the DA in LaSalle, Louisiana this probrably won't get published

Sent by E | 2:06 AM | 9-27-2007

Everyone of the board of education should be investigated, after all they are part of the education system that allows the hiring of these administrator

Sent by cori | 1:24 PM | 9-27-2007

The law is the law, and everyone, must abide by the law. Violence is a constant among teenagers,for one reason or another and is usually dealt with internally by school administrators, and sometimes the police when it gets that intense. Level headed School administrators try to keep the police out of it's internal affairs, until it has no other recourse, however this case, is a classic example of BIAS. In the small town of Jena La., there appears to be an "unspoken culture", where "white always has the right", any deviation from that norm may result in serious consequences, "all unspoken of course", and as long at that cultural preception remains "unspoken", african-americans will not question it, but will always be at risk for maximum punishment penalties, when there is room to reinterpet the laws as it applies to the crime. whites just assume the blacks get the message. When that implied message, originating from perceptions of years past, is not complied with, we have reprecussions, such as nooses hanging from trees, all to reaffirm the "assumed" status quo of the races or (places of the races) in Jena.

Sent by Bobby Brown | 9:20 PM | 10-19-2007

This is so wrong!!!

Sent by Nikki Brown | 10:24 AM | 12-4-2007