FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Now, the Reverend Al Sharpton, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III - these faces of the so-called traditional civil rights movement have dominated the visuals in the Jena Six press. But the story incubated online long before going mainstream. Leading that charts was Color of Change based in San Francisco.

James Rucker founded the online activist site in 2005. And he joins me now to talk about the case and the new grassroots activism that his site represents.

James, welcome.

Mr. JAMES RUCKER (Director, Color of Change): Thanks for having me.

CHIDEYA: So what's your reaction to what happened in Baton Rouge yesterday and will that change what you do?

Mr. RUCKER: It won't change what we do very much. I think that any development that, you know, moves us closer to Mychal Bell and the others being able to get on with their lives and having, you know, put this in the past is a good thing.

I do think it's problematic the way the governor has proceeded. What the D.A. has done at this point in saying that he will not pursue an appeal to the State Supreme Court, to me, is a move that helps project the idea that he is actually balanced, that he's actually, you know, out to make sure justice is served. He was rebuked by the third Surrogate Court of Appeals very clearly. And this, to me, the attempt, even the statement that he would go to the Supreme Court, fits into a series of moves that show that, you know, he is - he's been overzealous in terms of the way in which he's approached the Jena Six, and unbalanced in the way that he has avoided prosecuting or taking seriously many of the things that have led up to that point. So…

CHIDEYA: James, what's your next step? I mean, as an organization, you've been successful in mobilizing people. What are your next moves?

Mr. RUCKER: Yeah. On the one hand, we will continue to raise money for the defense of these young men. Our members have given generously, and we will also be raising money for the families. They've suffered quite a bit of hardship, and they continue to as this moves forward. And we're also planning to put more pressure on the governor and others at the state level to hold those who are acting on behalf of the state, you know, responsible.

CHIDEYA: Are you having conversations with kind of traditional bricks and mortar civil rights organizations about collaborating more or them learning from you, you learning from them?

Mr. RUCKER: Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the great things that happened in the lead up to the march in Jena was that you had some traditional black media, you had traditional black civil rights leaders, you had black radio -all, more or else, on the same page, with a common message, you know, seeking justice for the young men. So, I hope we continue to do so, and also, to take what we're learning here in the spotlight that's been shows on this unequal meting out of justice, and that we look at how that's happening, actually, across the country and other places.

CHIDEYA: Finally, have you been faced with the question of, look, why is this activism directed towards people who have allegedly committed a crime? Shouldn't you be doing something else to uplift other people that might be in need of justice but haven't committed a crime or are not alleged to have committed a crime?

Mr. RUCKER: Well, we certainly get that question often. And, you know, it would be great to have kind of your Rosa Parks who's, you know, it's a clean cut, it's simple, it's easy. The reality is that so many young black men find themselves in a situation like the young black men in Jena. You know, we're definitely not saying that, you know, kids who jump someone should not be punished. It' all about an equal meting out of justice under the law and getting, really, behind - or I should say, you know, getting beyond what we really do believe is a Jim Crow system of justice where the laws on the books are clear, and you have people, like Reed Walters, who are saying, hey, we're proceeding, you know, in a kind of fair and balanced above the board of manner. But when you start looking at, you know, white on black instance not being pursued, when you see the prosecutor going after the youth, very early on saying he could take away their lives with a stroke of a pen, and then following up on that in the way that he has, you know, that is, you know, a problem that we really hope to eradicate.

CHIDEYA: Well, James, thanks so much.

Mr. RUCKER: Thank you very much, Farai.

CHIDEYA: James Rucker founded the activist Web site ColorofChange in San Francisco.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.