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Of White Trees, Black Boys, & Jena

recorded 7/21/07

 

1) 3:45 Radio Essay MP3

2) 5:02 Radio Essay long version MP3

   

 

Of 'White Trees', Black Boys and Jena, Louisiana [col. writ. 7/21/07] (c) '07 Mumia Abu-Jamal         

 

I you asked me two weeks ago if I've ever heard the name of a little town in Louisiana called 'Jena', I would've drawn a blank. Jena? Never heard of it. It made me think of the ill-fated Palestinian village called Janin, that Israel crushed into oblivion several years ago. I think the incumbent president's daughter has that name (with and additional 'n').       

 

But, that's it.       

 

When a friend sent me several internet articles about recent events there, I was, quite frankly, flabbergasted. I was astonished to learn that today, in the first decade of the 21st century, in Jena High School, there is still a 'white tree', called that not because the leaves are white, but because it is a generous giver of shade, and only white students sit under it.       

 

In Sept. 2006, a young student named Kenneth Purvis asked the school principal for permission to sit under the 'white tree.'  The principal answered that he could sit where he liked. So, they did.  The next day, the 'white tree' was festooned with three nooses, in school colors.       

 

In the South (or the North, for that matter), nooses have one clear meaning -- they are threats of death.  People naturally got riled up, angry, or scared.   Jena's High School principal looked into the matter, found the three white students responsible, and recommended that they be expelled.  The school superintendent felt otherwise, rescinded the expulsion, and instead recommended a 3 - day suspension.  Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, the superintendent said, " Adolescents play pranks.  I don't think it was a threat against anybody."   (Perhaps he meant anybody important - or white).   For Jena's Black community, this was but the latest slap in the face.       

 

Black students at the high school decided to resist by holding a sit-in under the 'white tree' to protest the light suspensions given to the 3 white noose-hangers. When word got out about the pending sit-in, the local DA came to a Jena school assembly, with several cops to threaten the students who dared to think they could do what people did some 40 years ago throughout the South (before the so-called 'New South').  He told them if they didn't stop making a fuss about this 'prank' he could be "your worst enemy."  To make the point plain, he told the teen gathering, " I can take away your lives with a stroke of a pen."   Several days later, a white Jena student, who reportedly made racist taunts, including calling Black students 'niggers', got knocked down, punched and kicked. The boy was taken to the hospital, treated and released. That very night, he was well enough to attend a public event.

 

Within days six Black Jena students were arrested and charged with attempted second degree murder.  All six were also immediately expelled.   The 6 teens were given bails set from $70,000 to $139,000.   Bail at these ranges could've just as easily been set at $1 million, for they were at rates that none of the local parents could afford.  That meant, of course, that all of the accused were held in jail for months, awaiting trial.   And if money for bail was out of reach, what about money for attorneys?  Again -- out of the question.       That meant that public defenders were appointed by the court. For one of the accused, Mychal Bell, this meant little better than no counsel at all, for his trial was soon decided by an all-white jury, who promptly convicted him of aggravated second degree assault, battery and conspiracy.    Bell now awaits sentencing which may put the teenager in prison for the next 22 years.     The public defender never challenged the all-white jury pool, put on no evidence, and didn't call a single defense witness.    The law of aggravated assault requires the use of  a deadly weapon. What was the weapon?    Tennis shoes.  Families and friends of the Jena 6 are organizing against this case, and are also being threatened by the local establishment.  One woman told Louisiana ACLU member, Tory Pegram, "We have to convince more people to come rally with us.....What's the worse that could happen? They fire us from our jobs?  We have the worst jobs in the town anyway.  They burn a cross on our lawns or burn down my house?  All of that has happened to us before.  We have to keep speaking out to make sure it doesn't happen to us again, or our children will never be safe."       

 

To contact the Jena 6 Defense Committee, write:             P.O. Box 2798             Jena, Louisiana  71342       Or on the web:  jena6defense@gmail.com.       --(c) '07 maj   [Sources: Quigley, Bill, "Injustice in Jena: Black Nooses Hanging From the 'White' Tree", July 3, '07; Quigley@loyana.edu.; Mangold, Tom, " 'Stealth racism' stalks deep South", BBC News, 5/24/07 online]
[Mr. Jamal's recent book features a chapter on the
remarkable women who helped build and defend
the Black Panther Party: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.
#1-800-533-8478.]
===============================

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about
justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal

MUMIA'S COLUMNS NEED TO BE PUBLISHED AS BROADLY
AS POSSIBLE TO INSPIRE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT AND
HELP CALL ATTENTION TO HIS CASE.

The campaign to kill Mumia is in full swing and we need you to
**please** contact as many publications and information outlets as
you possibly can to run Mumia's commentaries (on-line and
**especially off-line**)!! The only requirements are that you run
them *unedited*, with every word including copyright information
intact, and send a copy of the publication to Mumia and/or ICFFMAJ.
THANK YOU!!!

Keep updated by reading ACTION ALERTS!!
at http://www.mumia.org, http://www.onamove.com/ and their links.
========================================

To download Mp3's of Mumia's commentaries visit
http://www.prisonradio.org or http://www.fsrn.org
==============================================>

The Power of Truth is Final -- Free Mumia!

PLEASE CONTACT:
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Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180
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AND OFFER YOUR SERVICES!

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
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175 Progress Drive
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WE WHO BELIEVE IN FREEDOM CAN *NOT* REST!!

Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

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Read: http://topica.com/lists/mumiacolumns/read
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[Check out Mumia's latest: *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South
End Press (http://www.southendpress.org); Ph.
#1-800-533-8478.] 

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about
justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal

MUMIA'S COLUMNS NEED TO BE PUBLISHED AS BROADLY
AS POSSIBLE TO INSPIRE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT AND
HELP CALL ATTENTION TO HIS CASE.

The campaign to kill Mumia is in full swing and we need you to
**please** contact as many publications and information outlets as
you possibly can to run Mumia's commentaries (on-line and
**especially off-line**)!! The only requirements are that you run
them *unedited*, with every word including copyright information
intact, and send a copy of the publication to Mumia and/or ICFFMAJ.
THANK YOU!!!

Keep updated by reading ACTION ALERTS!!
at http://www.mumia.org, http://www.onamove.com/ and their links.
========================================

To download Mp3's of Mumia's commentaries visit
http://www.prisonradio.org or http://www.fsrn.org
==============================================>

The Power of Truth is Final -- Free Mumia!

PLEASE CONTACT:
International Concerned Family & Friends of MAJ
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180
E-mail - icffmaj@aol.com
AND OFFER YOUR SERVICES!

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335
SCI-Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370

WE WHO BELIEVE IN FREEDOM CAN *NOT* REST!!

Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

Subscribe: mumiacolumns-subscribe@topica.com
Read: http://topica.com/lists/mumiacolumns/read
Subscribe ICFFMAJ email updates list by e-mailing
icffmaj@aol.com!


For additional information and to order Mumia's new book We Want Freedom,

visit: southendpress.org

Check out Mumia's NEW book:
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life of African and African-American People" at www.africanworld.com


The Power of Truth is Final — Free Mumia!

PLEASE CONTACT:
International Concerned Family & Friends of MAJ
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Phone - 215-476-8812/ Fax - 215-476-6180
E-mail - AND OFFER YOUR SERVICES!

Send our brotha some LOVE and LIGHT at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal
AM 8335
SCI-Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370

WE WHO BELIEVE IN FREEDOM CAN *NOT* REST!!

Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa