Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What's going on in Jena, Louisiana?

Why are thousands of civil rights activists from around the country (including hundreds from Nashville) traveling to Jena Thursday?

A year ago, two black high school students in the small town of Jena, Louisiana sat under a tree at their school known as the "whites only tree." The next day, three nooses were hung from the tree. When three white students were identified as being responsible, the school superintendent called the nooses "an innocent prank" and gave the white students three days of in-school suspension.

To protest this inadequate response and the ongoing racial violence in their town, many more black students sat under the tree several days later. Soon, the District Attorney came to the school accompanied by police, ordering the students to call off the protest. He told them: "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."

Several months of racial fights followed, including multiple documented assaults by white students on black students. No white students were arrested. In one incident, several black students beat up a white student who was a vocal supporter of the nooses. The white student was taken to a hospital, released, and went to a party that night.

From that incident, six black teenagers (now known as the Jena 6) were arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder, among other charges, which carry a possible sentence of 20 to 100 years in prison.

For more details, search for "Jena 6" to view hundreds of media stories. Here's one from Democracy Now:

What will be Nashville's response?

On Thursday morning, September 20, a nationwide rally will be held in Jena. Last night, several hundred people gathered at the Village Church in East Nashville, including roughly 150 who have committed to taking the 20 hour round-trip bus ride to Jena (more info below if you'd like to join them). So far, several thousand dollars have been raised, overwhelmingly by and from Nashville's black community, to ensure that the bus ride is free of charge and that Nashvillians will not be spending any money on Jena's economy. Even as donations are coming in from churches, businesses, and hundreds of individuals, more funds are needed to ensure that everyone who wants to travel to Jena is able to do so, and can stay healthy and fed on the trip.

What can we do?

#1 Forward this e-mail, read more about Jena, talk about Jena to people you know.

#2 Donate money if you can. The Nashville Black Covenant Coalition's website is set up to take pay-pal and credit card donations:

#3 Ask your congregation or organization to make a contribution at the website above.

#4 Call Louisiana officials on Thursday the 20th. For more info:

#5 Come to the RALLY to send off the buses!

Where: TSU's Gentry Center, in the parking lot
When: Wednesday, Sept 19: 5pm to 6pm (buses depart at 6pm sharp)

For more information on how you can support Nashville's Jena 6 organizing, or if you'd like to "GET ON THE BUS" and go to Jena yourself, call: 615-469-5220 or 615-419-4214.


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