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Forgive me if my anger overshadows my diary. As I write this, Mychal Bell is learning whether he lives in an America with one justice system for all or one reserved just for blacks. As I type, an all-white jury will be deciding whether he should go to jail for a fight with a white student. A fight that started with racial segregation and racial intimidation, and is ending with Bell's fate being deliberated by this all-white jury weighing the testimony from all-white witnesses.

This is the story of the Jena 6 and the Jena High School whites-only tree.  title=

Prior to September 2006, this tree was only available to white Jena high schoolers. But after a black student named Kenneth Purvis questioned the policy, the school board issued a statement indicating the spot was available to all students, regardless of race.

Now according to my calendar, we're living in 2007. But then again, I'm not a black student in Jena, Louisiana. I don't have to ask permission to sit under a tree. I don't have to go to school past the 3 nooses that hung from it in response (in school colors, how about that for school spirit?!?). And after incidents where black students were assaulted, and threatened with a shotgun, I wasn't told by my District Attorney that my life could be ended "with a stroke of a pen."

But if you are Mychal Bell, Theodore Shaw, Bryant Purvis, Carwin Jones, Robert Bailey Jr and Jesse Beard, it's not 2007. It's more like 1957. And some trees are off-limits unless you want to be hanging from it, white people can send messages with their fists and guns, and the justice department can be selectively used to keep African-Americans in their places.

Now in my county, I would imagine that a District Attorney wouldn't be able to threaten a group of African-American students. I would imagine that the presiding judge would not dismiss a noose hanging from a tree as legally irrelevant. Especially, if it had led to a series of assaults on black students and the academic wing of the school being set on fire.. But then again, I'm not Mychal Bell, and I haven't been sitting in jail since December in lue of $90,000, a 17-yr-old being charged as an adult.

No, in my county, if a  21-yr-old man had entered a convenient store and threatened 3 African-Americans, my District Attorney wouldn't have waited until the black students retaliated. Or at least he wouldn't have been taking the school board's side as they reduced the expulsion of the white students who hung the nooses to a brief suspension, and my town wouldn't have dismissed the incident as a harmless prank.

But then again, I'm white. And I don't live in Jena, Louisiana.

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I came across this story on Eschaton. Atrios had referenced a word document written by Alan Bean of the Friends of Justice. There are several things to add to this story.

  • Mychal Bell was found guilty this afternoon of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery, both felonies. He is facing 20 years in prison.
  • Alan Bean, of the Friends of Justice, has been following the story and has blogged about the outcome of the trial here.
  • Alan and his daughter Lydia are trying to pick up the slack of the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups who have been involved with this story off and on, but so far have done nothing to aid the legal defense of the Jena 6 (my commentary, not Alan's).  They need our help in supporting their grassroots effort to provide justice in cases like the Jena 6. Please go to their website and sign up for their email alerts. Please send a donation to their group at:

Friends of Justice
507 N. Donley Ave
Tulia TX, 79088
or go to their "get involved" page here.

I was lucky enough to talk to Alan and Lydia Bean today and told them that I would be blogging about this issue on DKos. They welcome any financial help we can provide as, like most grassroots organization, their own personal funds are not enough to support their work.

  • I have spoken with the Louisiana's Attorney General's office about an investigation into why a white District Attorney can intimidate and selectively charge African-Americans who have been racially discriminated against. I have yet to hear back from the La AG's public relations dept.

But I am asking for everyone here to take a stand. Please contact

Senator Mary Landrieu
webpage contact link
(202) 224-5824

Senator David Vittner
webpage contact link
Phone:(202) 224-4623

Rep Bobby Jindal
webpage contact link
Phone: (202)-225-3015

Rep William Jefferson
Phone:  (202) 225-6636

Rep Charlie Melancon
webpage contact link
Phone: (202) 225-4031

Rep Jim McCrery
webpage contact link
Phone: (202) 225-2777

Rep Rodney Alexander
webpage contact link
Phone: (202) 225-8490

Rep Richard Baker
webpage contact link
Phone: 202-225-3901

Rep Charles Boustany
webpage contact link
Phone: Phone: (202) 225-2031  

Please call these representatives and leave a message. Tell them that Americans won't stand for racism and ask them to get involved. Let's bring political pressure to bear on District Attorney Reed Walters to stop using the Louisiana justice system to discriminate against African-Americans. For Mychal Bell and the rest of the Jena 6, we need to speak up. Our voices will make a difference!

edited to add the last member of the Jena 6

Originally posted to blueintheface on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 02:45 PM PDT.

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