The way I see thing’s today, we have 6 cases of Jena 1’s rather than 1 case of Jena 6 (like it was immediately following the fight at school). As time passed, the situations of the six students in Jena grew apart. Mychal Bell, the most famous of them all, spent another 9 months in jail despite copping a plea. Another young man moved to Dallas to live with an uncle and became tangled with the law over there (stemming from a fight at his new school). Another juvenile’s name was not mentioned in many articles and news reports so he received less harassment than the rest, his parents believed that the lawyer they had would be able to make the situation go away. Trial dates for the remaining teens have been pushed further and further back. Though at least one has been banned from the football team, my understanding is that all are back in school now.
Though the young men remained close throughout this ordeal, there were divisions and disagreements among adults important to this situation that weakened the collective struggle. Pressure from non-profits and national social justice figures (such as Sharpton and Jackson) wanting to use this situation to gain more funding, opportunistic lawyers infatuated with fame, and a racist media pulled everyone in different directions.
I think the people who hailed 9/20/07 as the dawn of a new civil right
movement were exaggerating. Truthfully, that day showed a common anger
that black people today have and perhaps a desire to stand together and
say “enough is enough”. However, prolonged movements need more
structure and organization.
At the end of the day, there were too many people trying to be in
charge in Jena. There were too many people trying to use the 6
families for personal gain. In my opinion, the families in Jena and
black community around the nation, were not unified enough before the
case to be able to stick together through it and beyond.
On the bright side, it was important that so many went down to Jena.
And without us, the six defendants would have received ridiculously
long sentences. Most likely, they would all be unjustly behind bars
right now. So, we did make a difference, and we should recognize and
be proud of that. However, this was not the final showdown.
Times like this remind me that we are engaged in a long, long (multi-generational) struggle.
It’s important we don’t let each other get too high or too low.
MXGM, New Orleans