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Discussing the Jena Six

Next Thursday, 17- year- old Mychal Bell will learn if has to spend the next 22 years of his life in prison.

The former football player from Jena, La. has been charged with aggravated second-degree assault and conspiracy along with five other black students from his high school.


Jena High School is a small school in rural Lousiana that has been historically segeragated. The problems began to arise when a black student asked an official at the school if he could sit under a tree which had traditionally been reserved as the “white only” tree. The official said he should sit where he pleased and so the student took a seat. The next day when the students returned to campus there were three nooses hanging from the tree. The students who hung the nooses were identified and suspended, the district attorney then reduced the young mens’ sentences to three days suspension, dismising the nooses as a “youthful stunt.”


The entire black populaion of the school staged a sit-in under the tree which resulted in the district attorney coming to campus and telling the students to stop reacting so harshly. The tensions culminated in the begining of December 2006 with confrontations between white and black students, including one white student pulling his shotgun on a black student in a local convenience store. On Dec. 4, a white student named Justin Barker was attacked by a group of

black students who were then arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiring to commit murder. Barker was released from the hospital that day and attended a school function.


The Jena six were held in jail wth bail ranging from $70,000 and $138,000. After public outcry led to reduced charges, Mychal Bell, 17, was charged as an adult with second-degree battery and convicted by an all-white jury in a deliberation that lasted for less than three hours. The other young men (Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw and Jesse Beard) still await trial.


At BGSU, the Black Student Union and other activist groups are sending their support to the Jena six and their famlies.

BSU President Starmisha Page-Conyers plans to reserve tables in the Union next week and solicit donations for the young men. When Bell is sentenced next Thursday, there will be a protest to support him and the other young men who were arrested.

“I want it to be known that the BSU supports the Jena six,” Page-Conyers said.

Pa’Trice Owens, a faculty adviser for the BSU, experessed disapointment in the situation in Jena.

The sitiation in Jena has reignited the flames of racism in the South that many thought were resolved, she said.

“I find it hard to belive that there was one faculty member who didn’t know about that tree,” Owens said. “The school system should have done something about it before it became this much of an issue.”

She said said that the nation wants to believe they have come far in the ways of racism and segregation but this situation is a reminder that maybe the United States has not progresed as far as some think it has.

The Jena six, while they are gaining more attention in the past week, have been largly ignored by the media until recently, Owens said.

“I think that this hasn’t really been covered in the mainstream media because a lot of people want to believe that there is no racism,” she said. “People want to think that that type of thing doesn’t happen anymore but it does.”

Senior Whitney Walton, president of the activist group BAM, presented the facts of the Jena case to the BSU at their bi-weekly meeting last night.

“As much as we would like to think it is, racism is not completly gone,” Walton said.

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