#63

Dear friend,

I just learned about a case of segregation-era oppression happening today in Jena, Louisiana I signed onto ColorOfChange.org's campaign for justice in Jena, and wanted to invite you to do the same. http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=1474-203363

Last fall in Jena, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the "white tree" on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town's police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, "I can be your best friend or your worst enemy... I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen."  

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  

It's a story that reads like one from the Jim Crow era, when judges, lawyers and all-white juries used the justice system to keep blacks in "their place." But it's happening today.  The families of these young men are fighting back, but the story has gotten minimal press. Together, we can make sure their story is told and that the Governor of Louisiana intervenes and provides justice for the Jena 6. It starts now. Please join me: http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=1474-203363  

The noose-hanging incident and the DA's visit to the school set the stage for everything that followed. Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, and on November 30, the main academic building of Jena High School was burned down in an unsolved fire. Later the same weekend, a black student was beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students at a convenience store were threatened by a young white man with a shotgun. They wrestled the gun from him and ran away. While no charges were filed against the white man, the students were later arrested for the theft of the gun.  

That Monday at school, a white student, who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses, taunted the black student who was beaten up at the off-campus party and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After lunch, he was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. He was taken to the hospital, but was released and was well enough to go to a social event that evening.  

Six Black Jena High students, Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentifi ed minor, were expelled from school, arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder.  The first trial ended last month, and Mychal Bell, who has been in prison since December, was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery (both felonies) by an all-white jury in a trial where his public defender called no witnesses. During his trial, Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the judge could see them.  

Mychal is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31st, and could go to jail for 22 years. Theo Shaw's trial is next. He will finally make bail this week.  

The Jena Six are lucky to have parents and loved ones who are fighting tooth and nail to free them. They have been threatened but they are standing strong. We know that if the families have to go it alone, their sons will be a long time coming hom e.  But if we act now, we can make a difference.  

Join me in demanding that Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco get involved to make sure that justice is served for Mychal Bell, and that DA Reed Walters drop the charges against the 5 boys who have not yet gone to trial.  

http://www.colorofchange.org/jena/?id=1474-203363  

KATRINA: AFTER THE STORM

The Question Of A Colorless Society

Bob Law for The National Leadership Alliance

While there is talk of the virtues of a colorless society, the Harvest Institute Freedmen and Black Indian lawsuit brief was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on November 10, 2009 to prevent the further use of the politics of ďcolorlessĒ as a tool to deny the descendants of Black freedmen and Black Indians, the benefits due them, as per the treaty of 1866. A treaty that the major Indian nations, (the five civilized tribes as they are called,) refuse to honor and the US Government refuses to enforce.

The notion of a colorless society is certainly not a new idea. It was the prevailing goal of the civil rights movement to create a society where, as Dr. King urged, people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. As the movement developed throughout the 1960ís, whites would often say to Blacks, that when I look at you, I donít see color.

The Black consciousness movement confronted the inherent contradiction in that position by understanding that the use of broad ambiguous terms like diversity, people of color and colorless, is a ploy to avoid addressing the specific needs of Blacks. When you look at the current crop of right wing hate mongers who deliberately tap into latent fears, envy, and hostilities, all of which are based on race, and attempt to use that racism to destroy the Obama presidency and to further marginalize the very real and legitimate issues and concerns of Black Americans, we must consider: could that be so easily accomplished had we been encouraged to see Black, White, Brown, Yellow, Red and the like, acknowledging and even celebrating the differences while we honor and respect each other nonetheless.

To respect someone only when you donít see color is a morally bankrupt notion. Further, the political construct of the colorless society requires that no corrective action be taken to effectively repair the damage done by centuries of historical inequalities, and institutional racism. It calls instead, for leaving the economic and political imbalances in place, and discourages Blacks in particular from taking any further action toward empowerment and equity for Blacks as a group.

Itís ironic that never in the history of this nation has any candidate for national office ever promised or delivered any benefits specifically to Black Americans in return for their votes and party support. Unlike other groups that are free to expect a friend in the White house to speak out on issues impacting their group, Blacks are expected to settle for symbolism and nothing more.

President Obama has repeatedly and unfairly been called on to point out that he is not the president of Black America but of all America, and as a result, the Obama administration has no agenda specifically for Black Americans. And while he is not the president of Illegal Immigrant America, or Gay America, or Latino America. Or Native America, the president has been free to recognize the special interest of each of these groups and has moved to address their political agendas. The National Leadership Alliance believes that Black Americans are worthy of the same attention and respect.

Recently, the President hosted a meeting with 584 Indian leaders to keep a campaign promise to provide them with whatever they needed to improve the quality of their lives. On two occasions Black members of congress have appealed to Attorney General Holder requesting the civil rights division of the Department Of Justice investigate the disenfranchisement of the Black Freedmen named in the Harvest Institute law suit. And while the government acknowledges the validity of the law suit, the Attorney Generalís office has said the best it can do is to explore its authority to conduct an investigation pursuant to existing civil rights law. A process that has been dragging on for some time. Consequently Black freedmen and Black Indians were excluded from the White house meeting, since in this latest version of a colorless society Blacks and their issues no longer exist.

As far as Black Americans are concerned, this nation, along with the major civil rights organizations, and establishment Black leaders, are now practicing the politics of abandonment. That is why we are so pleased to hear of the work being done to build a new national Black organization, a group that without apology, will work to address the very real and legitimate issues and concerns still confronting Black Americans.

Perhaps the traditional Black leaders and organizations, like the NAACP who, according to the November 3rd 2009 issue of the Washington Post, say the group feels trapped and limited by itís Blackness, will actually move quickly to the task of providing leadership for all other groups so that Blacks can get away from them long enough to get out of the ditch and move to the next level addressing the unfinished business of the Civil Rights movement, which is to make Blacks politically and economically competitive and self sufficient.

Bob Law is a New York based broadcast  journalist whose syndicated program "Night Talk" has gone the way of most Black Talk Radio. Bob has been involved for many years in activist work with youth in-school, drop outs and push outs and has been a powerful leader and supporter of African-centered curriculum and instruction.