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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, September 21, 2007

Jena, Louisiana: the True Story

This was written by Stacey M. Chapman, a resident of Jena. Population 3000, Jena is located northeast of Alexandria, Louisiana, and is the seat of LaSalle Parish. It's some 50 miles west of Natchez, Mississippi, where I grew up.

I'm not even sure how to start this post... . I decided that it was time that there was a dose of the facts.

Once upon a time, a school assembly was held to discuss dress codes at Jena High School. An assembly was held for the boys, and one for the girls, as the dress codes do have some differences. As a joke during the boys' assembly, a black boy, who is known to always joke around, asked the principal, "Can we sit under the tree?" There are no boundaries as to where anyone can or cannot sit at the school. That tree was a twig when I went there. It grows right smack in the middle of the school square. Kids tend to congregate in areas with their friends. Kids congregate under the tree, on the benches, around the "casket," and other areas of the school. Blacks and whites are welcome at any one of those locales. People tend to congregate where they feel comfortable. That usually is where the majority of their friends are. However, there is nothing saying that they cannot go elsewhere. Same is the case here.

The square at Jena High School has been known as the center of school spirit and/or pranks for many years. I've seen everything from "funerals" of opponent football teams to the tree and surrounding area covered with toilet tissue. Jena High School is known for themed activities surrounding football games. This particular week, JHS was playing a team whose mascot is "Cowboys." Hence, the nooses in the tree... "hang'em high!" Not for one moment did the thought of racism cross my mind or the majority of the others. It was football season. We were playing the Cowboys. The kids, both girls and boys, wore boots to school and had a western themed pep rally. Nooses = cowboys and horse thieves in my world. Maybe I've watched too much "Gunsmoke," but racism was not even a thought. Due to the reaction of ADULTS in the black community, not the kids at the school, the boys were suspended. The entire punishment for those boys was never published because of the confidentiality of the issue. However, the boys were suspended. They and their families were required to go to counseling. The boys had hours of community service. The boys and their families continue to receive threatening phone calls, but yet no one has addressed that issue.

In the wee hours of a Thursday morning, arsonists set fire to Jena High School. The main building burned. Blacks and whites alike wiped tears as their alma mater was for the most part gone! The fire has not been proven to be related to the noose incident or any other racially motivated activities.

The weekend after the school burned, a private party was held in Jena. Invited guests were black and white. However, some uninvited guests showed up at the party and wanted to come in. A fight ensued between a white boy and a black boy. This fueled fights that took place over the weekend.

A white young man was leaving a convenience store that is located on the outskirts of town. As he was leaving, black boys jumped him. He did have a gun in his truck, as do many of the males that hunt in this part of the world. When he went to get his gun, the black boys took the gun from him. Police were called. Black boys were arrested for stealing the gun and attacking him. He was not involved at the incident at the party, nor was he even at the party.

The following Monday, the kids returned to JHS, the first day after the fire. Emotions were still running high due to the fire. Everything that had been "normal" was not "normal" any more. There was no intercom system. Classes were held all over what remained of the school building. It was chaos, but controlled for the most part.

The students stayed in the gym area during their lunch break. When the bell rang for them to head back to class, one of the "Jena Six" cornered a freshman white boy in the lobby of the gym. He was trying to get the boy to fight him. The freshman boy was clad in blue jeans and Red Wing boots, hence the typical "redneck." Another black boy, the very SAME one who had asked about sitting under the tree, pulled this "Jena Six" member away from the white boy and told him that there would be none of that fighting there.

However, that didn't stop this "Jena Six" member. As the students were returning to class, he pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head and pushed the white boy down into a concrete wall. When his head hit the concrete, he was knocked unconscious. It was at this time that five other boys [the rest of the "Jena Six"] joined in and continued to stomp and kick the boy as he lay unconscious on the ground. Guess what? The SAME boy who had asked to sit under the tree was doing everything that he could to pull them off of the victim. The color of his skin is also black! A friend of the victim managed to lie over his body until teachers could get there to break the fight up. Remember, there was no intercom system, no way to call for help! The victim was unconscious when the ambulance arrived. Hospital records will verify that. Thank God, he ended up not being hurt any worse than he was.

On that same night, the junior class had their ring ceremony at a local church, since the auditorium of the school had burned. The victim of the attack was a junior and was able to attend the ceremony. His face was swollen and bruised, but yet he was able to walk up and get his ring. The audience applauded as his mom placed the ring on his finger. One of the "Jena Six" was also at this ring ceremony.

So many are asking whether the victim was hurt bad enough for the "Jena Six" to be charged with attempted murder. I, for one, am not sure exactly what the statutes or guidelines are for determining charges. However, the extent of one's injuries does not have a thing to do with that. Think about it: one could shoot at someone and miss, and never harm a hair on his head. That's just something to think about.

Oh by the way, here's something else to consider. Think about the black girl who was consoled by her white friends the day after the fight. She was having to be consoled because some of the blacks, the color of her own skin, were threatening her, stating that she was the one who had turned them in. Ask the media to talk to that girl and her mom about what happened. There just may be a different twist on everything.

This is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved-- the kids, their families, the school, and the community. The community has come together on more than one occasion with prayer meetings seeking unity and harmony. There are consequences for certain behavior. I hope that you will join with us in praying for just consequences.

The moral of this whole story: do not believe everything that you hear in the media. Remember, there is more than one side to the story. Unfortunately, the side that is most newsworthy is the one that makes the news.

Please remember our community in your prayers.

Stacey M. Chapman
Jena, Louisiana

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First you say the victim was a freshman, then you say he was junior...which is it?

Thu Nov 01, 12:01:00 AM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing. I do agree that there is more than 1 side to a story, but if this person was not at theses events maybe she should keep her side to herself. Let someone who was there tell the story.

Tue Nov 20, 08:55:00 PM CST  

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