Two years ago, in the summer of 2007, we were all concerned about six young African-American men from Jena, Louisiana who had been charged with attempted murder after a schoolyard fight. Through the efforts of activists and bloggers, their situation became a national cause celebre, and, perhaps through those efforts, they were saved from having the rest of their lives ended by a juvenile decision made in high school. There was even an unprecedented national march in the fall of 2007 that some analysts called the start of a “new civil rights movement.” But then charges were lessened, judges and prosecutors were replaced, plea agreements were reached, and by the time everything came to end as far as the criminal charges, it was hardly even news, buried on the back page of some morning newspaper. Now I have to wonder if the six youths who were the central reason for it all feel a little used and abandoned. After all they were really just ordinary youngsters, thrust into the limelight through a cruel accident of history-the accident of hung nooses, burned schools, a private party at a fairgrounds and a bad decision on a school campus. And now, when perhaps they need us more than ever, where are we? Mychal Bell’s suicide attempt last year made headlines, but what I found far more poignant was his statement that it all got to be too much pressure on him. They have now been freed from physical jail, but they may never escape the scars and damage that these tragic events have caused. Pray for these young men on a regular basis- Mychal Bell, Theo Shaw, Bryant Purvis, Carwin Jones, Robert Bailey and Jesse Ray Beard. Ask that God would heal their hurt, uplift them and give them peace.
While revival and reconciliation has taken place in Jena and LaSalle Parish, authorities in neighboring Catahoula Parish have been investigating a noose-hanging incident near Jonesville, in which the letters “K.K.K.” were also left under the tree in toilet paper. Law enforcement officials there suggested that the incident was a prank since the community in which the nooses and message were found is predominantly white. Two things come to mind. First, Satan does not like revival, because revival is people turning to Jesus Christ and being saved. When there is true revival in an area, watch out for the devil’s counterattack. But the other, more frightening thought, is that when nooses were hung at Jena High School in August of 2006, authorities there dismissed it as a prank. The tragic effects of that miscalcualtion are now known to everyone in the world, and the reputation of the town of Jena suffered, to some extent unfairly, as a result. Young people in LaSalle Parish, Catahoula Parish, or anywhere else, must be made to understand that hanging nooses in the yards of others, or on public property, is never just a prank, anymore than would be calling a high school and warning that a bomb is there. Catahoula authorities (and parents) need to take this threat seriously, before the young people who hung the nooses escalate to a violent act and Jonesville gets added to Jasper and Jena as towns where racism is alive and well.
The situation for the Jena Six that was such a concern for people nationally last summer and fall has been largely forgotten, even though most of them still face serious charges. The huge march came and went, and then the media left, many (not all) of the bloggers seemed to lose interest, and the case moved to the back burner, which is unfortunate to say the least. Perhaps people thought that fair treatment for the Six was guaranteed after the huge march and accompanying national attention, but that is a naive hope at best. What’s more interesting, however, is that since February, a revival has been developing in Jena, involving both white and Black churches, including the L & A Baptist Church, where the first meeting was held to protest the noose-hanging back in 2006. The revival began at Midway Baptist Church, a church that was struggling and didn’t even have a pastor, but it is continuing today, and yet, there has been no major media coverage. I wrote last summer that ultimately there is no answer to racism except people turning to Jesus Christ, and it appears that people in La Salle Parish have been praying, and God is working there. There are serious problems that remain, but it is encouraging to read that at one revival service, whites and Blacks apologized to one another and asked each other for forgiveness. This is what happens when people turn their lives over to God. The question is, where are the cameras now? Why is this not national news? The town’s bitter racial conflict was front-page news all over the United States, but this unexpected, unlikely revival apparently warranted only a series of articles in a couple of religious journals. Does the media run from stories that lead to places they would rather not go?