Jena 6: Voices from the July 31 Rally
by Matt Olson
Friday, Aug. 10, 2007 at 7:04 PM
The voiced were recorded from what Caseptla Bailey, mother of the accused Robert Bailey and president of the La Salle Parish NAACP Chapter, called a "United Coalition Peace Rally" held on July 31 in Jena, Louisiana. Following the rally at the courthouse, where the excerpts below were spoken, approximately 200 folks marched down to Jena's main street and back.
The voiced were recorded from what Caseptla Bailey, mother of the accused Robert Bailey and president of the La Salle Parish NAACP Chapter, called a "United Coalition Peace Rally" held on July 31 in Jena, Louisiana. Following the rally at the courthouse, where the excerpts below were spoken, approximately 200 folks marched down to Jena's main street and back in a rectangular route. People from La Salle Parish participated as well as the largest gathering of folks from across the country, including San Francisco, D.C., Atlanta, Jackson, Houston and Dallas. There was also a strong contingent--perhaps 50-60--from New Orleans alone. This was nearly the twentieth rally, but only the second march in Jena.
“We want to stress, very importantly, that this is a peace rally. We want to do this in peace, we want to do this in order. I want to keep stressing that. This is a peaceful rally. We can be loud, we can make some noise, but we also want to do this in a positive manner.”
“Robert had to learn a lesson from this misfortune. And I also let my son know while he was incarcerated: ‘you don’t just lay down here all day. You got to educate yourself while you’re incarcerated…you got to read, you got to learn, you got to understand why you are in this place. It’s not a good place right now, but you got to make the best of where you are. Educate your mind and keep your mind free—from any negativity. I’m proud of those young men and those young women who stood under that tree in protest."
“The tree was a beautiful sight. The tree is not the problem. Cutting down the tree. The issue is still at hand. The issue still needs to be solved.”
“If you go back to the nooses, there’s the problem. Those kids were told hey these nooses were hung, that it was a prank.”
“for them to say it was a prank, left those kids to do only one thing: defend themselves…they don’t want to talk about the tree inside La Salle Parish Courthouse, but that’s where it started. They slapped those three kids on the wrist and said, ‘Job well done.’”
--Catrina Wallace, step-sister of Robert Bailey and secretary of La Salle NAACP Chapter
“It began under a tree where three ninth graders just coming into high school, we call them the ‘Rosa Parks of Jena’, stepped forward and said we’re not gonna take it anymore. What were you doing in ninth graders? The rest is history, the nooses hung from the tree. All around this area, we may find a tree somewhere here who was black was hung already. And that’s the reason that there was the reaction that there was. Because for us, hanging a noose—I don’t care if it’s in school colors or what—is no joke. Brings back memories that go back generations."
--King Downing, National Coordinator for the ACLU's Campaign Against Racial Profiling
“People in a lot of places think oh this kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore. I have some people say, wait maybe I’m missing something because this sounds like something from the jim crow era, this doesn’t sound like something that could happen in 2007. But people are waking up and realizing everything isn’t always as it seems.
It’s not a black-white problem. It’s a justice problem. That’s a beautiful thing to see when people of all different backgrounds, all different belief systems coming together and saying this isn’t right, I’ll do whatever I can to help to make a difference.”
--James Rucker, Color of Change
“We have seen, some of us experienced, the same things going on in New Orleans since Katrina. It’s the same sort of injustice that’s going on here. Please turn around and look at these individuals up here [police and sheriff deputies on courthouse steps]. You need to look them in the eye. Their faces are some of the same faces that some of us have seen in photographs from the 60s and 50s. They got patches, they got uniforms but we should all know, especially our young people. Please look at them and understand that with all the badges and all the uniforms, they stand for absolutely…NOTHING. Which means if there’s a body that stands for nothing then it’s on us to stand up for one another.”
--Dasaw Flood, Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
“Genocide is the systematic annihilation of a people. Every system that is, in this state, came against our young men, from the school Superintendent to the District Attorney to the judge to the people in this town, to the US Dept of Justice, who had the nerve to come and tell these families that nooses don’t represent a hate crime, they said that it was a potential hate. When’s it a hate crime? When one of our brothers is swinging from the tree?"
--Krystal Muhammed, New Black Panther Party
"We didn’t ask for this fight but we most definitely will accept this challenge...Forget what you heard about the Millions More Movement and the Nation of Islam, We don’t come here to fight for black justice, we come here to fight for justice...What’s important is that the job is not done. Mychal Bell is still incarcerated. The Jena Six are still on trial so that means that we are still incarcerated that means that we are still on trial...We need for them to be on the twentieth of September when they seek to publicly lynch Mychal Bell. We need to bring a city to this city. We gonna take Jena, Louisiana over. We gonna turn it upside down, grab it by its ankles, and shake it and shake it until the coins of justice fall out of its pockets...The very noose that they hung our people from for hundreds of years in this state, and many others, is the same noose that brought the tree down and the same noose that our youngsters protested against. But our message to them has to be: You’ve already made history."
--Deric Muhammed, Minister of Nation of Islam in Houston
After the march, we heard from a couple of the parents:
“This is the first time I’ve ever been in a march in my life.”
–Tina Jones, mother of Bryant Purvis
“It feels good! to get out and march. I’m sure there’s others here who are ex-military: I might be 56 and old, but I can still struggle! Y’all can struggle…I’d like to give an honor to the memorial that we’re standing [in front of] here today, says World War two. And I’d also like to give honor to my uncle who’s listed here on this memorial…And we’re still fightin’, Cleo. We’re still standing.”