It was nearly five years ago when tens of thousands of people gathered in Jena, Louisiana to demand justice for six Black males. I witnessed that rally and it was filled with a sea of young Black people who had mobilized like never before. It was called the "new civil rights movement." Following the reporting of New Orleans activist and writer Jordan Flaherty, my reporting in The Final Call became an intricate part in spreading the story nationally and globally.
I recently spoke with the 22-year-old Mychal Bell, who was a part of that high-profile “Jena Six.” He said he sees the killing of Trayvon Martin building similar support that he and others witnessed years ago when people occupied the small town of Jena.“It’s really tragic what has happened to Trayvon and how this has been handled. It just goes to show that racial profiling and racism within the justice system is still around," he said.
Mychal and five other Black teens were being charged with attempted second-degree murder stemming from a school fight with a White classmate in 2006 after three nooses were found hanging from a tree at Jena High School. The historic case came to a close in 2009 and all of the ex-defendants are free and in school. Despite opposition, naysayers and his own personal battles, Mychal is a junior physical therapy major and football player at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. He said he will be graduating in 2013! That's awesome news.
Some people thought that we wasted our time going to Jena and fighting for them, but Mychal said “We could not have received justice without the support of the people. Many thought those people wasted their time by marching for us because some of us got into a little trouble when it was all over, but it was not a waste. Some might be saying that it’s a waste of time to be rallying for Trayvon and his family, but that’s not true. Trayvon’s family needs support just like we did. The most important support they will need is when the news cameras are gone and the rallies stop.”