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District Attorney Reed Walters icily stared in the direction of the African-Americans,

all sitting together, warning them not to stage any further demonstrations



Strange Fruit in Jena

Louisiana Case Looks a Lot Like Duke Lacrosse Frame-Up   

By Kam Williams


Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”

—Strange Fruit lyrics by Lewis Allen


On August 31st of last year, a small group of black freshman at Jena High School approached the assistant principal to ask whether it was okay for them to enjoy the shade under a big tree located in what had come to be considered the “white only” section of the schoolyard. His response was that they could “sit wherever they wanted.” Relying on those words, they did just that, trusting that, should any controversy arise, the administration would support their effort to eradicate this offensive vestige of de facto segregation.

But Jena, population 3,000, is a backwards, backwoods Louisiana town, and when three nooses were found swaying from the tree the very next day, the African-American community complained to anybody who would listen that the hanging ropes amounted to a hate crime given The South’s sinful legacy of lynching. And although the culprits were caught, the city’s school superintendent excused the racist attempt at intimidation by saying “Adolescents play pranks. I don’t think it was a threat against anybody.”

So, on September 5th, the black students organized a peaceful sit-in under the “white tree” in protest of the slap on the wrist doled out to the perpetrators. The next morning, an impromptu school assembly was convened during which District Attorney Reed Walters icily stared in the direction of the African-Americans, all sitting together, warning them not to stage any further demonstrations. Furthermore, he concluded by leveling this thinly-veiled threat, “I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of my pen.”

Starting on September 7th, the halls of Jena High were patrolled by the police, and on the 8th the school was placed under complete lockdown. Several dozen black parents attempted to address the next meeting of the school board, on the 10th, but all were refused an opportunity to speak because the board considered “the noose issue” to have been addressed satisfactorily and fully resolved.

Nevertheless, over the Fall, confrontations continued to escalate, mostly a reign of terror on the part of white vigilantes, including an incident in which black students had to wrestle a white adult wielding a shotgun to the ground. But rather than arrest the assailant, the prosecutor reportedly winked and returned the weapon to the latter-day Klansman. In fact, the officer of the law saw no reason to intervene until December 4th when he charged a half-dozen African-American students dubbed the Jena 6 with attempted murder after they allegedly got the better of some whites in a fight in the school cafeteria.

Mychal Bell, 17, the first of the classmates to go on trial, was quickly convicted in a kangaroo court by an all-white jury presided over by a white judge in less than three hours. Now, he’s facing 22 years in prison. Before DA Walters follows through on his promise to ruin the lives of his co-defendants, too, let’s just pray that CBS’ 60 Minutes and the rest of the mainstream media intervene to question Walters’ motivations and embark on as earnest an effort to make mincemeat of his career as they did to disgraced Durham DA Mike Nufong for his overzealous prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse case.

Stay tuned for a showdown that is shaping up as a landmark decision on whether justice in America can be colorblind or if Southern trees will continue to bear strange fruit.

Lloyd Kam Williams is a film and book critic, and an attorney and a member of the NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars.

posted 27 August 2007

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Michael Baisden, Ruben Armstrong among those demanding justice for Mychal Bell.—Nationally syndicated radio personality Michael Baisden will join Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III on Sept. 20 at the court house in Jena, Louisiana for the 9 a.m. start of a rally dubbed, 'National March For Justice.' Gathered protesters will demand fair treatment for Mychal Bell, one of the African-American teenagers awaiting sentence in the Jena 6 Case. Sharpton was contacted by Bell's family to help bring national attention to the case and to fight for justice on behalf of the six black students involved. . . . Sharpton, who has been to Jena twice, arrived last month with Martin Luther King, III and met with local leaders, preachers and families of the students. They visited with Bell in jail and vowed to continue to fight for him and the others. . . . On Sept. 19, television talk show host Ruben Armstrong will broadcast live from Jena and also march the following day, when Bell is to be sentenced on charges of attempted murder. . . . the show will broadcast live from Jena, Louisiana in its entirety and rebroadcast on Sept. 22nd at 12 p.m. CST. You can watch and listen to this broadcast at Reuben Armstrong Show. Eurweb

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Mychal Bell Injustice Overturned on Appeal—A state appeals court on Friday threw out the only remaining conviction against one of the black teenagers accused in the beating of a white schoolmate in the racially tense north Louisiana town of Jena. Mychal Bell, 17, should not have been tried as an adult, the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal said in tossing his conviction on aggravated battery, for which he was to have been sentenced Thursday. He could have gotten 15 years in prison. His conspiracy conviction in the December beating of student Justin Barker was already thrown out by another court. Bell, who was 16 at the time of the beating, and four others were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder. Those charges brought widespread criticism that blacks were being treated more harshly than whites after racial confrontations and fights at Jena High School. Janet McConnaughey. Teen's conviction tossed in La. beating  14 September 2007

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Strange Fruit Anniversary of a Lynching

August 7, 1930

Eighty years ago, two young African-American men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, were lynched in the town center of Marion, Indiana. . . .  Local photographer Lawrence Beitler took what would become the most iconic photograph of lynching in America. The photograph shows two bodies hanging from a tree surrounded by a crowd of ordinary citizens, including women and children. Thousands of copies were made and sold. The photograph helped inspire the poem and song "Strange Fruit" written by Abel Meeropol — and performed around the world by Billie Holiday.

But there was a third person, 16-year-old James Cameron, who narrowly survived the lynching

"After 15 or 20 minutes of having their pictures taken and everything, they came back to get me. . .  And I looked over to the faces of the people as they were beating me along the way to the tree. I was pleading for some kind of mercy, looking for a kind face. But I could find none. . . . And that's when I prayed to God. I said, 'Lord have mercy, forgive me my sins.' I was ready to die." NPR    NPR Transcript


Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six

By Jordan Flaherty

Preface by Tracie Washington / Foreward by Amy Goodman

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was a tragedy. What followed was a government-sanctioned travesty. Flaherty, a white New Orleans resident and journalist, interviews a number of locals about the recovery effort, outlining a systemic pattern that includes restrictions of service, human rights violations, and destruction of property targeting the city's African-American majority.

The behavior of the notorious New Orleans police department towards this community is appalling, but even more distressing is Flaherty's reporting on the failure of the federal government to respond to the needs of its citizens, and their use of paramilitary mercenaries to enforce a pattern of brutal occupation. To learn how profoundly the system failed (and continues to fail) will be extremely difficult for some readers, and Flaherty pulls no punches in his quest to uncover failures, highlighting how the systems in place for rebuilding (foundation support, non-profit groups, military intervention) remain woefully inadequate. Readers will be compelled, depressed, disturbed, and angered by what they find in this well-written report. Crucial readingPublishers Weekly

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#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
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#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

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#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

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#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

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#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

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#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
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#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

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#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
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#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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updated 24 February 2012




Home   Kam Williams Table   Criminalizing a Race: Blacks and Prisons Table

Related files:  Thoughts On Jena   Strange Fruit in Jena  Nooses and a legal lynching in Jena, Louisiana     Jena and the New Movement  Jena and the Judgment of History  Minstrelsy and White Expectations