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We are back in Los Angeles and I am glad to say that everyone has many good things to say about our experience in Jena. Without a doubt, this has been a powerful experience for us all and we have many things to ponder in our own minds
At our final bus stop in Willcox, Arizona, we had a little situation that delayed us for a couple of hours. A woman who was going through some personal issues held up the second bus in New Mexico and then when she came to our bus, she wanted to get off because she wanted to stay in the town. So we all took precautions to make sure that the authorities handled her with respect and that she was well taken care of.
But that was a small moment in the large scheme of things. Since I didn’t get the chance to tell you this as it happened, I’ll share some of my views on what happened in Jena and Alexandria, Louisiana. It honestly felt like a surreal moment because for some of us, we were empowered but we felt like tourists in a ghost town, except the ghosts weren’t dead but they were just hiding. We had brought this army of peace and we were focused on demanding change in a nonviolent way but at the same time, you felt like you were invading someone else’s space.
The one thing I will take away from this week is the sense of shared community that we felt in Louisiana. You could walk freely among the large numbers of Black people and not feel threatened or afraid but feel safe and welcome among family, as Michael Baisden put it so often. The fact that there were no arrests shows that the overwhelming fear that something bad could happen was thankfully premature
As we walked the streets of Jena and mingled with people from all over the country, we all felt united in our common goal and common purpose. When we celebrated at the post-Jena rally in Alexandria with V100 and Michael Baisden, we again felt united that our common mission had brought about change within ourselves and sparked a desire to keep this going.
Speaking of that, a lot of praise was given to the high youth turnout in Jena. Some even called this the birth of the new civil rights movement. But I can tell you that from the young people I spoke to, as proud as we were to take charge and be a part of this, we also have many questions about where do we go from here? Do we let this become an event or the start of our own awakening in our own towns? We have heard so many statements, so many grand speeches at the courthouse, but we wonder what will happen after this? We don’t want this to be the end-all, be-all.
But we also have seen that injustice still rears its ugly head. Mychal Bell’s bail was denied on Friday and before we got off the bus, we learned that a Neo-Nazi website obtained the personal information of the families of the Jena Six. These actions feel like slaps in the face because it’s as if the powers that be are telling us “We let you come down here for your little rally and now that you’re gone, we’re going to keep making life so miserable that everyone will call your rally a failure, a huge party that provoked no real change.”
These actions encourage me and others to keep on sounding the alarm and make people aware of this case. The passengers on the bus were all proud to have be a part of this moment, but we know that the fight is far from over. Now that the youth have been awakened, we must continue to fight in and for our communities. Make sure that the world knows about the Jena Six and the community knows about the injustices we all see daily.
I’ve been reading James Baldwin’s biography this whole trip and one thing he called himself was not an author, writer, or essayist, but a witness. He wrote about what he witnessed to inform the greater community. Well I don’t call myself a reporter during this week; I say that I am just a witness to history and have brought you the tales I have seen and heard.
Be on the lookout for next week’s Sentinel for a full, more in-depth recap of this week’s events as I and Olushaeyi have seen them. Take care.