Student protests for justice in Jena 6 case

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Photo by Brittney Walker

Demonstrators in Jena, La. begin Thursday's rally in unison, chanting, “We fired up, can’t take no more!” Protesters wore black shirts to the Sept. 20 demonstration, originally set to coincide with the sentencing date of Mychal Bell, one teen they say was jailed unjustly.

It was Sept. 25, 1957, when the Little Rock Nine marched into Arkansas’ Central High, guarded by the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Fifty years after that dramatic episode of forced integration, the civil rights movement has a new face.

Senior Brittney Walker attended a rally last Thursday in Jena, LA. She joined thousands of protesters who spoke on behalf of the “Jena 6,” a group of black students who protesters say were unfairly imprisoned because of their race.

Walker shares her experience with The Chimes.

Chimes: What made you decide to leave California and travel to Jena, La. for the protest? Why was this important to you?

Walker: This was an opportunity to help bring about change in America. Although this injustice happened to only six students, I recall a chant at the rally: “One act of injustice here is a threat to justice everywhere.” I know that it's important because here and now we are still fighting for equality and the fight has never stopped.

It is 2007 and my brothers are still being stopped by the police because they're Black. I cannot depend on anyone else to speak up for me except for me! And it is my responsibility and obligation as an able body to speak out when the opportunity presents itself. Besides that, here in Cali, shoot, Biola, people think that racism is gone.

That's ignorant thinking, if it's thinking at all. There are still segregated lines in Mississippi. It's time for people, Christian people especially, to be at the front lines against human injustice. We've got something that the world doesn't have and that's Jesus. We can make a difference with the guidance of the Lord.

Chimes: How did it feel to be a part of history?

Walker: I feel like this is only the beginning of a new Civil Rights movement and I hope other people join the fight. We are all a part of history. It's just what we decide to do that will make it great and a story worth telling.

Chimes: Were there any Christian communities there? Any form of prayer?

Walker: There were Christians there, quite a few. We ran into a church that was from Louisiana. There were mothers [from] churches [who were] singing songs and many of the speakers spoke of Christ and that nothing will prevail without His help. Rev. Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson were present.

Chimes: What was the overall feel of the atmosphere among protesters?

Walker: The atmosphere was so powerfully charged with passion and strength. Everyone wanted change there. It was an amazing feeling because everyone there was there for one purpose: freedom. It felt like electricity traveling through the air and everyone was on overload, ready to burst into a beautiful fireworks scene. I wish everyone could have experienced this.

Chimes: What was the most shocking/surprising aspect of the trip?

Walker: I was surprised to see a unified and diverse crowd of people, crying out for justice and unity.

Chimes: What is one thing you brought back from your experience?

Walker: Change doesn't happen overnight. And that one person does make a difference. Human rights is something that we – I — have to fight for on a daily basis, unfortunately, and there is no room for a break.

Chimes: How do you feel about the ruling?

Walker: I feel as though this case has gone on too long. The boy [ Mychal Bell] has been locked up for a year, for what? A high school fight? And what is worse is that people believe that this boy deserves the sentence he received saying that Black leaders are not highlighting the fact that violence is not the answer.

The case needs to be dropped and the six students need to be compensated for such an injustice as this. If this type of injustice continues, there will be an outbreak of social slavery through the court system. Bars will be the next chains, especially for the Black community as our American justice system has demonstrated through Jena 6. Mychal Bell is a leader, willing and ready to fight back by any means necessary. His charges need to be dropped because he served time as a criminal. Mychal Bell is a student who was defending the rights and the life of his friend and his people. Justice has not been served.

Chimes: In what other ways will you be involved in the Jena 6 activism?

Walker: I will continue to remind people of the injustice we have in America. Chelsea Albano and I are planning on bringing more awareness to the campus and even in our own communities. We plan on having a school wide meeting, conference, or what have you so that people will understand the urgency to care and to take action. When involved with a movement, education is power. I also plan on seeking opportunities through the NAACP to support this new civil rights movement. Finally, prayer is power, so I will continue to consult the Lord on my next step toward freedom in this case as well as others.

Chimes: What do you want our readers to know?

Walker: It is important for all of us to educate ourselves beyond Biola Ave. and La Mirada Blvd. Our education is woven throughout the threads of this country and the lives of its people. A book can only teach you so much. Make a difference by putting people first and your busy schedule second.

We must recognize what is really important… your degree that says you completed 150 units of Biola studies or that life you could help save because you raised your voice against injustice, and you raised your voice against oppression, and you raised your voice against a faulty system. I think humanity is greater than that piece of paper called a degree or that green paper we sacrifice for. Students, look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, what is worth fighting for? Teachers, ask yourself, “Am I doing my job as an educator and a leader?” Christ spoke against human injustice, not about textbooks.

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