Black people are not always right; stop defending them at all costs

Leonard Ford

Black people can be guilty as sin

When President Obama, in my opinion, spoke out of line by saying that theCambridge, Mass. Police Department acted “stupidly” in its arrest of Harvard University professor, Henry Louis Gates, I asked myself: “Why is it that some black people, without knowing all of the facts of a particular incident involving another black person come to their defense regardless of what they are accused?

The evidence against could be rock-solid, and proves without doubt, that they are “guilty as sin,” but yet, there are those “coming to the defense of my brother and sister blacks” who immediately sides with the guilty party(s) mainly because they are black like them.

Here are two examples to prove my point.

When the news came out that Michael Vick was arrested and charged for allegedly  arranging and participating in dog fighting, a majority of black people around this country became quite upset and angry because they perceived that “The Man” (whites) was trying to take a well-liked, highly successful black man down. Michael vehemently denied that he had participated in dog fighting, and his denial had blacks believing in his innocence.

All the evidence was there to show that he was guilty, but despite the evidence pointing to his guilt, some blacks defended him mainly because he was black. But as we know now, Michael came clean and confessed his guilt to knowing all the facts about his dog fighting ring. Boy, was that a shocker to those “always-believe-the-black-person” blacks.

And how can I not mention the infamous “Jena Six” case where blacks around this state and around this nation rallied, and rallied big time, for the cause of six black boys who were charged with attempted murder for their part in a simple school fight. Blacks were outraged that something like this could happen, and just by hearing the news of the charges, they jumped into action to defend these boys without knowing all the facts and circumstances behind their case. They saw black skin color and nothing else.

Every one of these boys proclaimed their innocence, and that’s all it took for some blacks to stand behind them and defend them for almost two years. But when some of these boys began getting into more trouble and began appearing as they were celebrities, some blacks who were there for them in the beginning gradually shifted away from their cause of defending them. Many of them regretted that they had taken off work and traveled long distances to rally for them because they soon discovered that these boys had always being involved in some form of criminal behavior. And as we now know, they were absolutely right to do so because every one of these boys confessed to having a part in the beating of their white classmate.

What I’m saying is just because a person’s skin color is black, and they have proclaimed their innocence, that’s no reason to run to their defense when they have been accused and charged with a crime or anything else.

Having the same black skin color does not obligate us to be our brother or sister’s keeper.

Youngest member of Jena Six in a prestigious boarding school

Jesse R. Beard, the youngest member of the famed Jena Six, has a golden opportunity to change his life into something other than what has made him famous.

Jesse is out of Jena, La., with a golden nugget given to him by people who don’t look like him or think like him. Let’s pray that Beard and his family move beyond the Jena Six saga. Read the story below

By Eileen FitzGerald
Staff Writer
NEW MILFORD — A lot of elements affect the success of a high-profile student. They can range from the reason for the acclaim and the student’s attitude about it, to the support the student has from family and the school.

These are some of the issues that will come into play for Jesse Ray Beard, who begins classes at Canterbury School in New Milford next month. Beard is one of six black students still awaiting trial after being arrested for a fight at Jena High School in central Louisiana, where a white student suffered a concussion and multiple bruises. Five of the defendants who await trial found success when they left Jena High for other schools, said Beard’s lead counsel, David Utter.

“All of the young men were able to get out of Jena High and go to other schools and they have succeeded,” said Utter, who is associated with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The main thing these children needed to make the transition from high school to adulthood was a supporting environment. (Canterbury) is an incredible opportunity and Jesse Ray knows it.” Canterbury wants this to be successful for Beard, he said. “We have great confidence that it’s going to work out.”

Seventeen-year-old Beard was released from house arrest in the spring for previous juvenile charges and alleged probation violation and spent the summer in New York with an attorney, taking an English course and working at a law firm. His probation was terminated so he could attend Canterbury. What will be crucial to the outcome will be how much support he has from the school, his family and other students, Manos said.

“That will determine to a large extent how a person comes out of a high-profile situation,” said psychologist Charles Manos, coordinator of pupil services for the 10,000-student Danbury school district. “On some level, kids are more accepting and understanding, and they wanted to weigh all the issues, while many adults come to quick conclusions.” Manos said it’s an interesting time in society when the context of an event plays a role in the response to it.

“We look at all the factors, not just the legal result, because society has a certain belief system and values.” For instance, a 16-year-old boy arrested for having sex with a 14-year-old girl would be viewed differently than if the girl was 6 years old, Manos said.

And the repercussions for the children of a parent on the front page of a local paper for embezzling would be different than if the parent was arrested for Internet sex activity, Manos said. Another example he gave was the reaction to the drunk driving arrest of Olympic gold medalist Mike Phelps, who would receive more sympathy than the same charge for Paris Hilton.

“The six (Jena) students who became enraged (about the nooses) and beat up someone has great historical meaning compared to someone who beats up someone else for some drugs,” Manos said. “How people handle race and their deep ingrained beliefs will play a factor in how they respond to this situation. To some extent it’s about violence, but it’s still about race and how we’re a divided society.”

The noose serves as a threat of domination and power, and even though that meaning might not have been fully understood by the boys who hung the nooses, Manos said the response shows when people feel threatened, they sometimes use power to retaliate.

“I will never condone violence on any level, but you can understand how something like this could happen when this symbol was used to frighten,” Manos said. “Just because we don’t condone it (violence), doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help people understand it. If you use the ‘n’ word or a noose, it’s a powerful provocative act.”

Conversations allow healing to take place, he said. In a high-profile case, you have to help kids deal with the resulting attention.

“There will be implications,” Manos said, because the person walking down the hall is carrying around all these issues inside. “How the school responds, how it deals both overtly and subtly, and the message sent about this behavior may help the student heal or become more angry or bitter.” Schools have a primary obligation, he said. “You have to protect the privacy of the children.”

The Light, July 1-14, 2008

Read the newest issue of The Light.
Click here:The Light, July 1-14

Should Jena give money back to Sept. 20 demonstators

 By now you’ve heard that white supremacists are expected to march in Jena on Monday, Jan. 21, in protest of Dr. King’s holiday and to show support for Justin Barker, the white teenager, who six black teenagers are accused of beating in late 2006.

You’ve probably already heard that the group will march free of the restrictions placed on the Sept. 20 protesters who came in support of the Jena Six. A judge ruled in favor of the group saying one can’t put restrictions on free speech even if it does come in the form of insurance bonds and other permits.

Does that mean that the town of Jena will be giving the Louisiana NAACP its money back for getting the necessary permits and insurance the town required? What do you think?

Here’s a copy of the story.

A white supremacist group will be allowed to march in Jena, La., without posting a bond the city had sought, the town’s mayor said on Friday.

Jena wanted the Nationalist Movement to post a $10,000 bond and meet other restrictions before allowing the group to rally on Martin Luther King Day. The Nationalists want to protest a march held last September to support the so-called Jena Six, a group of black teenagers charged in the beating of a white schoolmate.

“After two status conferences with all parties and a federal judge, we acknowledge that our ordinance does not pass First Amendment scrutiny,” Mayor Murphy R. McMillin said in a news release Friday. “As we have said from the beginning, we are going to comply with the law. Although we disagree with the position of the Nationalist Movement, and with the beliefs that the group promotes, we respect the rights of its constituents to express those beliefs.”

The city ordinance required a bond and an agreement to hold the town harmless for damages or personal injury.

“The statute as written is overly broad and puts an undue burden on the First Amendment Rights of indigent persons, and indigent organizations, such as the Nationalist Movement,” said Jena counsel Walter E. Dorroh Jr.

Towns are permitted to have ordinances for groups wanting to protest or march, Dorroh said. If they require a bond, however, it must have a provision to set it aside for indigent groups or have an appeal process, Dorroh said. Jena’s ordinance did not, he said.

Marchers at the Sept. 20, 2007 event not only met the requirements, but exceeded them, McMillin said. The Nationalists, however, sued.

“We now know the ordinance is of questionable constitutionality, particularly in view of observations made by the federal judge in two status conferences,” McMillin said. “Knowing now that the ordinance is faulty, we are in the process of correcting it.”

The new ordinance will not be in place before Jan. 21, when the Nationalists are planning to march, said Beth Rickey, a spokeswoman for the central Louisiana town.

The Nationalist Movement, a self-described “pro-majority” group from Learned, Miss., will hold what they call “Jena Justice Day to Empower the Majority” on Jan. 21, the day set aside to celebrate the birthday of the slain American civil rights leader. The march will begin at noon and the rally at the courthouse should end by 3 p.m., a spokesman for the group said.

The events planned include a two-mile parade, speeches, ceremonies and petitions “as a centerpiece to abolish King Day.”

It was unclear how many of the group’s supporters were expected to participate.

The September rally drew thousands in support of the teenagers arrested in December 2006 and charged with attacking Justin Barker, a white classmate at Jena High School, and knocking him unconscious

Mychal Bell pleads guilty, admit he hit Justin Barker

mychal_bell-out-of-jail.jpg

Mychal Bell no longer faces a trial that could have landed him in jail for a long time. He agreed to a plea bargain that garnered him 18 months in a juvenile facility, according to the local newspaper.

In a hearing Monday, Dec. 3, Bell admitted that he hit Justin Barker, knocking him unconscious, but his attorneys would not comment about what led up to the attack of the white student.

Bell has been ordered to pay more than $930 in restitution, court costs and Barker’s emergency room medical costs.

The Barkers have until today, Tuesday, Dec.4 to file a civil lawsuit against any of the students involved in the now famous Jena Six case.

This agreement has bearing on the other cases as Mychal if called upon to testify must answer “truthfully.”

What do you think? Should Mychal have accepted this plea agreement?

Are they heros or criminals?

WINSTON, Ga. (AP) — A crowd gave a hero’s welcome to a 20-year-old freed from a 10-year prison sentence imposed on him for having underage sex in a hotel room at a New Year’s Eve party.

Genarlow Wilson, like the Jena Six in Louisiana and NFL quarterback Michael Vick, is the latest young black man to draw support from many in the black community who seem willing to look past alleged offenses.

For three years, the West Metro NAACP chapter led the fight to free him from the prison term. “Free Genarlow” became a rallying cry across the country as the case turned him into an example of racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

The Georgia Supreme Court agreed, freeing him on Oct. 26 with a 4-3 decision that called his sentence “cruel and unusual punishment.”

On Saturday night, hundreds rose to their feet and gave Wilson a standing ovation before honoring him with the chapter’s first Staying the Course Youth Award.

Nationally syndicated radio host Warren Ballentine, who has used his show to speak out against racial injustices including Wilson’s case, called the award “a wonderful thing.”

Wilson, applauded for refusing to accept a plea bargain and continuing to contest his sentence, appears humbled by his experience. Sheepish and soft-spoken in interviews, he comes across as polite and respectful — a contrast from the cavalier teen who is shown smiling in a grainy videotape of the hotel room encounter that led to his prison term.

“We’re not awarding him for the video,” said Ballentine, the keynote speaker at Saturday’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People fundraiser. “We’re awarding him for fighting … This young man is a champion.”

Still, the attention is sparking a debate over whether accolades are in order.

“I admire that he stood his ground,” said Cassandra Dillard, who was in the audience. “He made a mistake. But I don’t know what he has done that warrants an award.”

Even Wilson acknowledged that the accolades are a bit awkward.

Bryant Purvis and Carwin Jones, two of the so-called Jena Six, looked less than modest when they appeared on the red carpet at the BET Awards in Atlanta last month. They are accused of beating a white teen in a case that galvanized thousands of blacks who saw disparate and excessive prosecution in the small central Louisiana town of Jena. Charges weren’t filed against three white teens accused of hanging nooses in a tree at the local high school shortly before the attack.

While the Jena Six themselves were not honored and BET distanced itself from the fight, the teens received a standing ovation from the audience when they took the stage to help present the Video of the Year award.

Still, there was a perception that they were acting more like superstars than defendants who may have been treated unfairly — but are not necessarily innocent.

Some in the black community may be ignoring such wrongs out of frustration, said Jeff Johnson, an activist and former national youth director of the NAACP.

“I don’t think that it is an intentional negligence on our part,” he said. “It is an optimistic desire to be able to stick it to a justice system that has stuck it to us for so long. But we can’t do that at the cost of justifying behavior that we know is unacceptable. What we’ve got to be able to do is get to the point where we can hold everybody accountable at the same time.”

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference came under fire in August after suggesting it would recognize Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick. Although the organization did not say it would honor Vick — who is scheduled to be sentenced next month on federal charges related to a dogfighting operation — it later clarified its position.

“He might’ve made a mistake, but it’s not enough to throw this man away as a human being,” said SCLC President Charles Steele. “This is an opportunity to bring about healing.”

Kimberly Alexander, president of the NAACP chapter, said that while Wilson made some mistakes, his case is still a success story. And audience member Dillard said she respected Wilson’s perseverance, but wasn’t sure she could go beyond supporting him.

“There are so many people who are wrongfully arrested, wrongfully prosecuted, wrongfully incarcerated,” Dillard said. “Do we give an award to all of them? Is it that we’re so in need of heroes? I don’t know.”

Last Jena Six teen pleads not guilty

Bryant Purvis

By Associated Press

The last of the so-called Jena Six to be arraigned in the beating of a white high school student pleaded not guilty Wednesday to reduced charges of battery and conspiracy.

The trial for Bryant Purvis, 18, was set for March. Purvis had initially been charged with attempted second-degree murder, but that was reduced to charges of second degree-aggravated battery and conspiracy.

The six black teens known as the “Jena Six” were arrested after a December 2006 attack on Justin Barker, who was knocked unconscious.

Their case fueled allegations that prosecutors were treating blacks more harshly than whites, because charges weren’t filed against three white teens accused of hanging nooses in a tree at the high school shortly before the attack. In September, the case prompted one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in years.

Four of the other accused teens also had the charges against them reduced after initially being charged with attempted second-degree murder. Charges against the sixth teen, who was booked as a juvenile, have been sealed.