Jena: The Forgotten Six?

Two years ago, in the summer of 2007, we were all concerned about six young African-American men from Jena, Louisiana who had been charged with attempted murder after a schoolyard fight. Through the efforts of activists and bloggers, their situation became a national cause celebre, and, perhaps through those efforts, they were saved from having the rest of their lives ended by a juvenile decision made in high school. There was even an unprecedented national march in the fall of 2007 that some analysts called the start of a “new civil rights movement.” But then charges were lessened, judges and prosecutors were replaced, plea agreements were reached, and by the time everything came to end as far as the criminal charges, it was hardly even news, buried on the back page of some morning newspaper. Now I have to wonder if the six youths who were the central reason for it all feel a little used and abandoned. After all they were really just ordinary youngsters, thrust into the limelight through a cruel accident of history-the accident of hung nooses, burned schools, a private party at a fairgrounds and a bad decision on a school campus. And now, when perhaps they need us more than ever, where are we? Mychal Bell’s suicide attempt last year made headlines, but what I found far more poignant was his statement that it all got to be too much pressure on him. They have now been freed from physical jail, but they may never escape the scars and damage that these tragic events have caused. Pray for these young men on a regular basis- Mychal Bell, Theo Shaw, Bryant Purvis, Carwin Jones, Robert Bailey and Jesse Ray Beard. Ask that God would heal their hurt, uplift them and give them peace.

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