Students honor Jena 6, victims of violence

Christina Stavale

Click here for video of the meeting and vigil.

Nearly 100 students dressed in black bowed their heads last night, taking a moment of silence for the Jena 6 and any lives lost or tainted due to violence.

Coinciding with KSU-NAACP’s first meeting of the year, members took part in a national movement to support the Jena 6, a group of black students in Jena, La. who were arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy after a white student was beaten.

Across the nation yesterday, people showed support for these six teenagers. Many wore black; thousands of others flocked to Jena to protest. At Kent State, members of the collegiate NAACP chapter discussed the underlying issues involved with the incident.

“They were trying to defend themselves,” said Brittnei Neely, first vice president of the organization. “What it boils down to, is you have six young lives that are on the line right now.”

There were racial tensions at Jena High School for months after a group of black students hung out in a historically white area of the grounds. In response, white students hung nooses on a nearby tree, and about three months later, the fight broke out. The white students were suspended for a few days for the prank. If tried as adults, the black students could face years in prison.

KSU-NAACP President Preston Mitchum also explained lesser-known incidents of violence in Newark, N.J. and Cleveland, reminding members that violence is something that can happen anywhere.

George Garrison, professor of Pan-African studies, echoed this statement in a speech he gave about violence.

“There’s violence in our families, there’s violence in our community, there’s violence on our campus,” he said.

The most important part of the issue, he said, is what people do to resolve it.

“At this stage of the game, it doesn’t matter where (violence) came from,” Garrison said. “It matters what you’re going to do about it.”

Ashley Tolliver, sophomore fashion merchandising major, agreed, saying that talk is not enough.

“A lot of people sit around and say, ‘that’s messed up,’ but they don’t do anything about it. It’s not enough,” she said.

Senior business management major Taylor McFarland said she thinks a lot of problems could be solved by being compelled to help others, rather than putting all the focus on oneself. She said there also should be a lesser focus on whether someone is black, white, Latino or Asian.

“I’m an American,” she said. “In other countries race has nothing to do with it. A lot of focus (in the United States) has been lost.”

Emily Graham, freshman international relations major, said things, such as the Jena 6 incident, that are happening in the U.S. are taking the country back years and years.

“We’re a young country,” she said, “and we’re already closing our borders.”

Mitchum said he was pleased with the discussion and the attendance, which he said was much higher than it has usually been.

“(The discussion) opened their eyes,” he said. “I want to thank every student that’s taking a stand.”

Members also signed a pledge of peace, recognizing that violence harms the community and humanity itself.

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].