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Edward L Pittman

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Free the Jena Six--and All Young Black Men
By Edward L Pittman   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, September 22, 2007
Posted: Saturday, September 22, 2007

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A look at the Jena Six and thinking beyond

I'm encouraged by the mass support of the Jena Six in Louisiana. I watched news reports on Thursday--thousands gathered there to challenge the unjust sentences imposed on six young black men for beating a white classmate. You can Google for the story details.

The fact that so many from across the nation converged on Jena, Louisiana to essentially say, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" is a good sign. The images of protesters in Jena is heart warming. But the cry should go deeper.

Statistics about young black men should cause us to look beyond Jena. The numbers on drop-out rates, unemployment, and incarceration are one indicator of a crisis. The unbalanced portrayal of black men in rap videos and as self-indulged millionaire athletes contributes to this picture. Where is the in between? Because we don't see hard-working black men who raise families and build communities, the tarnished image prevails. The conflict in Jena is also a symptom of how the world views young black men.

Young black men growing up in this racial wilderness need our support. We need to pull them aside and advise how to handle situations that add stress into their already tight worlds. As much as someone who hangs nooses in trees to intimidate black youth---as they did in Jena---and as much as that may call for a school-yard beating, we can't afford to go that route. The consequences for black men are severe, and someone needed to tell those young brothers in Jena.

Last December the Washington Post ran a series on black men. We are six times more likely to be murdered, nine times more likely to die from AIDS and we have a life expectancy of six years less than white men, according to the article. The human stories behind these and other statistics are grim realities for black families, communities--and America. No nation or society can reach its full potential when a comm¨nity is crippled or limited. The toll of racism is undeniable. Which black man has not been profiled or faced with life-saving decisions in nano-seconds. As an adult,
Free the Jena Six--and All Young Black Men

I've learned to navigate through or avoid many at-risk environments faced by black men.

The Jena Six march must bring us back to this stark reality

It's been twelve years since the Million Man March. Many of us who participated understood that one march wouldn't wipe away decades of negative images and conditions. Neither will one march in Jena save young black men from the risks associated with their lives. We can do more. We have to do more. Every time I read about the senseless murder of a young black man in my city, I realize that something is wrong. Every time a news story like the Jena Six breaks, I know there are thousands more that remain in darkness. We need to do more.

E. Pittman (2007)

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