Jena 6 One More Time
On February 7, 19-year-old Bryant Purvis was charged with misdemeanor assault and released from Denton County Jail after posting a $1,000 bail. For those who don't know, Purvis' arrest is more significant than your traditional young-black-teen-gets-caught-up stories because Purvis is a member of the infamous Jena 6. Certainly this may be shocking news to some, but for me, it only adds to a rumbling I've heard for a while throughout the black community.
Ever since a couple members of the Jena 6 made an appearance on BET's Hip-Hop Awards last year (Purvis was one of them, the other was Carwin Jones), I've read some blogs and talked to friends of mine who have expressed outrage at their behavior. "How could they?" is what they ask, to which I respond, "What's the beef?"
In an ideal world, the six boys who were supported by thousands this past September would use the events as a catalyst for more change and raise awareness towards causes similar to their own. But we actually live on the other side of the tracks of an ideal world, in a neighborhood called the real world, and in the real world, teenagers act like teenagers. They do things they shouldn't do. If they get punished too harshly, our people rally around them to ask for something less harsh because as Dr. King once said, "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
So in the interest of continuing tradiotion, we march. We protest and picket and rally. But when we do these things, we must do it with an understanding that things happen. Bad things and things with which we disagree. The charges brought against Purvis in Dallas, Texas (where he moved to get away from the attention he received in Jena, Louisiana) is such a thing, as is their attendance at the BET Hip-Hop Awards. But now, oh Lawd! Everyone who owned a Jena 6 t-shirt wants to burn it. They feel disrespected, when really, they should just pay them no mind.
Back when everyone and their mama was wearing a Jena 6 t-shirt, I cautioned people to tread lightly and think before they act. I felt it was a just cause, but it was getting entirely too much attention, and many people thought I was out of bounds for saying such a thing. They went right and I went wrong, to hear some tell it. Now I feel like I'm actually arguing for the Jena 6 cause to the very people who were behind it.
For those who marched in support of the Jena 6, let me remind you, your actions did affect change and they were noble. In essence, you won the game, but you all should've known it's still a long season. The Jena 6 boys weren't going to change their behavior overnight. They're young, imperfect men who still have a lot of growing up to do and who are bound to make mistakes. So when you see a situation like the one involving Purvis, try to separate it from what happened in Jena 6. They're on their own now, and so are you.