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Why Jena Must Launch Us Further

September 19, 2007

As September 20th falls fast upon us, and with it an explosion of civic participation, as the African-American expresses its outrage at the injustice in Jena.  I along with many notable want to know whether this day will be a launching point for a movement, or will it have been just an event. 

I’m praying, I’m hoping that it becomes a movement.

The question must than be asked, if we do have a movement on our hands: "What form will the movement take?

It won’t be what the 50’s and 60’s were.  In the 50’s and the 60’s we’re fighting for "the right to ". The "right to" sit anywhere we want on public means of transportation, the "right to" go to school in the institutions of our choice, the "right to" vote.  That was the make-up of the struggle 40 years ago.  Today we have those rights, but the Jena’s that occur all across this country show us the need for a movement whose shape is more complex shape.  We now must secure instead of the right to vote – fair districting laws, and the restoration of votes to the permanently disenfranchised; instead of access to schools, we fight for better curriculum in our schools, and better pay for our teachers; instead of access to unions, we fight to keep businesses in the United States; and let us not forgot, we fight against a justice system whose policies and practices foster the incarceration of blacks at unbelievable levels and younger ages.

The truth is Jena, Hurricane Katrina, Megan Williams underscore that despite are progress, black America has yet to achieve full equality in this democracy.  This is the deepest reason that we have to make Jena a launching point for a new movement of our people.  We must remember that the basis of any change is when one person desires to assert his or herself and demand it.

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