I’m sure many of you by now have heard about the Jena 6, six young black men potentially facing over twenty years in prison, having their lives ruined by Jim Crow justice in Jena, Louisiana.

Last fall, the day after two Black high school students sat beneath the “white tree” on their campus, nooses were hung from the tree. When the superintendent dismissed the nooses as a “prank,” more Black students sat under the tree in protest. The District Attorney then came to the school accompanied by the town’s police and demanded that the students end their protest, telling them, “I can be your best friend or your worst enemy… I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen.”

A series of white-on-black incidents of violence followed, and the DA did nothing. But when a white student was beaten up in a schoolyard fight, the DA responded by charging six black students with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Tomorrow, September 20th, is a national day of action in which thousands of people will be descending upon the town of Jena to show support to the families and Robert Bailey (17), Theo Shaw (17), Carwin Jones (18), Bryant Purvis (17), Mychal Bell (16) and an unidentified minor. There were also be a number of events and vigils held throughout the country for those who are unable to go to Jena.

ColorofChange.org has set up a great array of resources for folks who are wanting to get involved, including posters and handouts for events, tips on getting local media to cover the issue, and tomorrow they’ll have information available for folks to make calls and pressure local officials.

A video that jspot posted gives a good synopsis of the story. If you’re looking for more in depth coverage, Democracy Now has a series of interviews on the subject, and CNN will be covering the issue in depth tomorrow.

We are in the heart of teshuvah, of a time where we are called on not only for individual reflection and analysis, but communal accountability and tochlecha. We must understand our role, and the importance of our work, in not only changing ourselves individually, but of the importance of this communal work. It is why we come together to pray on the holiest of days. It is why we come together in these most trying of times, to remember that the work of calling for justice, individual and systemic, requires a community.

So before Yom Kippur begins, before we look back on the year that has passed and move forward into a new one, strengthened and determined to be better and more just and principled in our actions, let us not fail to look around us, at the many challenges we are facing today, and of the opportunity to act. Take the time tomorrow to go to a local event, to sign a petition, to take one form of action, small or large, and stand with the Jena 6.

cross-posted to jspot