Rev. Edward Chipps Taylor III of the Louisana NAACP presents Jena 6 t-shirts to student leaders Natalia Pasmanick (center) and Haley Baron at a student assembly at San Francisco University High School.
Students at a prominent private high school in San Francisco have raised nearly $6,000 to support African American high school students known as the Jena 6, who have become a national symbol of the inequalities that exist within the criminal justice system.
At an assembly of the entire student body at San Francisco University High School, held Thursday, Feb. 14, student leaders presented the check to Rev. Edward Chipps Taylor III, executive director of the NAACP Louisiana State Conference Gulf Coast Advocacy Center, which was active both in relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the defense of the Jena 6.
Student leaders Natalia Garcia Pasmanick, of the campus group Moving on Racial Equality (MORE), Haley Baron and Daniel Mattes, Vice President for Diversity, raised the money through a coin drive, T-shirt sale and a student dance.
According to Ms. Garcia Pasmanick. Jena 6 was a case of a miscarriage of justice, an example of the unjust incarceration of people of color, particularly African American young men. “It happened in Louisiana but it could happen anywhere,” she said.
Speaking directly to the student body, Rev. Taylor said “You can do a whole lot, but it must come from the heart. Why I am standing here is not because of the money because of the heart.”
“I’m proud of and impressed by these young folks,” he said.
The case of the Jena 6 came to national attention when thousands of protestors convened in the rural Louisiana town demanding justice in what they saw as the excessive and racially discriminatory prosecution of six black high school students charged with beating a white schoolmate in December 2006. The incident followed the hanging of nooses from a shade tree at the local high school after black students sat under it, and a white male beat a black Jena student who was trying to attend the party of another white classmate.
The case has promoted many to call for an examination of the total U.S. criminal justice system for discriminatory treatment of African Americans and Latinos.
According to Taylor, “We have no problem with justice. This isn’t trying to get around the law, but about making justice happen.”
More recently about 50 white supremacists marched in Jena on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday protesting against the holiday and denouncing support for the Jena 6. They were met by over a hundred counter protestors chanting, “No KKK”.