Jena seen in many colors

With thousands of people in attendance, and the atmosphere filled with nothing but sister and brotherhood, one could still come to the conclusion, “if a minority wants to feel like three-fifths of a person again, I suggest one take the drive to Jena, La.”

I went to the “Jena Six” rally and was speechless, in good and bad ways.

As I rode the bus to the rally, I was listening to the local radio station, KZMZ 96 Rocks. I could not help but put my head down and cry when I heard one of the most blatantly racist radio show.

The Walter and Johnson radio program featured numerous callers who expressed their feelings on the importance of the “Jena Six” rally. Although I heard one listener talk about the positive impact the rally could have on the situation with six students in Jena facing “unjust” criminal charges, all other callers allowed me to hear racism in full effect.

“This is just a poor excuse for ‘those people’ to have a vacation” was just one of the comments the radio hosts made. The constant usage of the words, “those people,” when referring to blacks, was the icing on the cake of my realization, that racism still exists in America.

Of course I was aware there was some racism in America. But, to hear it on a major local radio station in the area, and hearing that the majority of its listeners agreed with the host, was unbelievable.

As I reached Jena, I had my first “small town” experience. It is apparent the town is segregated, and after talking to some residents of Jena, my assumptions were confirmed.

Though the spirit of racism was unmistakably obvious, the spirit of the crowd overpowered any negative energy.

Whoever said black people cannot come together for a reason other than ‘free before 11 at the club’ is 100-percent wrong.

When walking the streets, or looking up the hill towards the school that spawned the racially motivated events in Jena, I saw nothing but “Free Jena Six” supporters peacefully expressing their opinions.

The rally was peaceful. An officer, who had been called in from another county, said they were told of the crowd size and was “warned of the predicted violence.” But, once he came, he said he loved it, and that everyone he came in contact with was “extremely nice.”

It was refreshing to see that support came in all races and religions. As one supporter said, “If you will do this to one group of people, then you will do it to anyone.”

Attending the rally was a life-long memory that I will cherish and proudly share.

But, if you could not attend, my advice is to stay abreast on what is going on in your country. You may be surprised of some of the things that still occur in 2007.

Katrelle Simmons is a senior elementary education student from Orlando. She can be reached at