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September 25, 2007

An Open Letter from BLSA: Ambands

Submitted by Jamie Flaherty, BLSA President

On Thursday, September 20, 2007 some members of the Black Law Students Alliance wore black as part of the national Unity Day to stand in unison for the Jena 6.

In the fall of 2006, black students at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana asked the principal if they could sit under “the white tree,” which had been traditionally used by white students. The principal granted them permission. The next day, three nooses were found in the tree. The three white students determined by the school to be responsible for the act were originally ordered to be expelled. However, the local Board of Education overruled the Superintendent of Schools. The students received a three-day suspension instead.

As a result, black students staged a sit-in under the tree. However, it was later dispersed by the police. On Dec. 1, at a party, a black student was beaten by a white student with a beer bottle. Days after, a white student bragged about the beating. Six black males beat up the student without any weapons and were charged with attempted murder. They now face twenty-two years in prison. (According to the New York Times, the charges of attempted murder have since been scaled back to aggravated battery and conspiracy, the former of which one defendant, Mychal Bell, was convicted on June 28. Late last week, the Times reported, an appeals court found Bell was improperly tried in adult court on the battery charge and overturned the conviction.)

On September 20, 2007 civil rights leaders from around the country descended upon Louisiana for a “Unity Day” to protest what many see as the disparate treatment given the black and white students. Participants chose to wear black in a show of unity with the teens.

While the Black Law Students Alliance of the University of Michigan Law School is composed of members of varying political persuasions, cultural, and life backgrounds, BLSA universally agrees with the idea of protecting constitutional rights equally for all persons. To that extent, BLSA members wore black to signify that they too support the constitutional rights of the Jena Six.

For More Information on the Jena Six, see the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/19/us/19jena.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin or Newsweek: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20218937/site/newsweek/.

Signed,

The Executive Board of the Black Law Students Alliance at Michigan