Women Division joins call for justice in Jena, La.
by YVETTE MOORE *
Sept. 20, 2007, New York City – The Women’s Division joined nationwide calls for equal justice for six black students facing criminal prosecution in the wake of racially charged events at their high school in Jena, La.
The students, known as the “Jena 6,” were charged as adults for attempted murder for beating up a white student at school after a series of racial incidents at and around the school. The white student was treated and released from the hospital the day of the fight and attended a school function the same evening.
Women’s Division issued a statement on the case and sent letters urging Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana Donald Washington to intervene in the case. The letters called on the government officials to:
- Investigate and monitor the criminal cases against the youth;
- Guarantee the youths’ constitutional right to fair and equal treatment under the law; and
- Pursue justice in the situation.
The division called on United Methodist Women members to send similar letters to Louisiana and other government officials. The division asked members to pray for the Jena community, in particular:
- The six young men, their families, and that they gain justice;
- For justice, healing and reconciliation for all the families of Jena;
- For the faith community of Jena and of Louisiana, that they might continue efforts to bridge the racial divide and witness to God’s work of justice and mercy in the world;
- For our nation to mend a failed criminal justice system that incarcerates black men at alarming rates in an unequal application of the law.
“What is happening in Jena is the reflection of much deeper institutional racism in our nation,” the Women’s Division stated. “Fifty years after the gains of the Civil Rights Movement we are witnessing a ‘new Jim Crow’ racism that functions through unequal schools, courts and police forces that disproportionately criminalize and jail poor young black and Latino youth.
“Like our Methodist foremothers whose local missionary societies led the Southern anti-lynching societies and created the United Methodist Church’s first Charter for Racial Justice Policies in 1952, we are compelled to speak out about what Jena, La., means for us as a nation today.”
The Women’s Division is the national policy-making body of United Methodist Women, a nearly 800,000-member organization in the United Methodist Church in the United States. Its purpose is to foster spiritual growth, develop leaders and advocate for justice. United Methodist Women members give more than $20 million a year for programs and projects related to women, children and youth in the United States and around the world.