Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bloggers Inspire New Civil Rights Wave

This was one of the headlines on the front page of The Chicago Tribune today. In a story by Howard Witt, he puts forth that none of this would be happening with The Jena Six without Black bloggers. He wrote:

JENA, La. - There is no single leader. There is no agreed schedule. Organizers aren't even certain where everyone is supposed to gather, let alone use the restroom. The only thing that is known for sure is that thousands of protesters are boarding buses at churches, colleges and community centers across the country this week, headed for this tiny dot on the map of central Louisiana.

What could turn out to be one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in years is set to take place here Thursday, when Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, popular black radio talk show hosts and other celebrities converge in Jena to protest what they regard as unequal treatment of African-Americans in this racially fractured Deep South town.

Yet this will be a civil rights protest literally conjured out of the ether of cyberspace, of a type that has never happened before in America—a collective national mass action grown from a grassroots word-of-mouth movement spread via Internet blogs, e-mails, message boards and talk radio.

Jackson, Sharpton and other big-name civil rights figures, far from leading this movement, have had to scramble to catch up. So, too, has the national media, which has only recently noticed a story that has been agitating many black Americans for months.

As formidable as it is amorphous, this new African-American blogosphere, which scarcely even existed a year ago, now comprises hundreds of interlinked blogs and tens of the thousands of followers who within a matter of a few weeks collected 220,000 petition signatures—and more than $130,000 in donations for legal fees—in support of six black Jena teenagers who are being prosecuted on felony battery charges for beating a white student.

Rest of the article is here:

Mr. Witt is the journalist that brought Shaquanda Cotton to the attention of Black bloggers. Sometimes when I feel discouraged or overwhelmed, I think about the community that is forming everyday. I think about the Black minds that I have the pleasure of reading. And, even if I am frustrated, what blogging has meant to me is to get in touch with other people with a similar spirit and fight. I have learned a great deal from bloggers, and the ability to connect with others is one of the greatest benefits from blogging. Whatever happens tomorrow, however many people show up in Jena, Louisiana, they are there because we were able to find a common voice and display our collective displeasure over obvious injustice.

And, if people think that Black-owned media isn't important, this story and others should point out that that's simply not the case. They might not have been the leaders, and had to be pushed into it, but pushed into it they were, and far earlier than the MSM, who still doesn't quite get it. While I have been blogging about this case for some months, I have routinely sent notices to other ' mainstream' bloggers with links and information about the case. Their willingness to completely disregard this case only makes me more determined in my own blogging. They have the 'option' to disregard cases like The Jena Six, while we, as a community, simply don't have that 'choice', because we know that if we don't speak up for these young men, the NEXT TIME, it will be a young Black male that WE KNOW. There are no six degrees of separation for Black folk and bad stories about the Criminal Justice System. If there are two degrees, you feel lucky.

This case, at its core, is about a town and system that continues to think that they can abuse our children, have two sets of rules, and judge our children more harshly while we stand around doing nothing. Doing nothing is no longer acceptable, not that it ever was.


1 comment:

Brian said...

The power of bloggers is amazing. Bloggers have begun to take over even in terms of breaking news.

The traditional news networks are sometimes caught off gaurd and put in a position of following the blogs rather than the blogs following the TV news.

This is especially true for bloggers who write about certain issues, such as stories impacting Black Americans. Some of these stories are often ignored by major news media... which in a way works to our advantage... because it gives us time to write about these issues under the radar... establish a history of discussing the issue, long before it makes national news. This gives us a head start and allows us to establish the direction for a particular story... frame it how it should be framed, etc.. before big media has a chance to distort anything.

I can see a mini-movement gaining steam.