Jena Six: Members Jesse Beard and Mychal Bel Get Back On Track
The town of Jena, Louisiana became the center of a heated racial dispute when six black teenagers were accused of an attempted murder of a white classmate Justin Barker at Jena High School in December of 2006. Barker survived the attack, but the case gained notoriety for the allegedly unfair treatment of the six attackers who became known as the Jena Six. A year later, protests took place in Louisiana against what some viewed to be 'excessive' charges laid against the six men involved. It was believed the charges were racially discriminatory.
The Jena Six included:
Jesse Ray Beard
Two of the six men involved have been making headlines recently for their determination to get their lives back on track. Michal Bell is attempting to kick start his football career, while Jesse Ray Beard is interning with a New York law firm. In 2006, Bell was charged as an adult, although he was only 16 at the time of the attack. He was later tried as a juvenile.
Bell made national headlines as part of the Jena Six -- six black Jena High School students who attacked a white student, Justin Barker. Bell was tried and convicted of second-degree battery as an adult and served time in prison before an appeals court overturned the conviction. The appeals court ruled that Bell should have been tried as a juvenile.
If not for the controversy surrounding the Jena Six and the palpable racial tension in the Louisiana town, Beard never would have met the attorney who changed the course of Beard's life by removing him from everything he knew.
On September 20, 2007, between 15,000 and 20,000 protesters marched on Jena in what was described as the "largest civil rights demonstration in years". Related protests were held in other US cities on the same day. Subsequent reactions included songs alluding to the Jena Six, a considerable number of editorials and opinion columns, and Congressional hearings.