Marcus Jones, father of Mychal Bell, one of the defendants in the Jena Six case, was killed yesterday in a highway accident, according to local news reports.
In 2007, six high school students became an international cause. Tens of thousands of people from around the US descended on Jena, a small town in northern Louisiana, to protest against racial injustice.
Six Black youth facing decades in prison over a school fight involving a white youth who had no serious injuries symbolized an unjust system in some of the same ways that today Ferguson Missouri has come to represent police abuses. The fight occurred not long after white students had left nooses under a tree in what was seen as a warning to Black students. Mychal Bell was the first (and, ultimately, only) of the six youth to face trial, he was convicted and spent nearly ten months in prison before his sentence was overturned.
Marcus Jones was a dedicated, passionate, and outspoken advocate and activist for his son and the other young men, appearing frequently on radio and TV and speaking frankly about racial dimensions of the case, calling the charges a "modern day lynching."
According to a report today in the Jena Town Talk:
A Jena man helping a friend move some wooden pallets died Saturday afternoon on La. Highway 8, according to Louisiana State Police. Marcus W. Jones, 43, died in the incident, although troopers aren't sure exactly how yet. Around 5:41 p.m., troopers responded to a crash on La. 8 after a 2007 Chevrolet pickup truck, driven by 22-year-old Brittany N. Walker of Jena, struck Jones, who was lying in the eastbound lane. Walker tried to avoid hitting Jones, who was wearing a black jacket and black pants, reads the release. A friend of Jones' arrived at the scene, telling troopers that Jones had been helping him move wooden pallets. Jones had been standing in the bed of the friend's pickup truck, holding down the pallets, according to the release. The friend said that, when he arrived at his destination, Jones no longer was in the truck. The friend had been retracing his path, searching for Jones, when he came upon the scene.
In the years since the case, the six young men who had been facing life in prison went on to various colleges, including Grambling State, University of Louisiana at Monroe, Southern University, and Hofstra. One of the youth went on to work for Southern Poverty Law Center. Mychal Bell just graduated from Southern University, days before his father's death.
Photos by Jordan Flaherty.