...that it took a white folk rock artist to pen the protest song that captures the indignity and shame of the Jena 6 situation. With proper big ups to Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Life Jennings, Bun B and other true hip-hop artists who definitely made some noise, and Ice Cube, who showed up at the protests in Setember, here is the first real protest song about Jena, Louisiana, by John Mellencamp:
Meanwhile, the mayor of Jena takes offense:
"The town of Jena has for months been mischaracterized in the media and portrayed as the epicenter of hatred, racism and a place where justice is denied," Jena Mayor Murphy R. McMillin wrote in a statement on town letterhead faxed on Friday to The Associated Press.
He said he had previously stayed quiet, hoping that the town's courtesy to people who have visited over the past year would speak for itself. "However, the Mellencamp video is so inflammatory, so defamatory, that a line has been crossed and enough is enough."
No, Mr. Mayor, it's not quite enough. Your town, deservedly, will enter the history books alongside Money, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama, not for actual lynchings and violence, but for the same scandalous racism and segregationist attitudes that made those prior horrors possible. One can easily imagine the white townsfolk of Jena standing around a tree at an old fashioned "picnic," watching the strange fruit swinging from the tree. Hyperbole? Maybe. But recall that it was ordinary people -- presumably "good, churchgoing" people, who perpetrated the horrors of America's past. They didn't think they were particularly remarkable, or the nooses particularly offensive.
The big difference is, they would have lynched the Jena 6 outright, rather than charging them with murder. And the white students who hung nooses, broke bottles over the heads of a young Black man and pulled a gun on him, wouldn't have been hidden from public view, they would have been celebrated in Jena.
Hopefully sometime soon, we'll have some hip-hop and R&B protest music to immortalize you further.