“All the eyes of the world is focused on the Jena Six. But every small community in the south, and in the north, has its Jena Six. Maybe you can’t visualize it or maybe you don’t want to visualize it, but this is not just small rural towns. Look at New Orleans, during the storm. When the people was trying to cross the bridge to get out of the flood, there were people on the other side, armed, that would not let them cross. In the rest of the nation people are being treated the same way. Chicago, New York, it don’t matter where you are.
“I’m gonna do what I know is right, and I don’t care who you are. I see the young people in the community that need help. That’s what keeps me going. If you see something and you feel it aint right, don’t say they ought to change it, get in there, roll your sleeves up and say lets change it. That’s the only way. You gotta keep a cool head and do the thing that’s right. When you know right and fight for it, you’re gonna win.”
~ Hayward Fair
Although much attention gets placed on the large metropolitan cities of the world, the small Louisiana towns of Jena and Tallulah demonstrate that equally (if not more so) important battles for social justice are being fought in the small rural towns as well.
Hayward Fair is a civil rights movement veteran and a personal hero of mine (he is pictured above, second from the left). At nearly 70 years old and still going strong, he has been at the center of community organizing efforts in Tallulah to convert the notoriously abusive prison there into a “Success Center” that will provide vocational training, social services, educational opportunities and business creation for the largely impoverished, largely Black region. Our boy Jordan Flaherty of Left Turn Magazine recently wrote up a great article profiling Mr. Fair and Tallulah’s fight. If you’ve got a few minutes of free time, definitely check it out as its a great snapshot of the work happening there.
The prison industrial complex is a beast that is swallowing up more and more people everyday. As of this writing, the Board of Regents of Higher Education in Louisiana has stated plans to tear down the barbed wire fences of Tallulah’s prison by the end of the year. Let’s hope that Tallulah can show the rest of the world that education is the path out of poverty and onto success, not prison. Keep up the good work, Mr. Fair, and good luck; although as he would say, “Luck ain’t got nothin to do with it.”