Part I of II
On Sunday June 7th a group of protesters headed by Ms. Ja’Keshia Lard held a peaceful Black Lives Matter march and protest in honor of the death of George Floyd. The march began at the site of the old abandoned Jackson High School, where I along with thousands of African American students attended. The protest concluded on the steps of the Jackson Parish Court House in downtown Jonesboro. While I was unable to participate in the march due to physical constraints and limitations, I attended the rally held at the courthouse and was quite surprised, pleased and moved almost to tears at seeing such a large number of young people participating in the march and rally, continuing the struggle against injustice and the senseless killing of African American citizens.
We want to commend the group of young organizers who hosted the march in honor of George Floyd. The protest drew a fairly large crowd of black and white citizens and received support from the Jackson Parish Branch of the NAACP, headed by President Windy Calahan. All did an outstanding job in hosting such an event. The rally included an opening prayer, readings by several youths, and observance of eight minutes and forty seconds of silence in honor of George Floyd whose life was snuffed out by white police officer Dereck Chauvin on Monday, May 25 in Minneapolis Minnesota. Following the senseless killing by the police officer with his knee on Floyd for nearly nine minutes, protests for justice for George Floyd have gone viral and have popped up all over the world. Protesters have taken to the streets in peaceful protest.
Noting that it has been years since a protest march or rally was held in the Town of Jonesboro, in an interview with Ms. Ja’Keshia Lard, I asked her to comment and enlighten readers on the rationale for hosting the march and rally. She noted: “the protest march was organized to give her generation a productive voice against systemic racism, police brutality, social and economic inequality that affect Black people all over world. Protesters gathered to take a stand against and condemn over four hundred years of oppression. We marched in solidarity as a community of color; black, brown, yellow and white to acknowledge that America has not done enough to aid African Americans in overcoming the never ending struggles of discrimination and racial injustice suffered by black people each day. We marched to honor the legacy of Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Malcom X, and Emmett Till. We marched to mourn the tragic loss of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling and a host of others whose lives were ended by corrupt police officers .My generation is ready to stand for righteousness in a world that is full of wrong. Black lives do matter”
As we stood and as some sat on the steps of the Jackson Parish Court House, as we listened to speeches being made by local leaders, listening to the hopeful presentations being given by young black kids, black and white kids holding and waving banners, containing hand written slogans such as “Black Lives Matter, Justice for George Floyd, No justice, No Peace,” I began to have flash backs from stories told to me by my grandmother and confirmed by the late .Mr. Harvey Johnson. Both told me that in the early part of the nineteenth century seven black men were lynched in Jackson Parish. In 1925 three black men were lynched on the lawn of the Jackson Parish Courthouse, while four more were lynched at other locations throughout the parish.
Jackson Parish has had a long history of racial tension and unrest and has been in the lime light dating back to the early nineteen twenties when three black men were lynched on the grounds of the old Jackson Parish Court house. The history of racism continued through the sixties and seventies when African American citizens successfully sued the federal government and gained the right to vote in local and national elections in Jackson parish. During the summer of 1960, Governor John McKeithen (Big John) was forced to come to Jonesboro where he met with a crowd of concerned Black community leaders in the cafeteria of Jackson High School. He came with the intent and hope to quell what had become a volatile situation that could have easily erupted and led to civil unrest or a major and serious racial crisis. Governor McKeithen handled the situation and many demands were met.
Dr. Herbert Simmons, Jr. is an associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Grambling State University, former President, Grambling State University Faculty Senate and former Chair, Department of Consumer Education and Resource Management, Howard University, Washington, D.C.