Mychal Bell recently graduated this year from Southern University with a degree in Education. And while this seems like a small accomplishment, let us remind you where Bell is from.
He’s one of the now-infamous, “Jena Six,” this means that Bell was one of the six Black students at Jena High School in Central Louisiana who was arrested after a school fight in which a White student ended up beaten and suffered a concussion and bruising. Bell, along with his five friends were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy, facing up to 100 years in prison without parole, even though the fight initially started because one of the White students went to get a gun. So anything after that was self-defense.
The catalyst for the entire exchange was because a Black student sat under a tree that’s usually occupied by White students. The following day, three nooses hung on the tree–sparking Bell and his five friends to confront White students they suspected had something to do with it.
Bell was a target in this particular altercation because he was a young Black man with promise. Bell was the running back of his high school’s football team. Bell’s sentence was the most overblown. He 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. Bell later pleaded guilty as a juvenile to second-degree battery and was sentenced to 18 months in the custody of the Office of Youth Development.
Bell missed his senior year in high school, which included the football season, while he was incarcerated. But luckily for Bell, the world got wind of his unique case and support starting pouring in on social media and beyond. That same support was overwhelming to Bell because in 2009, he attempted suicide and it’s being reported that it was the pressure to be “perfect” and gracious towards all those who supported him, fighting the judge and the legal system the led him to the morbid conclusion.
But resilience is the name of Bell’s game and now not only can he be proud of himself for overcoming attempted suicide, but he’s not got a degree to be extremely proud of. Bell has endured more than any man should, but he’s come out on top. What a beautiful story!
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