Photo: Me holding Kodak Camera and wearing shirt
Photo: Lauren, Samantha, and my girlfriend at the time Lauren (I was somewhere in the front of the crowd if you’re wondering where all the people are)
“STAND FOR SOMETHING OR YOU WILL FALL FOR ANYTHING.”
The year was 2007, September, I was a sophomore at Kettering University (General Motors Institute). This was my first time being in the world by myself and having the opportunity to take part in something. I was heavily involved in organizations on campus like National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and we organized a protest/ march right on the campus yard.
The Jena Six were six black teenagers convicted in the beating of Justin Barker, a white student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, on December 4, 2006. Barker was injured in the assault by the members of the Jena Six, and received treatment for his injuries at an emergency room. While the case was pending, it was often cited by some liberal commentators as an example of racial injustice in the United States, due to a belief that the defendants had initially been charged with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly. Conservative commentators noted the breathless reporting of erroneous details by the media.
We organized under our own “Shade Tree”… The news crews came out, the neighborhood came out. We really felt “heard”. We marched up the street and down the street and around the block and down the block. “FREE THE JENA SIX”. We bought a bunch of T-shirts and markers and signs. For whatever reason I felt the need to be “different” and made my shirt in Portuguese “LIVRE O JENA SEIS”. I’m pretty sure I had just returned from a trip to Los Angeles where I fell in love with Brazilian Jazz, bossa nova, etc.. It was also a subtle statement that you didn’t have to be black to support these kids.
My grandfather preached and preached about his protesting days, back during the 60’s… and it never really stuck with me being such a young man. I never saw it effecting me, I never saw these things holding any importance. You kind of brush it off as “that was 40 years ago… things are different now”… We didn’t see the Alabama racism, out of sight out of mind right? When you’re younger, you don’t truly appreciate these things either.
SN: The thing that pissed me off most was seeing those boys posting pictures flaunting the money that was raised on their behalf. Ignorance pure ignorance.
With comes time wisdom and with experience understanding. Now I look at the injustices in the case we’re now watching with Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen shot and killed at the hands of an adult white man. It hurts, deep inside my bones it hurts. But what made me feel so good, was so see people marching through the streets of Atlanta. What made me feel good was as my Grandfather starts getting on my case again about how I never did this and my generation never did that I had an answer for him “Actually sir, yes I have marched before. As the chapter secretary of the National Society of Black Engineers I helped organize and participated in……”
It was quite the fulfilling feeling.
In addition to this story, this was the day that I officially caught the photography bug. If you look in that photo I was holding a superzoom point and shoot, it was a Kodak z712. It was quite an amazing camera, I snapped photos to document the day and the march (can’t find many of them currently). There was a running joke on campus that at any given party Craig would have you tagged on Facebook before you got home that night. There was some truth to that, there’s also some usefulness to that in the professional world of photography.
It wasn’t the Kodak that did it though, nope. It was a good friend of mine Donald who had an SLR with a telephoto lens on it, a Canon Rebel. I remember him putting it in my hands and letting me snap a few shots. My thoughts something along the lines of “Now this is a camera!” I was permanently hooked, I loved the bulk of it. Without any hesitation I took my next refund check and bought a Nikon D40 basic kit, something like $450… I held onto that camera for 30 days before returning it and asking could I upgrade to a D80 approx $900. When I say hooked, I’m not playing! While I couldn’t see any profitable future in it that day, I definitely knew that I loved this thing and I would always love it. There was no turning back to anything less than a professional camera. Fast forward to 6 years later… http://www.cmacsutt.com
RIP Trayvon Martin
Love Only. Love Always.