GSU Grad Bryant Purvis Determined To Conquer His Past While Sharing Message In “My Story As A Jena 6”
Grambling State graduate, Bryant Purvis, writes “My story as a Jena 6” discussing his past of being arrested after being charged with attempted murder at 17 years old for the beating of a white high school student in the central Louisiana town of Jena.
On December 4, 2006, a white student at Jena High School, Justin Barker, was beaten and hospitalized. Days later six black students were arrested and became known as the ‘Jena 6’.
This march and case was supported by so many, similar to rallies for Trayvon Martin and Ferguson, there were 15,000 to 20,000 people who attended the ‘Jena 6’ rally in 2007. Some of the many attendees included civil rights activists Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson
Where as while attending Grambling during the year of 2012, Bryant and another member of the ‘Jena 6’ got a chance to participate in a march for justice for Trayvon Martin and pass out tea and skittles to the university and community.
“The same they did for Jena 6, the same we want for Trayvon Martin. We want him to have justice,” said the member of ‘Jena 6’.
The ‘Jena 6’ case was often cited by some media commentators as an example of racial injustice in the United States. However, Purvis said he was completely innocent of this alleged crime and he took a plea of simple battery.
The 2006 story was followed by thousands around the world gaining media coverage by CNN, USA Today, New York Times, CBS News, BET, NewsOne, MTV, ESPN and more! Some commentators believed that the defendants had been charged initially with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly.
“Writing the book was like “therapy,” Purvis said.” “But it also took me a long time to find the courage to write, because I didn’t want to have to relive the events.”
He explained that in Jena white people stayed on one side of town, and black people stayed on the other. He mentioned that if you didn’t follow these unwritten rules, then someone was going to get hurt.
Purvis goes into detail in the book when he talks about the concern of the overcharge of attempted murder, as well as the lack of aggressive punishment of potential hate crimes around the Jena campus.
“At the time, I was just optimist kid, and all I cared about was hanging out with my friends, being good to my mom, and playing ball,” he said.
As a child Purvis didn’t understand that there were people in the world that would attempt to ruin a black man’s reputation, or even take his life, just to prove a point.
More than a decade since ‘Jena 6’ occurred, the Jena native has graduated from Grambling State University, played forward and guard for the G-Men basketball team and obtained a law degree.
Purvis admitted that times after the charges were extremely tough, he talked about how applying to jobs to finding places to live were difficult because the ‘Jena 6″ past was still following him.
“I don’t blame them anymore for what happened to me during those years. I wasn’t perfect myself. But mostly I can see now that ignorance breeds hate, and the only antidote is forgiveness,” he said.
In an interview Purvis said, “This case is not about black or white to him, but what’s right and wrong, and he hopes to get the truth out about what happened that day through his book.”
Purvis has continues to reach out to others through an organization called Achieve Higher Goals. In addition to making it a first priority to speak to youth around the world about the justice system, he is also working on developing his own business in the fashion and fitness industry.
“I would not be the man I am today without having gone through this legal battle,” he said. ” I saw the good in people, and I saw the bad. ”
The GSU alum says he’s learned that even if the opportunities we have in life are not equal, it doesn’t mean that we can ever stop fighting for equality. It taught him to question authority, to stand up for what he believes in, and above all to fight to expel ignorance.
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E'Vonne Gipson52 Posts
Follow E'Vonne: Instagram: @forever_evonne Twitter: @EVonneGipson SC: @byevonnegipson E'Vonne Gipson is an award winning journalist from Missouri City, TX. She is a graduate of Grambling State University where she received a B.A. degree in Mass Communication with a concentration in journalism and public relations. Gipson has written for several publications including Sheen Magazine, HBCU Buzz, The Black Beat, The News-Star, The Ruston Daily Leader, JubileeMag.com, and Houston Style Magazine. She is a former business reporting intern at Abilene Reporter-News in Abilene, TX and a current social media intern for MC Lyte's Hip Hop Sisters Network. She first began her journalism career writing for her school's newspaper "The Gramblinite". In 2016, Gipson worked with the Web Department at Houston television station, KHOU-11 TV where she gained professional photography and social media skills. Gipson is currently a producer at USA Today Network newspaper, The News-Star in Monroe. She is a member of The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.