I ran into friends, former classmates, colleagues, former co-workers and sorority sisters. Even people I didn't know greeted me with smiles and friendly conversation. That's how I met folks like Dashene, a young aspiring filmmaker who drove all the way from New York City, alone, just to participate in the event and show his support to the Jena Six.
The weather didn't seem all that hot at first, but by the end I was definitely sweating and my feet let me know that those tennis shoes I thought would be so comfortable actually turned out to be unbearable!
Anyway, the first thing that I found most fascinating were obviously the crowds. (FYI: You can click on the pics to see them bigger.)
We started out at the LaSalle Parish Courthouse where it looked like at least 20,000 or more folks were, including the crowds in the pics above.
And I guess where there's a will, there's a way because some folks even found seats in the treetops:
Various speakers were taking their turn at the mike shouting chants like "Free the Jena 6! Free Mychal Bell!" We heard that just minutes before folks like Tyler Perry and the Rev. Al Sharpton were among those speakers. The P.A. system made it difficult at times to hear what was being said, so some in the crowd would spontaneously start their own chants and mini-marches, like this one:
After that we wandered to the other side of the courthouse where we saw a whole 'nother crowd that appeared be in the thousands marching on a road that ran from the school to the courthouse.
I admit, it was a bit overwhelming at times taking it all in because there didn't seem to be a set schedule that I was aware of and there were so many things to see, so many rallies and gatherings going on at the same time all around that you weren't sure which one to go to next. However, despite the confusion and crowds, everyone was so friendly from their greetings to their polite "Excuse me ma'am," or "Excuse me sister," as they passed through the crowd.
Check back for more on my journey in Jena, including pics and video from the day's events.