A video in which rapper-actor Mos Def asked students around the country to walk out Oct. 1 to support the “Jena Six” escaped comment by this town’s mayor. But when John Mellencamp sang, “Jena, take your nooses down,” he took issue.
“The town of Jena has for months been mischaracterized in the media and portrayed as the epicenter of hatred, racism and a place where justice is denied,” Jena Mayor Murphy R. McMillin wrote in a statement on town letterhead faxed on Friday to The Associated Press.
“The Mellencamp video is so inflammatory, so defamatory, that a line has been crossed and enough is enough.”
A brief note from Mellencamp posted Thursday on his Web site says he is telling a story, not reporting. “The song is not written as an indictment of the people of Jena but, rather, as a condemnation of racism,” it says.
Mellencamp’s song opens, “An all-white jury hides the executioner’s face; See how we are, me and you?” As he sings, images of Jena, the high school and the tree are followed by video from the 1960s, including civil rights marchers, police beatings, and President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King speaking. Still images include one of a protest sign reading, “God demands segregation,” a stylized drawing of people in Ku Klux Klan robes and an older image of a black man in shackles, begging.
The AP report neglects to mention the most offensive thing about the “Jena” video — there’s not one shot of the 2008 Chevrolet Silverado.