Who is Jason Vassell, and will his case become the Jena Six case of 2009?
Ekwueme Michael Thelwell is a professor in the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Afro-American Studies department. When he was much younger, he worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee recruiting volunteers for the organization’s Freedom Summer in 1964 and with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Thelwell also edited “Ready For Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture.”
So it should be no surprise that Thelwell was a panelist at the symposium on black power that the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture sponsored the last two days of March. But the good professor didn’t just talk about black power or the good ol’ days/bad ol’ days when he was a SNCC activist. At the conclusion of his remarks, he urged members of the audience to come up and grab some Xeroxed copies of two stories about Vassell, who until last year was a UMass pre-med student.
Vassell is a black man, the 24-year-old son of Jamaican immigrants. In February of 2008, he was in his UMass dorm room when two inebriated fools knocked on his window and asked for directions.