By Abbey Brown thetowntalk.com
Two of the teens enmeshed in the nationally known "Jena Six" case helped present the most anticipated award during Black Entertainment Television's Hip Hop Awards show broadcast Thursday night.
Carwin Jones and Bryant Purvis were introduced by Katt Williams, a comedian and the awards show's host, as two of the students involved in a case of "systematic racism."
"By no means are we condoning a six-on-one beat-down," Williams said during his introduction of the teens, one of whom is still facing attempted murder charges in connection with the attack on white student Justin Barker. "... But the injustice perpetrated on these young men is straight criminal."
As Jones and Purvis walked onto the stage at the Atlanta Civic Center, where the awards show was filmed on Saturday, they were greeted by a standing ovation.
"They don't look so tough, do they?" Williams joked as the teens stepped up to the podium.
Both Jones and Purvis thanked a number of people, including family, friends, the "Hip-Hop Nation" and the thousands who came to their small hometown to rally behind their case.
Purvis said the Sept. 20 rally proved "our generation can unite and rally around a cause."
The teens assisted Williams in presenting the Video of the Year honor to Kanye West for "Stronger." Purvis handed the award to West, who in turn shook hands with both teens.
'Should be humbled'
Some have been critical of the appearance, saying the teens -- accused of knocking Barker unconscious and then stomping and kicking on him until another student intervened -- shouldn't be made out to be celebrities. Barker was treated at a local emergency room for close to three hours and then released.
"If anything, they should be humbled and go home and not be trying to get celebrity status off a tragedy," one person wrote on a BET blog post.
Another wrote on the blog, titled "What's wrong with this picture?" featuring a picture of Jones and Purvis on the red carpet, "... this is what I was protesting for! So that later you could show up at the BET awards and style and profile?"
But Tina Jones, Purvis' mom, said BET contacted the Jena Six families to come to the awards show "to get away for a relaxing weekend."
Also attending the show was Mychal Bell's father, Marcus Jones; Carwin Jones' parents, John Jenkins and Dwanda Jones; and Theo McCoy, the father of Theo Shaw, another defendant.
"You can't get caught up in what people say," Tina Jones said. "They are going to say something no matter what you do."
She said her son was most excited about meeting rappers Birdman and Lil Wayne.
Court allowed the trip
Some have questioned if Carwin Jones and Purvis were allowed to leave the state legally, but Bill Furlow, a spokesman for LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters, said the boys sought and received the court's permission before going.
Jenkins said the past few months have been stressful for everyone involved and that it was "good to see the kids go out and have fun and laugh."
"I'm just praying that everything turns out OK for everybody," he said.
But the criticism has been extensive, including comments from those who said they made the trek to Jena for the rally.
"They can find somebody else to march for them (be)cause I will not be there the next time, and whoever invited them to this should be slapped," one person wrote on the BET blog. "(You're) not setting a good example for the justice that everyone is fighting for. You look like the thugs they said the Jena 6 are. Thanks for making us look stupid!"
A poster who said he was from near Jena said it is "sad making the Jena 6 out as heros."
But Tina Jones emphasized that the appearance was only an opportunity to get away from the stress of the case and Jena -- not about raising awareness or gaining celebrity status.
Purvis' attorney, Darrell Hickman, declined to comment about his client's appearance and said he doesn't know of any others scheduled in the future.
Messages left Thursday for Carwin Jones' attorney, Mike Nunnery, went unreturned.
Calls placed Thursday to the Barker family for comment went unanswered.
Carwin Jones and Purvis were charged initially with second-degree murder, along with Bell, Shaw, Robert Bailey and Jesse Ray Beard, in connection with the Dec. 4 beating of Barker at Jena High School.
Bell, who was 16 at the time of the attack, is the first of the six defendants to have been tried and was convicted in June of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit that crime. Both of those felony convictions later were vacated and sent back to juvenile court.
Bell is currently at the Renaissance Home for Youth in Alexandria , said the Rev. B.L. Moran of Jena, who has actively advocated for the teens, including testifying at a congressional hearing earlier this week.
Bell had spent almost 10 months incarcerated in a LaSalle Parish adult facility before being released on bail in September. He was free for two weeks before being taken back into custody and sentenced to 18 months in connection with two previous juvenile adjudications, the Rev. Al Sharpton said.
Charges against Bailey, Carwin Jones and Shaw have been reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit that crime, which they will face in adult court. Current information about Bell's and Beard's cases are unknown as they are being handled in juvenile court and aren't open to the public.
Purvis is scheduled for arraignment on Nov. 7.