Following recent victories
National campaign to raise bail for the Jersey 4
Published Oct 2, 2008 9:06 PM
A fundraiser for the New Jersey 4, hosted by the Brecht Forum and co-sponsored
by the Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE and All7.org, was held here on Sept. 16.
The Jersey 4 are young African-American lesbians from Newark, N.J., who were
convicted of “gang assault” charges in June 2007 after defending
themselves against a man who attacked them and three of their friends in August
The seven friends were walking in the West Village of New York City when they
were sexually propositioned by a vendor, Wayne Buckle. When they said they were
not interested because they were lesbians, Buckle hurled anti-gay epithets,
threatened them with sexual assault, then proceeded to physically attack the
women. Two men rushed to help the women, and over the course of the altercation
Buckle was stabbed in the abdomen.
Buckle spent only days in the hospital, and although no physical evidence
connected the seven to his stab wounds, four of them were given sentences
ranging from 3.5 to 11 years. Patreese Johnson, who was deemed the
“ringleader” by the judge, was also charged with first- and
Through the efforts and activism of their legal team, families and a national
movement, the conviction of 21-year-old Terrain Dandridge was vacated on June
19, with the indictment against her completely reversed. The conviction of
26-year-old Renata Hill, who was originally sentenced to eight years, was also
vacated. Although currently free on bail, Hill still faces the possibility of a
new trial, as the indictment against her was not reversed.
The other two, Venice Brown and Johnson, are still in prison awaiting appeals
scheduled for November. Brown received a five-year sentence, and Johnson was
sentenced to 11 years. Recently a national campaign has begun to raise $5,000
in bail money for Brown as well as money to cover legal fees for all four.
The Sept. 16 fundraiser was dedicated to the memory of Mollie Brown, mother of
Renata Hill, who passed away while her daughter was in prison. Tragically, Hill
was not allowed to attend her mother’s funeral.
The fundraiser opened with rousing music from the Voices of Liberation choir,
which is from the Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church in Newark. The
multinational list of speakers and performers included renowned poet and
activist Amina Baraka; performers Nedra Johnson and Gabriella Callender from
the Mahina Movement; Nigerian poet yvonne fly onakeme etaghene; and Zaum, an
Armenian activist and artist who coordinated the event.
Two of the Jersey 4, Hill and Dandridge, were present. Dandridge and her
mother, Kimma Walker, read an emotional account of the night the women were
attacked and arrested.
The money raised at the event will be used to support the young women in a
variety of ways. Walker told Workers World: “With the exception of my
daughter, these beautiful young lesbians must now endure living life with a
felony record. Life’s basic necessities, such as job placement, housing
and student loans, are going to be very hard, if not impossible, to obtain.
Prison visits, packages of food and toiletries, and collect phone calls have
now become a way of life for family and friends.”
The West Village has traditionally been one the historic homes and safe havens
for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially young LGBT
people. Yet millions of dollars are at stake in the ongoing gentrification of
the West Village, and this lies at the root of the anti-youth, racist and
anti-LGBT oppression that surrounds the Jersey 4 case.
New York University, the biggest landlord and employer in the West Village, has
been one of the forces that has imposed curfews and promoted increased police
brutality in the area. In 2001 the New York Times reported, “Not counting
its medical and dental schools, N.Y.U. today owns about 60 buildings with 9.3
million square feet, about 50 percent more than the 6.3 million square feet it
owned in 1970.” (Apr. 19, 2001)
To get updates, send donations or find other ways to support the New Jersey 4,
visit www.all7.org or www.fiercenyc.org.
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