Volume 8, Number 20 December 8, 2005
Bush’s "Red Sea" and Our Black Land
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad
Three months have passed since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, however her fury is still relentless. The Bush administration seems to have met its "Red Sea". On the day the storm hit Bush was running west to Arizona and California trying to escape his fate. Hurricane Ivan a year earlier had taken a similar course as Katrina, but Ivan doubled back to the Gulf Coast then struck at the Louisiana-Texas border. Bush did not want his military assets in a position to get blindsided by Katrina and drowned. But now Governor Blanco of Louisiana has sent over 100,000 pages of documents that may swamp the Bush administration in blame and shame. The aftermath of Katrina left a giant sink-hole sucking the strength and arrogance of a proud but racist nation into the bottomless pit of bankruptcy and division.
The congress holds hearings after hearings related to Katrina and the government’s response or lack of response. Due to the work of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Blacks got the chance on December 6th, 2005 to address a Congressional Hearing titled "Voices from Inside the Storm" to tell their stories about what happened during and after Katrina in the city of New Orleans. The witnesses told the panel that the people living next to those levees in New Orleans heard an explosion before the levees gave way and flooded their neighborhoods.
White Congressman Shays from Connecticut responded by saying, "Well, someone may have heard a loud noise, but there must be some other explanation besides an explosion." Since America felt that Al-Qaeda blew up the World Trade Center, why would white Americans be so quick to dismiss the possibility that "terrorists" may have struck again? Or does white America know something that we don’t about the true "face of terrorism"?
As I looked at C-Span I was struck by the relentless nature of the Blacks who testified to not allow white people to intimidate them to dismiss what they believed because the whites could not accept their point of view. Those witnesses spoke of the issues of land and the right of the evacuees to return. They understood the opportunity for outsiders to take advantage of the flooding of New Orleans to throw the poor out and take their land to build a "Las Vegas of the Gulf".
They described how families were torn apart at gun point and shipped to different parts of the country never to return again. We wonder if these victims knew that while they were being held at gun point in America’s make shift concentration camps, America was rejecting Fidel Castro’s offer of 1500 doctors plus medical supplies and Hugo Chavez was offering money and cheap fuel?
The witnesses described how FEMA and other government agencies lied and confused them to the point that they did not know what to do next. These testimonies sounded very similar to Black farmer meetings when they met with USDA officials trying to understand how they could be evicted from their land based on not paying a loan that they did not make. Their stories reminded me of the stories of Black farmers paying religiously on their notes to find out ten years later that none of the payments given to their local Farmers Home Administration office ever reached Washington and the county supervisor’s relatives bought their land at auction.
Then came the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit that was supposed to remove all the debt owed by Black farmers to the USDA. The government instead was allowed to dole out $50,000 to each of the 13,000 Black people who prevailed in the lawsuit, but denied 8,000 other applicants among whom were the real farmers. Somehow, the vast majority of Black farmers who owed the USDA were denied in this lawsuit and are now facing foreclosure all over again.
Mr. Harry Young is a 78 year old Black farmer whose family has farmed for over 100 years in Utica, Kentucky. According to Mr. Young he tried to borrow $42,000 from FHA/FSA in 1979. His loan application was denied, but Mr. Young subsequently found out in 2004 that he has been credited with receiving $400,000 between 1979 and 1980 that he never received and was never sent a bill or payment notice.
Mr. Young joined the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit but was denied in 1999 because the USDA said that Mr. Young had not been discriminated against because he got another loan in 1981 of $80,000. Mr. Young appealed his denial and subsequently the USDA admitted in writing that they lied about the 1981 loan, but still did not inform him of his supposed 1979 and 1980 loans. Mr. Young’s appeal in the Pigford lawsuit was still denied and on July 7th, 2005 US Marshals forcibly evicted him and his family from their land.
Mr. Young has not given up and has hired a lawyer to fight the government's actions. Who will pay Mr. Young’s lawyer? To help Mr. Young you can contact Hazel Joyner Smith, program director for the Race Relations Institute at 1620 Jackson St., Nashville, TN 37208 or call 615-329-8812.
Rep. Shays from Connecticut made another very interesting statement at those December 6th hearings on Katrina. He said that Black people from Louisiana to Connecticut took what happened to the victims of Katrina "personally".
The Farmer Newsletter has been trying to show Black people in the cities that they should take the stealing of Black farmers’ land and the denial of them to make a living, "personally". However, our Black cousins in the cities felt safe beneath their "golden arches" as they ate that "fast-food-to-hell" burger. But in the post-Katrina world of "we go let you Black folk die, if we get a chance", maybe the glitter of those "golden arches" may have gotten a little dimmer.
A month after the October 15, 2005 kick off of the Millions More Movement in Washington, DC, the leadership of the movement met back in Washington to discuss future programs and objectives. Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min presented a set of objectives coming from the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association and the Ministry of Agriculture for the Nation of Islam. They included:
1. Boycott the fast food industry for at least one week and go home and cook,
2. Reinstate the African culture of land ownership and food independence by:
a. setting up buying clubs and food coops in the cities that will eventually become stores,
b. supporting legislation designed to help Black farmers to keep their land and train the next set of farmers, ie. letters to congress,
c. checking with your family to see what land you own and taking care of that property.
The Black people affected by Katrina know what it is like to have nothing solid to stand on, nothing to eat and no place to go. How many more Katrinas will it take to put Black people in a "survival mode"? Will it take a sea of red blood for Black people once again to see the value of Black owned land?
Books and lectures by Dr. Ridgely A. Mu'min