Volume 5, Number 12 February 11, 2002
The "Law" of No-Land
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad
The theme of "Steps to Healing the Land" was forcefully presented by Gary Grant, President of BFAA, at the 4th National Black Land Loss Summit held in Atlanta, February 8-10, 2002. Mr. Grant emphasized the importance of land ownership and what the lack of such would mean to Black people in the 21st century.
According to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in "Message to the Black Man", "We want freedom IN DEED" "IN DEED" to him meant a "deed" on a piece of land.
He and his followers did just that in the state of Alabama in 1961. However, that state declared a "legal war" on these land sales according to a book called "The Messenger" by Earl Evanzz. This war was successful in part because a 1961 state law made it "illegal for a Muslim to remain in Alabama more than a few days without registering his presence and disclosing ‘such matters as finances and membership roll.’" It seems that Alabama had some "anti-terrorists" provisions long before the birth of the "Al Qaeda" (smile).
Of course the Muslim followers of Elijah Muhammad were taught then, and now, not to carry weapons. However, violence was not what whites in Alabama, and southern whites in general, were afraid of. They simply would use any means necessary, legal or non-legal method to deny progressive Black people land. Of course one might naively say, "well them Blacks should stay good Christians, then they would have no problems with whites." Oh, please! These series of articles that I have written under the rubric of "The Farmer Newsletter" since 1997 and the AP series entitled "Torn from the land" clearly show that good Christian Black people were torn and terrorized from the land. In fact history shows that the "law of the land" in America since 1865 has been the "law of no-land" for her former slaves.
Over a hundred participants came out representing 16 states, the District of Columbia and one African nation. According to their testimonies given on Sunday morning, they were completely floored by the wealth of information that flowed in these proceedings. The proceedings were video taped and will be made available to the public in the near future. I have enough materials to fill a series of articles, and we will begin to share those with you.
According to the participants they were made aware of a "war" on a broad scale which they as individuals had seen waged on themselves and their family members. However, they felt isolated and alone until this point. The participants were also delighted to leave the conference with more than just an in-depth knowledge of the problems, but with specific doable methods to stem the tide of land loss, fight the system and "heal the land". Those strategies will unfold as time goes on.
Kenneth Sumpter spoke on the "Loss of Black Land in the Sea Islands" and demonstrated a very recent example of "the law of no-land." It seems that the Black residents of St. Simons were tired of being harassed to sell their land so they put up signs on their porches stating, "Don’t Ask, Won’t Sell". However, the city counsel on St. Simons produced an ordinance which makes it illegal to have such a sign on their property and would be fined $1,000 if not removed in 10 days. Of course it is still legal to post "For Sale" signs.
There are also penalties assessed against those who dare to report the story of Black land loss and the struggle of Black farmers. In Pete Scott’s, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, awards acceptance speech stated that he could not say for sure that his son’s student loan repayment was accelerated because he wrote some articles on the Black farmers, but it happened soon after.
The Black farmers had a chance to tell some of their stories during the open mike session. Mrs. Vannie Howard told the story of how she was "legally" swindled twice by lawyers, surveyors and the court as she bought land. The first time, she thought she had purchased a 192 acre tract, only to find out recently that it is now surveyed to be 75 acres. She purchased what she thought was 46 acres, only to find out that her lawyer had registered 1.6 acres on the deed books in the county. She cut some timber off of this land, and the man who claimed to own her land took her to court and took her land.
Mr. William Miller related how he found that someone had borrowed $32,000 in his name in another county in 1981 and used his land as collateral. The lenders are now trying to foreclose on his farm because this loan was never paid on and the interest has now brought that debt up to $770,000. He stressed how everyone who owns land needs to go to the county court house in his own county and all the surrounding counties to find out what you own and what you owe.
Mr. Napolean Hughs choked with tears as he described how he saw his father’s manhood being stripped, as they reduced his farming operations from 3000 acres down to 500 acres.
Mr. Henry Douglas, ex-county commissioner, admonished those who own land to check their boundaries. "White people have a habit of moving the land boundaries and once they get them moved and listed in the courts, it is hard to get those boundaries corrected." He said that once he caught some white surveyor trying to put up false boundary markers on his land. He got his shot gun and ran him off of his land and took up every stake that he has falsely placed within his boundaries.
The problem of "legal" stealing of Black people’s lands are not limited to America. The Honorable Simbi Mubako, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United States, explained how white British soldiers who fought in World Wars I and II were given the best farm land in Zimbabwe while the Black soldiers were given bicycles. Over time this gift to white British soldiers grew to 46.6% of Zimbabwe’s agricultural land and was comprised of the best land. At the time of Zimbabwe’s fight for liberation from the colonial rule of Britain, the white population was 60,000 while Black population of Zimbabwe was 12,500,000. Of the 60,000 whites only 4,000 were farmers, but that class owned 46.7% of Zimbabwe’s farm land. These white farmers held 40% of their land for speculative purposes and did not farm them, but would not lease them out to Blacks to grow food. The "mystery" of Blacks starving in Africa is now revealed; whites own the best agricultural land.
Britain, under Margaret Thatcher, and America, under Jimmy Carter, agreed in 1980 to provide the liberated colony of Zimbabwe with $2 billion to buy the land from the white settlers who did not pay a dime for this land. This land would then be turned over to Zimbabwe to be dispersed to her landless poor and former liberation fighters. Britain and America reneged. And now after 20 years, the people of Zimbabwe warned President Mugabe that they were ready to seize the land that was rightfully theirs in an orderly or disorderly manner, depending on the government’s decision. The government of Zimbabwe bowed to the wishes of her people, so land reform is now almost 90% complete.
We asked the Ambassador how will America’s threatened embargo affect the Zimbabwean people? The Ambassador responded by saying, "We are willing to accept and overcome all obstacles, including defending ourselves if necessary."
Attorney Stephon Bowens addressed the issues of land loss and retention by providing an overview of legal tactics to use and be aware of to keep land from being taken. The document that he presented "Ten Ways to Save Your Land" can be obtained by contacting the Land Loss Prevention Project, PO Box 179, Durham, NC 27702 or calling (800)672-5839 or go their website at http://www.landloss.org.
Dr. Alton Thompson, Dean of the School of Agriculture at NC A&T State University, brought us the welcomed news of a revived commitment of the 1890 Land Grant Institutions towards the needs of Black and small farmers. Such a role was greatly reduced in the era of Chancellor Dr. Edward Fort of NC A&T, who had almost redefined the "A" in A&T to mean "art" instead of agriculture. And indeed in the document authored by him entitled " Strategically Approaching the Future: 1890 Land-Grant System -- A Strategic Plan", Dr. Fort significantly reduced the emphasis on agriculture at the Historically Black Land Grant Institutions. However, leaders like Dr. Thompson at A&T and Dr. Walter Hill, Dean of Agriculture at Tuskegee, made a commitment to those in attendance to reverse this philosophy and resultant trends.
The conference was properly closed out in a spiritual manner by a sermon delivered by Rev. Marcus Tillery, who also holds a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and a department chair at NC A&T State University. He started his sermon by saying "You haven’t been fighting this fight just for Black folk, but for all folk... We are going to let the world know that we intend to free them, not just from the USDA, but from the power emanating from the darkness of this world. That’s who we stand against. USDA is just one vehicle that we intend to move."
Rev. Tillery asked everyone to read the book "Image of the Beast" alongside their Holy Bible and Holy Quran to get a better understanding of the war being waged. He said that we must put on the "full armor of God" to prevail, but we will prevail.
Pictures from Summit