Volume 5, Number 15                                                   March 10, 2002

The Farmer


Can Scam cast out Scam?

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad


There is a lot of talk over the e-mail information highway about the statements made by Dr. Ogletree at the "Where do we go from here?" event held in Philadelphia in February of this year, 2002. It seems that Dr. Ogletree may be placing his select group of lawyers and intellectuals as the "only" group to believe when it comes to reparations. Dr. Ogletree warned the listeners to beware of "scam artists" and "reparations scams".

Now "isnít that special"?

In December of 1998 and February of 1999 two members of Dr. Ogletreeís "Dream Team" warned the Black farmers about this same type of thing. Attorney J.L. Chestnut told the Black farmers to beware of "Johnny-come-latelies". On December 29, 1998, J.L. Chestnut addressed a packed room of farmers and their families at an event sponsored by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Albany, Ga. Fortunately, I video taped his presentation which can be seen in our documentary, "Snake in the Reparationsí Grass".

In his presentation he said: "You have to use your head, use your heart and use your mind. I understand some people, they been asking some of you to sign statements which supposedly will get you more money in the lawsuit. And that paper turns out to be little more than trying to get you to join some religious organization."

He further stated that "... all of you in this room know who has been in this case, made this case possible and brought it to this point. You also know who wasnít involved and all these Johnny-come-latelies who have come out of the woodworks, now because they think farmers are going to get some money and they want a part of that."

Mr. Chestnut was talking about this writer, Dr. Ridgely A. Muímin, who on behalf of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association was going around Georgia getting farmers to join BFAA and prepare to ride to Washington, DC on March 2, 1999 to protest the Consent Decree that Chestnut was selling to the Black farmers. BFAA is not a religious organization, although the vast majority of its members are Christians. In December of 1998, I was the only Muslim farmer that was a member of BFAA, so I know that Chestnut was trying to play the "religious card". And it worked.

At that time I had signed up most of the farmers of the vegetable co-op that I was a member of in southern Georgia. The leadership of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, who sponsored Chestnutís presentation in Albany, reportedly went back to the members of my co-op and advised them to quit BFAA, which they did.

Now for those who do not know, it was BFAA that initially started the lawsuit and through then Executive Director, Sam Taylor, retained Al Pires to represent Tim Pigford and the class back in 1997. So BFAA was not some "Johnny-come-lately", but actually is responsible for Al Pires and his hired front men, such as J.L. Chestnut, being involved.

On February 13, 1999 J.L. Chestnut came back to Albany to sell the Black farmers on this "Consent Decree". This time he brought along Al Pires, U.S. House Representative Sanford Bishop and one of Georgiaís Black House Representatives who was also a farmer. State Senator James admonished the Black farmers for not "trusting these people" (Al Pires and J.L. Chestnut). Al Pires told these farmers that the "system" would work. The farmers would need to show a minimal amount of information to qualify for the $50,000 and that he guaranteed that "99.9% of the people would get approved."

However, Tim Pigford, the lead plaintiff, did not believe Al Pires and testified at the Fairness Hearing on March 2,1999 that he wanted the Judge, Paul Friedman, to throw out the Consent Decree bearing his name. However, Ralph Page, the President of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, stood before Judge Friedman with his sidekick, Rev. Joseph Lowery, asking the judge on that same day to "Amend it, donít end it."

Judge Friedman agreed to "amend it" according to many of the complaints brought forward by the farmers themselves. However, Al Pires refused to "amend it", so it was signed by Judge Friedman in April over the objections of the majority of Black farmers who had read the Consent Decree, including all of the six lead plaintiffs.

To be honest, the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit should not even be called such because, the lead plaintiff, Tim Pigford, opted out of this so-called Consent Decree and went through the USDA Administrative complaint process. Forty percent of the applicants in the lawsuit were denied the $50,000. Most of the "real" farmers were denied and now the USDA is trying to foreclose on their land. The monetary awards were doled out in such a way as to insure that the farmers could not organize their individual awards to be used as financial leverage for joint undertakings.

Furthermore, the FBI and IRS are harassing those that did get the $50,000, while Al Pires stands to get $38 million for his services to the government. By this process, the Black farmers have signed away their rights to ever put the USDA on trial. A better name for the Pigford v. Glickman Consent Decree would be the "Pires & Glickman Consent Scam".

Since Al Pires and J.L. Chestnut are on this so-called "Reparations Dream Team", Dr. Ogletree and others should beware when the masters of scam come claiming to cast out scams. Unfortunately, there may be a sequel to the Black farmersí demise, maybe something like, "How 40 Million Black People Got Took".