Volume 4, Number 1 October 31, 2000
Fighting and Farming
by Dr. Ridgely A. Muímin Muhammad
You can not fight and farm. The government of America knows this and uses all types of tactics to take Black farmersí land and render Black people in the cities totally vulnerable to chemical and biological warfare attacks through their food. Who checks this stuff that we are eating anyway?
It is now over two weeks after the historic October 16, 2000 Million Family March. To have such an event was in itself historic. The day was beautiful, the turnout was great and the "mass media" did its "job" of "hiding the truth".
It has taken me this much time to digest that day and the events leading up to that day. I have yet to finish paying for the expenses occurred because of that day, nor have I gotten my cell-phone bill which I suspect will run into the hundreds of dollars. We are still investigating some of things that happened and did not happen.
I, like many of the farmers that attended the events, are back home trying to continue the harvest of our crops. October is the harvest season for a number of crops such as cotton and peanuts. Harvest in the final determination of whether a farmer makes a profit or loss and is most critical that he stays on top of things, because there are "rustlers" out there waiting for you to make a mistake or turn your back. Many Black farmers involved with the Pigford vs. Glickman lawsuit had already been to DC seven times already this year marching, protesting and questioning the governmentís continued discrimination and wrong doing even in the execution of this so-called "Consent Decree". October 16th was just another time to sacrifice in order to get justice. This time we had hoped to speak through the BFAA president, Gary Grant, to the hundreds of thousands of families assembled in the "Belly of the Beast" which is the Washington Mall. We had hoped to gather 100,000 names of our city cousins that wanted "safe food" in our cities.
On Sunday, October 15th the Black farmers were invited by Rev. Walter Fauntroy to bring fresh produce to his congregation at New Bethel Baptist Church that morning. After distributing produce and disseminating information at New Bethel, the farmers moved on to Muhammad Mosque #4 under the invitation of Minister Khadir Muhammad. The Black farmers got TV. coverage by the local FOX network and continued coverage of the Black farmer struggle by the Final Call Newspaper. It is a blessing that we got exposure on Sunday because what happened on Monday was somewhat of a disappointment.
Although Mr. Grant was given a faxed confirmation to speak at 12:27 p.m. for three minutes on the stage in the Ellipse in front of the White House, he was called at 1:30 a.m. on Monday morning of the 16th and told that he had been cut. I made numerous phone calls on my cellular phone in the middle of the night trying to reach people who could possibly put Mr. Grant back on the program. I was not able to reach certain key people and some of the messages that I left took 12 days to be retrieved on their voice mail.
Starting at 8:00 a.m. on Monday I approached as many people as I thought might have some influence on the program for that day to see if Mr. Grant could have a few moments to address the audience. In the meantime Mr. Grant was feeling very ill, so much so that the paramedics had to treat him and move him to an air-conditioned trailer used as the command center for the ongoing live broadcast of the event.
I set with him encouraging him to wait in the wings for the possibility of getting him on until 1:30 p.m.. Mr. Grant bravely waited until we could see that his long term health was being threatened. We took Mr. Grant back to his hotel and after returning to North Carolina, Mr. Grant had to be hospitalized for a week while he recovered.
We had farmers and supporters stationed in the crowd waiting for the announcement to be given to have the people sign the information cards. Although the announcement was never given we were still able to collect thousands of information cards, so that we could send information to these families alerting them of the problems with their food supply and helping them to organize themselves into buying co-ops so that the Black farmers can grow safe food for them. Almost everyone that we were able to approach and explain what the issues were, were more than happy to give us their contact information. One could only imagine what the "harvest" would have been like if the announcement was given.
Please continue to keep abreast of the Black farmersí lawsuit situation and the news about the safety of our food supply. Although many of our Native American, Latino brothers and sisters along with other nationalities, spoke about the value of land and questioned what was going on with our food supply, none of the "Black" speakers at the Million Family March outside of Min. Benjamin Muhammad even mentioned the Black farmers, land or our food supply.
Before we become critical of the Million Family March organizers, it would be good to read the articles in the October 31, 2000 Final Call Newspaper relating to the struggle necessary to put the march on. In particular read "Family March prevails over media silence, local and national opposition" to understand the depths that this government will go to keep vital information from us and stop us from organizing among ourselves. Also read another excellent article in that issue of the Final Call entitled, "Farmers share food for thought, need to forge a network at march".
We would like to continue this "harvest" of interested people, through your help. Send this article to everyone that you know. Below are web addresses and email addresses so that they can contact us and put themselves on our email and "snail mail" list. Also take the time to read information on these websites and spread the word. Let us use the Internet while it is still free.
Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association Muhammad Farms:
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com