Volume 5, Number 1 October 2, 2001
"Snake" has been served
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu'min Muhammad
"Equal justice under the law does not exist in America for the Black and the poor. This law suit as it stands has been a nail in the coffin for Black farmers in this country. Where it should have been something to save us, it has been a part of digging our grave." So stated Eddie Slaughter, Vice-president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturist Association, at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Weekend on September 27, 2001 in Washington, DC. Mr. Slaughter was one of ten speakers on the panel entitled, "Is There A Future For African Americans In Agriculture?"
We will present to you the major portions of his speech in this article. Mr. Slaughter continued:
"The reason why you as Black farmers did not get paid is because you own the land...They do not intend to give us back the land. From Virginia to California we stand to loose 1.5 million acres of land."
"There was a study done in Haywood County, Tennessee, where this law suit handled 46 cases. 22 of the 25 applicants that were paid had no files, no documents and no proof of ever doing business with the USDA. Out of the 21 that were denied, 19 of them had papers, files and documents where they did business with the USDA on a regular basis.
This is how corrupt the system is.
They turn around and say that they have paid out $600 million to Black farmers. The reason why they did not pay you is because you still stand on the land. If you were successful in the law suit, they would have had to turn around and give you debt relief and that is what is not happening.
Right now there is an 83 year old man, Mr. Oscar Bembry, who is right now facing foreclosure because he was denied in this law suit. Here is a man that clearly was discriminated against. We have a 77 year old man down in Vienna, GA whose wife has just died and this guy is being thrown off of his farm. Because no matter what we do when we go to court, there is no equal justice under the law for the Black and the poor."
"The discrimination against us has increased. This is what they are saying down south, ‘Y’all went all the way to Washington, DC to federal court and ain’t did nothing. I ain’t go give you your land back, I ain’t go give you no loan, I ain’t go give you nothing out of this office."
That same study that they did in Haywood, Tenn. is the same from Virginia to California.
Everybody is getting paid. The facilitators are getting paid, the arbitrators are getting paid, the 46 adjudicators are getting paid, the monitor is getting paid. Everybody is getting paid but the Black farmers.
You see the lawyers knew what they were doing in this case. Al Pires did not want discovery. If they had done discovery, they would have found millions of dollars that was charged to Black farmers that we never borrowed. Then you would go back and find millions of dollars that we paid on our bills that was never received. There was this great corruption going on."
"They sent me my $50,000, but that was a slap in the face. Because in the mean time my interest payments had increased to $79,000. So they sunk me deeply in debt. They didn’t give me debt relief and now you go take my farm and give me $50,000 and call that justice?
This is what Al Pires said, ‘You have to be careful with lawyers, because every time they open their mouth, they lie.’
I am convinced that this country wants to take a million and a half acres of land from us, because I haven’t got my debt relief and had to go all the way to the president to get paid."
"... The lawyers purposely opened this law suit up to include too broad of a category. What they said was that ...’anybody who over these 14 years walked into a USDA office and asked for an application, we’ll pay you. If your father farmed over this time but is now dead, we’ll pay you. We’ll pay all of your brothers and sisters.’ But they have made a conscious decision that 75 to 80 percent of us that are still on the land, they have chosen not to pay because debt relief would ensue and we would have received justice, which we have not done under this Consent Decree."
At this time Rep. Eva Clayton stopped Mr. Slaughter from continuing claiming that we had run over our time. Over the years this author has been at a number of these "Agricultural Brain Trust" hearings during the Congressional Black Caucus week. Each time they would put representatives from the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association (BFAA) last on the agenda, when all but one congress person would have departed to some other event. They would call time and always claim that they did not have time for questions or comments from the audience. This year it was particularly heinous, because a white congresswoman who was not on the program came in and Eva Clayton allowed her to take up a full ten minutes of the time, politicking.
However, the author did get a chance to serve Rep. Clayton and the other 3 Black congressmen on the Agricultural Committee, before they left, with a copy of our documentary "Snake in the Reparations’ Grass" which shows how the Black farmers were fighting both the government and their own lawyers all the way against this so-called Consent Decree. The author then asked Rep. Clayton: "When I reviewed this tape, something very shocking was brought to my attention. Gary Grant stated that in 1997 when he went to visit with President Clinton in what was supposed to be a Black farmer conference but instead renamed a Small Farmer Conference, President Clinton shook the hand of an Asian and said, ‘I am so glad that you all are here, and that you all are looking at farming. I want you to tell your people to keep coming and coming on the land to do agriculture.’
And considering that I heard that China has to reduce her farm population by 10 million per year to come into the World Trade Organization, I want to ask, is there a policy of the US to take away the Black farmers’ land and bring the Asians over here and give them our land?"
Eva Clayton said that she did not know of such a plan. Nobody else at the workshop had anything to say.
The question still stands.