Volume 10, Number 2                                             March 8, 2007

The Farmer

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Keeping Hope Alive or Keeping Land?

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad

I was invited to speak on behalf of the Black farmers at the Selma, Ala commemoration of the 1965 Edmund Petis Bridge crossing. However, it seems that even though I was personally invited by the head organizer the week before, she developed more "hope" in an x-president, Bill (Savior) Clinton, his wife, Hillary (Second Coming) Clinton and the upstart Barack (African-American) Obama, than in the value of keeping the last remaining parcels of real wealth in America, land.

Politicians are absolutely amazing "story" tellers. Barack started out at the breakfast on Sunday, March 4th giving Selma credit for his birth. You see, his father was a goat herder in Kenya, but because of the civil rights movement in America, he was one of the Africans brought to America to study during the 60ís. There he met his white wife from Kansas who was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement to look beyond color in choosing a mate. So she married Barackís father and therefore it was like a homecoming for Barack to come to Selma, because probably without that crossing of the Petis Bridge he might not have been born. Oh please!!!!

Then that afternoon Hillary gave credit to the Civil Rights Movement for opening up the doors for women and therefore allowing her to become a US Senator and now a candidate for the presidency. Oh please!!!

Bill just walked around and waved to the herd of Black groupie acting admirers who just wanted to touch the hem of his garment.

I assume that the reason that I was not allowed to speak was because the Negroes were afraid that I might bring substance to the conversation, thereby embarrassing the dignitaries. They may have thought that I might ask Bill why he did not simply sign an executive order and pay the Black farmers in the Pigford v Glickman lawsuit after the Black farmers had gone to jail a couple of times to protest how they were neglected within the Consent Decree. Or maybe they thought that I was going to ask him why he got rid of welfare.

Maybe they thought I would ask Hillary if she thought that she could have beaten John F. Kennedy, Jr. in a fare race for that vacant Senate seat in New York in 2000. Maybe they thought that I would ask Barack if he thought it was a little odd that both of his major opponents dropped out of the Senate race in Illinois because of scandals, therefore projecting him into the forefront of Black "hope" for a Black or should I say African-American president. Or maybe they thought that I would ask Obama if there was a difference between a Black descendent of slaves in America and an African-American.

In fact I was not going to ask any of those hard questions. I was just going to tell the 5,000 in attendance that the Black farmers did not "win" the lawsuit, but the government got away with a scam. The courts have failed the Black farmers and now the Black farmers were depending on the Federal legislators to give justice, make them whole and stop USDA foreclosures. That is if they can get anyone to listen and a congressperson with enough "testicular fortitude" to sponsor the bill.

The Black farmers did not initially go to Washington in 1997 to ask for $50,000, but they went to stop the foreclosure on another 3,000 Black farmers and get the land back that had already been stolen.. Instead, their lawyer, Al Pires, who was a former Justice Department lawyer, opened the lawsuit up to non-farmers and required that legitimate farmers had to prove discrimination all over again by identifying a "similarly situated white" farmer who had gotten the loans that they had applied for.

Of the 21,000 applicants allowed into the class, 13,000 were awarded the $50,000, while another 8,000 were denied. Within this 8,000 that were denied were the original 3,000 who were under the threat of foreclosure by the USDA. Now the USDA has started kicking these elderly farmers off of their land and out of their houses.

I was sent to Selma by the Black farmers to introduce to the audience and the politicians the proposed "Endangered Black Farmer Act of 2007" that is geared to put an immediate stop to foreclosures and force the USDA to provide money and services to the remaining and new Black farmers. If highways can be diverted to protect the spotted owl, then surely foreclosures can be stopped to prevent the extinction of Black farmers. If special breeding, incubating facilities and wild life preserves can be set up to protect endangered species of animals, then surely programs could be put in place to develop and incubate the next generation of Black farmers. Or are these animals more important than Black farmers?

Yes, I may have asked that tough question to the audience of urban dwellers and their urban serving lawmakers, but I was denied the opportunity the same way that I was denied at the 2000 "Redeem the Dream: 37th Anniversary March on Washington" and Gary Grant, Pres. of BFAA was denied to speak at the 2000 Million Family March in DC. At least I had enough sense to force my way to the front line of the march over the Petis bridge while holding up the cover of the Final Call Newspaper with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the front. At least the people there got a chance to take a picture of two true Black leaders staring them in the face.

Well, what will the urban dwellers say when they are denied food to eat or if they just keep on eating the slow poisons dished out to them by the "merchants of death"? Oh, that is a dumb question, dead folk canít talk.

But there is still hope for the urban dwellers, not the hope in storytelling politicians or "We shall overcome" singers. When Rev. King made the transition from Civil Rights to Human Rights and economic empowerment, he was shot down. However, Allah (God) has protected the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to the point that he is more than a great orator but has inspired the Nation of Islam to come out of its "urban" shell and realize the value in land ownership and growing our own food. He first started off by re-instituting the Three Year Economic Savings Program in 1991, followed by the purchase of 1600 acres of farmland in Georgia at the end of 1994.

Gary Grant got his chance to speak at the 10th Anniversary of the Million Man March in 2005 where the Millions More Movement was inaugurated. He finally presented the plight of the Black farmers to a national and international audience. Minister Farrakhan included Agriculture as one of the nine ministries of the Millions More Movement in his October 15, 2005 address on the Mall in DC. He backed up his support for agriculture by having two agricultural sessions as a part of the 2007 Savioursí Day Celebration weekend. In his speech on Sunday, February 25th, he again stressed the importance of those nine ministries and demanded that members of the Nation of Islam go out in the communities, set up these ministries and make them work for the benefit and salvation of a people trapped in the concrete jungles of America.

So "hope" is alive, kicking up dirt on some land of our own and fighting for more.

Dr. Ridgely displays the Final Call as he walks over the Edmund Petis Bridge.