"Interview with a 100 year old Pioneer"

by Dr. Ridgely A. Mu知in Muhammad

Q.: Bro.William how old are you?

Bro. William: I was born in 1901, March 14th. And my birthday be coming up March 14th, I値l be 100.

Q.: I heard it said that you have 98 children. So tell me how many children do you have?

Bro. William: Well brother, when I tell the people the truth, they take it and make jokes out of it. The kids, mine, I知 not the father of those kids, but I知 the father that takes care of those kids when I got them. One just left here today, I知 not her father by nature but I知 there father cause I am the only father they know about. I got them all over Michigan, I got them in Georgia. They love me, respect me, when I need help they help me. Why? Because I ain稚 never had no children on welfare.

Q.: How many children are you the father of?

Bro. William: The father of? I ll give you a close estimate, about 50. Father of about 50 by different sisters when I was younger and didn稚 understand life. And they come up and everywhere they went, they may come back and I take care of them and their kids.

Q.: What痴 the ages of your youngest child and oldest child?

Bro. William: My baby is 20. My baby daughter by my wife.

Q.: The oldest?

Bro.William: "The oldest child about 76 or 77 years old?

Q.: What would credit for you living so long and being able to father a child at 80 years old, while most of us die before 80?

Bro. William: "Number one brother, when I heard the teachings of the HEM back in the early fifty痴. I was doing right, I wasn稚 never no rowdy man. All I did is worked hard and I always loved to farm. When I heard the teaching from him said " If we can build churches, why can稚 we build homes and farm land for our own. Why we have to go to the white man to work his job, when you can make your own job and come together as one family." And that went all through me, and I give my life to Allah and His Messenger from that day on to this one, and that is what I believe in doing.

I never get to old or tired to get up go fishing. I m always ready to get up and go to that farm and work, whatever it needs night or day. That痴 what I teach young brothers and sisters here in Georgia and they know me for years and they all love me. We can easily come together, because number one we got no place to go.

Q.: "Let me get this straight, because you love the work and you love to farm is what you attribute to why you致e been able to live so long and be in good health?

William: "Why I live so long, obeying the Teachings of HEM, "How to Eat to Live", how to be obedient to God and how to love your people as yourself and I love that. I was born in this world loving black people. I remember when I was a little boy back in Michigan a white man slapped a black woman. I jumped on him and was biting him all over, eating him up.

Q.: Where you born at?

William: I was born in Shaw, Mississippi.

Q.: Then when did you move up to Michigan.

William: I left Mississippi when I was 9 years old. When I got up to Michigan I was about 15 or 16. I had worked my way up there taking any jobs I could find.

Q.: When did you join up with the Messenger?

William: I come into the Nation in 55, I think it was.

Q.: In what city?

William: Detroit, Mich., Mosque #1

Q.: Who was the minister there then?

William: At that time I think it was Malcolm X痴 brother, Wilfred was the minister.

Q.: When did you start working with the farm program for the Nation?

William: In Michigan me and my wife, I had bought a little place near Metropolitan airport. I got 5 acres when I started out and came back the next year and got 15 more May 20th. It wasn稚 an airport at that time but in a place called Bellflower. I had my own stand and bringing food in every week into the city.

Q.: What year was that when you bought the land?

That was in 39 or 40.

Q.: So you were always doing that before you came in the Nation?

William: Yes sir.

Q.: So you just continued that?

William: Right. I was in the Nation a long time then Bro. Capt. Roscoe Muhammad which was the Messenger痴 nephew, his sister痴 child. And he said we already got a farm and the Messenger wants a farmer. And so many brothers in there said they was into farming, so when the Messenger said he wanted to talk to them about farming they all refused.

So they asked me would I talk to the HEM about being a farmer, I said yes sir, I would be glad to cause that痴 what I love to do. I would be more than proud. And so out of all of us, I guess it would about 30 of us lined up together, all backed down accept me and a brother named Bro. Espy Crosby. So he came with me.

Q.: Now what year was that?

William: That was in 1966 in Georgia. But before then I worked the farm we bought in Benton Harbor, Michigan with Bro. Cornellius. So when I got here in Georgia, this brother came with me. And the Messenger asked us what we knew about farming. Now the first one he interviewed was Bro. Crosby. He said "brother do you know about farming?" He said, "Yes, Sir, dear Holy Apostle." He said, "All right, about wheat, how many bushels of wheat can you make off of wheat?"

And he looked up and said, "Well dear Holy Apostle, round about 75, 80 or 90." "No, brother, what about corn?" Well he said, "I don稚 know." So the Messenger asked me. And I said well, all the wheat I produced all my life, we got 25 to 30 bushels to the acre average. Now in some places in the field where you got more fertilizer, of course you might get more, but over the whole field you get 25, 30 bushels per acre. Corn? I told him that.

Then he asked about watermelon, cause he loved watermelon. I said I can grow the sweetest watermelon. He said, "So how you do it?" You see like my daddy taught me when I was a little boy. We take our seeds and soak them in sweet milk and sugar. Now you understand after about 3 or 4 days and they start to sprouting then you take them to the field and plant them by hand in the field. You put a watermelon about an inch to inch and half into the ground. Then you put a little horse manure on top like we did in those days. I said that the watermelons would be so sweet that when you cut one open, the sugar would run out of both ends. And the syrup wouldn稚 be nothing but sugar.

Q.: Did you wait until it sprouted all the way? Or until it was just started sprouting?

William: Just started to sprout. You don稚 wait till it come up, now. You can see when your seed starts to swell and then the small end opens up first. So when it open up like that you take them and plant them by hand.

Q.: So you came down here in 1966? was there anybody else down here?

William: No.

Q.: Where did you値l stay at?

William: Back there where that mobile home where you living in. It was an old house there then. So we stayed in that until the Messenger told us to get two mobile homes. So the question was why not just get one. But the Messenger wanted us to start out right so that there would be no conflict between us.

Q.: Now when you came down here did you have the hold 4500 acres or was it just the 1600 acres we got back there now?

William: We bought the whole thing, we had the whole thing but it was not all in cultivation. We had about 1200 acres in cultivation at that time. So I told the Messenger that we needed more land so we could make more money off of the farm.

So he asked me how much was land going for down there. So I told him that land was going for about $600 per acre back then, but I told the Messenger what we can do is let痴 clean up what we got on the farm. That would give us pretty close to 5,000 acres. So, he said "Brother, how much is that going to cost per acre?" So I said it cost about $300 per acre.

Then he said, "Brother, go ahead and get it as quick as you can. So I left running. So in about 4 months we had all that land opened up where now the best land is.

Q.: So how long was it before you opened that land up?

William: We come down here in 1966, we worked it for that first year, then we opened up that other part in 1967 and started running a bigger field. But he told me is "Look brother, don稚 wait till next year. I want something in the ground this year." And when he told me that just shook me like electricity all through my body. I said brother did you here that? Do you know what that means. It was in February. So what we went and got the machines that we need. I said, "Dear Holy Apostle we need three tractors, two 4020痴 and one 2520. I will give you my word you will have you a big crop this year".

And Allah blessed us to get the tractors. Money was sent down here to me and a brother who came down here from Michigan and me went right down there to the John Deere dealer right there in Dawson.

Q.: Did you get all the harrows and planters and other stuff that you needed?

William: Yes, sir. I got two planters, two harrows and two bottom plows and one big bush hog.

Q.: The next year you cleared the land out and did you buy some more equipment?

 

William: Then next year we cleared the land out. We already had the equipment. All we had to do was get out like a mule, get out and go to work.

Q.: What crops did you all produce that first year?

William: We produced corn, field corn for horses and cows. And we had one of the prettiest crop of corn you ever seen in your life. Ms. Bettywise and Calvin Lee and all those around Bronwood will tell you the same thing.

Q.: So you had corn and what else?

William: We had corn, we had watermelons and we had something like a corn barley, sorghum

Q.: So where did you sell your watermelons at?

William: We put it in the paper. Anyone that wanted watermelons could come out. And we had one truck. I told the HEM that we needed a truck bad. So he told me if you can find one buy one. And I saw one on the highway for sale and we bought it. And Brother Otis use to come from Chicago and take them back the truck load to Chicago. It they would be weighing from 45 to 50 lb. a piece.

Q.: Do you have some of those watermelon pictures?

William: Yes sir, I got some of em.

Q.: Whenever you needed money could you get it from the Messenger?

William: Yeah, sure. But let me explain one thing. I would write the Messenger and say could I use some of the land to grow vegetables and sell them in town to pay my labor off? He said sure. So I put in about 30 acres of vegetables, different kind of vegetables, snapbeans, okra, cabbage, turnips, rutabaga. And I went and bought two used pickup trucks. I would let one brother take one of those truck every morning and go to Albany, Georgia and 5 black stores there and 2 white ones. We would take the vegetables there and sell it, and I never asked the HEM for money to pay off no labor back then, not one time. Friday was pay day.

Q.: Now we lost the farm back in the 70痴 and what did you do until we got the farm back?

William: Well brother, I don稚 like to talk about that too much. I almost went crazy. But Allah kept me alive, and my family wanted me to come back to our little farm in Michigan, but I didn稚 want to go back there. I had two little tractors up there and truck and I never wanted for nothing. But my heart and soul today with Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan and I would rather die than leave this farm.

Q.: What happened when the Nation fell?

William: A big old limousine came in here and said, "we heard that the Nation had sold the farm". And I couldn稚 believe that. I got sick. They asked "where you going now". I said I ain稚 going nowhere, cause one day we go get it back. You got that much money coming that you go get it back. We ain稚 heard of nobody getting no land back."

Q.: Now, so when we got it back, the farm is not what it should be now. We got it back in 1994 and started farming in 1995. What can you say is the problem with the farm now? Or what is different now than it was back then when you had the farm by in the 1960痴 and 70痴?

William: That痴 easy. We ain稚 got nothing to work with. We ain稚 got no money. When we got the farm back, we didn稚 have no equipment. All that was sold out from underneath us. And so when the minister put me back on my post, I told him what we needed to the best of my ability. And that痴 as far as I know, we didn稚 have nothing to work with.

When ever we could get some little equipment to borrow. You know what we went through, you was right here with me. So we did as best we could. So when that little bit of money run out we couldn稚 go no further. Because I always knew in my heart that one day the farm would be gotten back.

Q.: I noticed that you still go around selling produce off of your truck. Is it different now than it was back then? Are those little stores that you were dealing with before are they still here now?

William: Most of the stores back then, most of them are gone. But thank Allah about 8 or 9 have come back in over the last year are two. And they asking for produce and I got Bro. Greg Muhammad to help me to sell. He痴 doing pretty good and making a living at it. They believe in what we are saying, because number one we don稚 those chemicals that kill people.

Q.: So are these black guys or white guys?

William: Black guys and white guys.

Q.: When I first got down here all was down here the only thing we had was the big stores and they weren稚 buying vegetables.

William: There wasn稚 nobody down here growing vegetables. They called this a dead area. We did more with this land, this old battlefield land, with vegetables than anybody in Georgia. It wouldn稚 produce nothing here but corn and wheat, barley. When we got started back with the vegetables the people knew that we were producing vegetables with none of those chemicals in it.

What happened is that a farmer grew some kale and collard greens and turnip greens and he put that DDT on there. A lot of people get sick and died off of that. But we wouldn稚 allow none of that on our farm. We wouldn稚 let them fly over and spray that stuff either.

Q.: So that was back in the 60痴 right?

William: Right, back then and right today they come by asking for vegetables cause they know we don稚 use chemicals. We use organic. Many people don稚 know what organic means. It don稚 just mean one thing. You can take leaves as good organic that you can put in the field. Along with cow manure or horse manure, you have good deal.

Q.: So Bro. William you just got back out of the hospital, what happened?

William: Well I was out in the weather and didn稚 have on the proper clothing like I was supposed to. And number one I would go by my doctor in Albany and I take a flu shot and a pneumonia shot. And I been doing that for the last 4 or 5 years. But this time I didn稚 and so what happened I went in to get checked and I found out that I had pneumonia in both sides.

Q.: Both lungs?

William: Yes, both lungs.

Q.: When was that?

William: Well, that was about 14 days ago.

Q.: So how are you now?

William: I m doing a lot better. I told my doctor that I didn稚 want to leave out before I was completely well, cause I didn稚 want to have to come back in here.

Q.: Well what else happened when you went into the hospital?

William: Well, they were trying to put in an I.V. in this arm here. An old doctor was trying to put in antibiotic in my vein. He missed the vein and put the needle down in my flesh and it went down to my bone. I said, "Ouch man you hurting me." He said, "It痴 all right it痴 in there now." He walked out. And I laid there praying and suffering. Later on about an hour I couldn稚 raise my hand. It was all swollen up. It took the nurse about 20 minutes to get in there. Meanwhile it was getting bigger and bigger. I couldn稚 raise up my hand.

I said nurse that doctor stuck that needle in me and look at my arm. There was blood all over my arm, on my shirt. It didn稚 go into my vein it went into my flesh. It blew up like an inner tube.

They gave me this medicine and I been taking it and now over the last few days my arm done went down. But it still got some pain in it. There is a lump here at my risk that feels like I got a bullet in it. I can稚 bend my hand right now.

Q.: He must have went down into the joint?

William: Yeah, that痴 exactly what he did.

Q.: What do we need to make this farm work?

William: What we need is for our black people to know, not only here in Georgia, but all over the United States that peace, joy and success is the farm. Heaven is the farm. If we can come together and donate $10, $15 or $20 per week. What ever we can get to get the farm back in shape. Here is our home and we can get all the land adjoining ours. Dear Holy Apostle, I would love to get all the land next to ours.

Q.: The people they thought when they gave to the Three Year Economic Program and we got the farm back that was it.

William: We didn稚 get much out of the Three Year Economic Program. We didn稚 have enough to work with. You here with me, you can see that. There ain稚 enough money to do nothing with. It like a treasury. You steady pulling a little bit in and putting a little bit in, you ain稚 getting nowhere. We need to let our churches, mosques, synagogues, all over, we are black and have to feed ourselves just like the white man. He don稚 believe in no mystery god. We have got to get off of our lazy behinds and stop talking, just do it.