Volume 3, Number 10 August 1, 2000
“Two Days, Two Victories”
by Dr. Ridgely A. Mu’min Muhammad
On Sunday morning, July 30, Unity 2000 invited Black Farmers &Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) to lead the march and hold the UNITY 2000 banner through the streets of downtown Philadelphia to a mass rally in front of the Art Museum. 20,000 or more walked through the streets chanting slogans as: "No Justice, No Peace", "No Farms, No Food"; "One person, One vote"; "A people united will never be defeated." Dr. Ridgely Muhammad, Ag Economist for BFAA, spoke on behalf of Gary Grant, the president of BFAA, carrying on stage a homegrown watermelon. He addressed the crowd by saying, " You all look like a big juicy watermelon. This watermelon represents what we do, we are Black farmers. It also represents this rally, on the outside it looks like a shell of many colors, but on the inside there is one essence and a bunch of seeds. Hopefully you will go forth from this rally, be fruitful and multiply this message of unity." Dr. Muhammad gave them a brief history of the struggle of the Black farmers against the USDA and admonished the crowd, that "...what they did to the Black farmers first, now they are doing to all farmers. Why does this government want the people off of the land? Who does Dan Glickman (Sec. of Agriculture) work for? It certainly is not us. Beware, you are being set up for the slaughter. The big corporations will own all the seeds and therefore control the food supply of the world. If China comes into the World Trade Organization (WTO), she will have to get rid of 10 million family farmers per year to allow America and the west to sell her food. One day there will be a black or brown president and to stop our power we will be tricked by England into a war with China. One day the genetically engineered seeds will not work, a famine will ensue in America. But someone is going to tell China that we are hoarding the food, forcing her to go to war with us. Either you take back control of your food supply or you are going to die." Dr. Muhammad ended his presentation by showing two faces of a large gun poster." What is the difference between a republican and a democrat: one with a gun in your face, the other with a gun at your back." The next day, July 31, over 300 farmers filed into the Federal Court of Appeals to show their support for a motion filed by lawyers Stephon Bowens and Marcus Jimason ( Land Loss Prevention Project, Durham, NC) on behalf of BFAA. The motion asked the judge to amend the Consent Decree because it simply was not working as the judge had intended it to work. Gary R. Grant, president stated that, "The number of Black farmers who made the trip from 18 states would certainly be of great value as the attorneys addressed the court." Dr. Ashanty Farid representing the Alabama BFAA Chapter said, "I was a little shaky at first as to how the judge was taking all of this. However, when the attorneys representing the USDA asked the judge to throw out the motion, and the judge decided to accept the motion presented by attorney Bowens, I felt like my prayer was answered." Stephon Bowens accused the USDA of perjuring itself by falsifying evidence against the farmers. Judge Friedman asked Attorney Bowens directly, "Are you saying that the USDA has falsified records to keep the farmers from winning their case?" The audience of now over 300 farmers in the court room responded loudly, "YES!!!" Judge Friedman was visibly affected by the unexpected outburst of emotion from the heretofore completely silent audience. Grant continues to maintain that this Consent Decree will be the death of the remaining few Black farmers if it is allowed to go forth with the present interpretation by USDA. “It behooves Federal District Judge Paul Friedman to step in and clarify his intent when he signed the Consent Decree. I would say we will fair well from this hearing." In attendance in that court room was an 86 year old Black woman farmer, Mrs. Rosa Murphy, who had bought a farm in Georgia in 1938. She was denied the $50,000settlement because the USDA said that she had never farmed or owned a farm. Friends of hers had to help her find her documentation of ownership, so that maybe now the USDA would grant her the compensation. Her case is one of many blatant miscarriages of justice that this so-called Consent Decree has perpetrated on the Black farmers once again. The previous day Dr. Muhammad had told the audience in Philadelphia, that "...the sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of these Black farmers must know that they did not lose their land because they were stupid or lazy, they just trusted the USDA." Commentary: In this election year Black people must understand that you count, each one of you. When the Black farmers organized BFAA to fight the USDA in 1997, there were only 6 of them. That number grew to 600 by 1998. Now over 20,000 Black people have been given a chance to participate in the settlement. Nobody was listening at first, but now the Democrats are concerned, the Republicans are concerned, the Independents are concerned and soon each of you will be concerned. A long journey always begins with the first step. Step up to the plate. Get involved with the National Agenda Project (People’s Agenda) of the Million Family March scheduled to take place October 16, 2000in Washington, DC. Begin to meet and shape your own destiny. Make the first move and watch the "mountain" lean your way.