2, Number 10
January 5, 2000
Black Farmers: The Struggle Continues
by Dr. Ridgely A. Mu'min Muhammad
They came in the rain. They came with "guns" (pictures of
guns). Over 100 Black farmers and
supporters weathered a pouring rainstorm and chilly temperatures to make a
statement in front of the White House on December, 13, 1999. Now they intend to take that word and carry those
"guns" to the MLK March and Rally in Atlanta on January 17, 2000.
The group, including a dozen white farmers, and two mules--named
"Struggle" and "Forty Acres"--was protesting three years of
inaction by President Clinton, even in the face of a victory by the farmers in a
class action lawsuit.
After a year of protests which began Dec. 12, 1996, President Clinton
promised members of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) and the Black
Farmers and Agriculturists Association (BFAA) that he would terminate several
officials in farm service agencies within the US Department of Agriculture,
according to NBFA President John Boyd. Dr.
Ridgely Muhammad along with other protesters carried posters drawn and cut in
the form of "guns" to highlight the hollowness of Mr. Clinton's words.
After being confronted by police and undercover agents about the
significance of the "gun" posters, Dr. Muhammad explained that,
"A white USDA employee was found guilty of carrying a loaded gun to his
office, which he used to intimidate Black farmers seeking information about USDA
programs and loans. His punishment
was a one day suspension with pay. So
since they can bring guns to work, we thought that we would bring posters of
guns to the White House.", he said. “We
wanted to emphasize that the same people, attitudes and procedures that the
Black farmers sued the government over will be awaiting them when they go back
to deal with the USDA as Black farmers. Nothing has changed,”, added the farmer from Georgia.
"Black farmers are still getting the short end of the stick and
being denied justice and due compensation for the discriminatory and racist
actions taken against them by USDA agents who have caused more than 13 million
acres of land to be stolen from them,” said Mr. Boyd.
Despite their victory in Pigford vs. Glickman class action lawsuit, the
situation for Black farmers has turned out to be a “nightmare,” said BFAA
President Gary Grant. Almost a year
has passed since Judge Paul Friedman signed a preliminary Consent Decree
settling the suit. It promised
$50,000 and a debt write-off to those farmers who could prove that illegal
actions had been taken against them by USDA agents.
A minimal amount of documentation was supposed to be required.
“No other victims have ever had to furnish such proof after a culprit
had pleaded guilty to actions. That
can only be seen as sabotage,” said Mr. Grant.
Despite news reports to the contrary, literally tens of thousands of
Black farmers are being denied benefits and being told that the discrimination
which they allege, did not even occur, said Sam Taylor, BFAA executive director.
The Black farmers gave a laundry list of complaints against the USDA
Many farmers complained of receiving letters which informed them that
they would be receiving more information
in a given time. The time had
passed and they had heard nothing.
Many feel the government is playing a game with them.
Farmers are not currently getting money.
Too many denials in "Track A."
Need new legal council
Nothing gives us our land back.
Must become more political
Cannot trust either political party.
Most folks being paid are those with no debt, little acreage and very
little write off.
The Black farmers will be taking their struggle to the people in the form
of voter registration and education in light of the year 2000 elections. One thing is clear, said Dr. Muhammad, “If Clinton and Gore
can not follow through on giving the Black farmers justice when the government
finds its self at fault, then how can we vote for Gore to be president based on
more baseless promises. Gore has a
few months to fix this mess or go home to Tennessee. The ‘Battle in Seattle’ continues, our struggle has gone
The Black farmers will lead the Martin Luther King Day March and Rally on
Monday, January 17, 2000 in Atlanta.
For information about the rally call Mr. Melvin Bishop, Pres. of Ga.
Chapter of BFAA at (706) 485-9673 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Mr. Gary
Grant, (252) 826-3017 or email TILLERY@aol.com .