Volume 2, Number 10                                        January 5, 2000

The Farmer

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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 brokered settlement:

  1.                 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.

  2.                 Many feel the government is playing a game with them.

  3.                 Farmers are not currently getting money.

  4.                 Too many denials in "Track A."

  5.                 Need new legal council

  6.                 Nothing gives us our land back.

  7.                 Must become more political

  8.                 Cannot trust either political party.

  9.                 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 international.”

                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 abishop@inetnow.net or Mr. Gary Grant, (252) 826-3017 or email TILLERY@aol.com .

 

Thank you.