Volume 2, Number 11 January 18, 2000
Still, No Farms, No Food
by Dr. Ridgely A. Mu'min Muhammad
"No Justice, No Peace, No Farms, No Food" was shouted by hundreds of Black farmers and their supporters as they walked past the cheering crowds lining the streets of downtown Atlanta for the annual MLK March on Monday, January 17, 2000. Police estimated that over 15,000 people followed the marchers to the Martin Luther King Memorial for the rally later that afternoon.
At the rally Gary Grant, President of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association, spoke for the marching farmers representing 13 states when he said that, "It is time to take a stand. A LANDLESS PEOPLE ARE BUT REFUGES IN A STRANGE LAND."
He further added that, "Black farmers are in an unholy war with the USDA, and we are going to win and all the roadblocks and stumbling blocks will be overcome. Just as the US government broke all its treaties with the Native Americans, the Consent Decree in the Pigford vs Glickman settlement is well on its way to being a bogus document just as the treaties with the indigenous people and the 'Emancipation Proclamation...
Black farmers have come here today to say that the 'Check" Dr King spoke of 34 years ago has been returned marked 'Insufficient Funds' once again."
In a farmersí meeting before the rally at First Iconium Baptist Church the Black farmers protested that class council, Al Pires, had not acted in the best interest of his clients when signing on to this Consent Decree. Stephan Bowens, a lawyer for the Land Loss Fund and now giving legal advise to B.F.A.A., explained to the farmers that the media has done a good job at convincing America that the Consent Decree is working when the facts beg to differ. He pointed out that "..1). the Consent Decree is not being implemented properly, 2) over 40% of track A claims have been denied, 3) farmers whose claims have been approved are not receiving the debt relief that was promised by class council , 4) without consulting the farmers, class council approved a doubling of the time limit which had been imposed on the USDA by the court, 5) farmers claims have been denied without the government submitting any evidence to contradict their claims, 6) systemic change has not taken place in the USDA, 7) The USDA is using offsets to further bankrupt Black farmers , i.e., by taking disaster payments, CRP payments, tax returns, and possibly the $50,000 legal awards, 8)USDA is not returning land to Black farmers from inventory."
Mr. Bowens will represent the Black farmers in Washington D.C. February 28th at the Court of Appeals to appeal the Consent Decree and its injustice. He and Mr. Grant are urging all Black farmers who have received letters of denial or have not been responded to in a timely manner to join them in D.C.
Lawyer Savi Horne asked the Black farmers to look at the larger view of the struggle. Protesters against the World Trade Organization (WTO) are protesting the same type of wrongs being done to the Black farmers but on a global basis. She said that she found out on a visit to the orient that if China entered the WTO "she would be required to reduce her farm population by 10 million per year. We must connect our struggle to the struggle of people throughout the world for land."
Gary Grant reemphasized the need to develop coalitions and make Al Gore understand that "...if the Black farmers can't have their land, then you can not be our president. Write, call or e-mail President Bill Clinton and tell him that this injustice must stop. We want action and not promises."
Dr. Ridgely Muhammad responding to a question about the possible negative effects of abandoning the Democratic party by retorting, "What's the difference between dying from a gun shot or an arrow stuck through the heart? Dead is dead and if Clinton, Gore and Glickman can't get this mess straight, then Gore needs to go home to Tennessee and raise horses."
As with the demonstration in Washington, DC on December 13th, the Black farmers brought their "gun posters". And as in D.C. the police and crowd could not resist asking questions about the "gun's" significance. Bro. Barry, an activist from New York, carrying one of the "guns" responded, "A white USDA employee was found guilty of carrying a loaded gun to his office, which he used to intimidate a Black farmer asking about his USDA loan application in 1998. His punishment was one days suspension with pay. So since they can bring guns to work, we thought that we would bring posters of guns to a peace rally."
For information about the trip to the Court of Appeals in Washington, DC on February 28, 2000 call Mr. Gary Grant, (252) 826-2800 or email TILLERY@aol.com.