February 3, 2008
Via Fax: (202) 228-4260 fax
The Honorable Barack Obama
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Obama:
When I wrote to you initially (12/2/07) requesting you to speak at the 10th National Black Land Loss Summit, it was as your status as A Senator form Illinois who had supported Black farmers across the country by offering up an amendment to the 2007 Farm Bill supporting late claimers in the historic Pigford Class Action. My second letter (2nd letter - 12/31/07) was of the same nature. My third and fourth letters (3rd letter 1/22/08) began to address the possibility of support for your campaign and citizens from across the country making the same request with financial support if they so desired.
Disappointed I am, and many others, that you will not be able to join us at the 10th National Black Land Loss Summit. I do want you to know that I understand and know that you have a very busy schedule, and we probably would not have been notified if you could come until a close date to the time of the Summit. And, I am appreciative that your Washington office did finally respond to someone and the message reached me that neither you, nor anyone from your campaign, would be able to be with us on February 16, 2008 here in rural northeaster North Carolina in the 1st Congressional District represented by the Honorable G.K. Butterfield.
However, in so stating my regrets and disenchantment, let it be known that I am doing so mildly because I am more than disappointed that this organization sent you four (4) letters of request by fax and mail, and had many citizens from around the country write to you and your campaign regarding your possible visit, but we never heard anything from you or your campaign. This is very unsettling since your campaign is based on change and calling for a “New Day” in the country, one that is inclusive and, as your wife stated in a speech I heard recently on TV, “…giving a little respect and dignity” for all of us.
I recently wrote to President George W. Bush regarding an issue of a Black farm family. Yes, I did expect a reply from him even though I am sure he checked and found that I am a life long registered voting Democrat and my name did not appear on his contributors list, no matter how small the contribution. And no, I did not get a response signed by President Bush, but I did get a response from the White House. It was disappointing as well, but at least they acknowledged that the issue and I exist. Regrettably, I cannot say the same here.
Black land loss is not a North Carolina issue, and evidently you are aware of this or you would not have introduced the amendment to the 2007 Farm Bill to support the late Pigford Claimants. As I stated in one of the four letters I sent you, “people come from as many as twenty (20) states to attend the Black Land Loss Summit.” Your support for the Pigford Class late claims is admirable and says you are concerned about how poor and working people are making it in this country, and that if they have been mistreated, they should have their day in court. But alas, not to acknowledge requests is deplorable.
Also, to my knowledge, the last presidential candidate who came through northeastern North Carolina with a message of “hope” was not disappointed in the reception that he found both in numbers and dollars. We could, and still can, have people to stand by you in the same manner.
I am not sure if I will receive a response to this letter or if it will be treated like the other four sent. However, I am notifying you that I am sending this letter to Congressman Butterfield and thanking him for his rapid follow through on a request of one of his constituents. A copy will be placed on the BFAA website, and a copy will be filed in the archives of the Remembering Tillery History Project for those who study the Black farmers issue and the presidential races of this era so they will have access to and know of this great disappointment.
Wishing you all the best,
Gary R. Grant