Friday, March 7, 2008

Open Letter to President Bush

Please print this letter and fax or mail to President Bush immediately. The unjust treatment of African-American farmers by the US Department of Agriculture has got to stop!

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to express my concern about a case of racial harassment and discrimination facing the family of one of our prominent black national leaders. Recently U.S. Marshals delivered a Writ of Execution regarding foreclosure proceedings to Gary Grant and the other heirs of Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant in the New Deal Resettlement Community of Tillery, NC. While never denying their responsibilities for any and all debts that they incurred, the Grants have proven that they were racially discriminated against by local USDA offices. This family's Civil Rights complaints against the USDA and its former agency Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) have been proven time and time again. According to what I have discovered, even this Writ is the result of discriminatory practices by the USDA and its agent(s) on loans made to the Grants. The effect of this discrimination is that the family has accrued additional debt on loans made over 20 years ago. That this family has led Blacks in North Carolina and their community and refused to accept second-class treatment has effectively made them a target of the local agricultural power structure. In numerous ways they have not received the same consideration nor flexible assistance offered their white counterparts in the county.

As you are aware, farming is an inherently risky and capital intensive enterprise. The bulk of the debt in question for the Grants was acquired during the early 1970s and persisted due to a series of “declared disastrous” years. By aggressively pursuing the family’s debt, the local agricultural structure hoped to send a clear message to the other Blacks in the community that “they should stay in their place.” Similar small debts were easily dealt with among white farmers in the county. Mr. Grant, who was a successful farmer when he came to the former FmHA at USDA for loans, was placed on supervised loans; made loans at higher interest rates than white farmers all around him; and he, like other Black farmers, received his loans late. That this family has been in a struggle with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for more than 20 years over such a relatively small sum, is a signal that something has gone awry in the process for citizens to settle Civil Rights Complaints with the department.

I further understand that USDA, in 1996, failed to live up to a Final Judgment that covered four years of USDA discrimination against Mr. and Mrs. Grant. This is especially troubling because the document was signed by all parties, including the USDA’s Office of Civil Rights. Perhaps if this document had been executed as agreed, the Grant children would not be facing the current Writ of Execution. The USDA reneged on this document of trust just as it has with many such signed agreements involving others. Such an obvious disregard for the well-being of potentially successful small family farmers is shameful for the government offices President Lincoln originally called “the people's department.”

I did not get to know the late Mr. & Mrs. Grant, but I do know their heirs. I know that this family is a family of leaders. They are hard working, tax paying citizens who love justice and equality. Sadly, representatives of our government have dragged them through this torture and hardship because they refused to accept second-class treatment and worked to make their community a better place. In addition to being the first Black president of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative, the first Black on the North Carolina Rural Electric Cooperative Board, Superintendent of his church’s Sunday School and a church trustee, he was also an entrepreneur and served as a past-President of the Lower Halifax County NAACP. Like all of the previous NAACP leaders from the Tillery Resettlement Farms Community, Matthew Grant had his land and livelihood threatened. Although deceased, he is the only past president to still have his land, though it is under attack.

Mr. President, you have the power and influence to end this family’s struggle against racism and bigotry. You can cause these actions and any other action against this family to cease and desist. You, as the President of the United States, have the opportunity and duty to rectify the mistakes and/or oversights made by departments under your direct control and other branches of government, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ). So you are now being asked, at a time when the 2007 Farm Bill is in “Committee” - which might provide a modest sum of money for the cause of the “Socially Disadvantage” farmer - to use your power in these matters related to the Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant Family and send a clear and present signal to the DOJ, USDA and its agent FSA that you will not tolerate the mistreatment of our citizens. Your immediate attention to this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Yours truly,

Friends of the Grant Family


Gary Grant, President, BFAA said...

here's the first of the letters Jeff C. wrote on our behalf. Thank you Jeff!

Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2008 18:00:11 -0500
Subject: letter
Mr. Grant:

I sent the letter.

If nobody else apologizes, I just want you to know it was wrong and I am deeply sadden what discrimination has done to so many lives and our national security.

I hope for a executive order.


Gary Grant, President, BFAA said...

Here's Jeff's second letter. Jeff's comments show how what is happening to Black farmers is happening to all small farmers around the country. Thanks again Jeff!

Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2008 12:17:14 -0500
Subject: Re: letter
Hello Mr. Grant:

Years ago, I recall helping my aunt from which I had the opportunity to chisel plow my deceased grandpa cottrell ground.

I recall the pride that over came me as I lowered my plows and as I plowed reflecting back of the times spent with my grandpa.

When I first was talking to my grandmother stuller about renting her farms, it made me proud to know the struggles my grandpa went thru to accomplish so much without a piece of paper from which he was not a "stupid son of a bitch" like the rich people in town said who was upset because he was able to buy the ground and not them. In fact he was a very smart man that always stayed one jump ahead of anybody. He was awesome at checkers and when I won the title of 6th grade checker champion, I was lucky some of him rubbed off on me.

My grandmother was always proud to talk about her husband and it was always rewarding to be able to walk on the land and just vision the future.

One of the many abuses that a lot of people just don't get and can not be understood in a report is the make up of the blood of a farmer.

We throw money away trying to understand why isn't the people entering the business but yet we have done nothing to change the past for the better. People can't heal, the abuse repeats itself and the blood of the farmer is contaminated from which it can't flow.

It was hard when my grandmother was dying knowing because of all the evil which included the USDA, I could not save the farms, I felt so angry and hurt that I could no longer dream knowing I had to fight something I could not see and who all was involved. The hardest thing I have ever done was telling my grandmother I could not save the farms crying like the biggest baby if you will. It was hard but she also knew how much I loved her because I had never told her that before but I did on this day. I knew I could not ever farm until I conquered the evil.

Today, I have no farms. I have no livilyhood but I am much closer to conquering the evil from which someday the blood will flow Mr. Grant for our national security once again.

I remember being told I could not accomplish my goal of being a "American Farmer" in FFA but I did that. I recall being told I could not conquer this evil but I will do that Mr. Grant. The evil system creates so much anger that one can not see the future but it is there.

I used to drive around with a "paybacks are hell" printed on my bug shield mounted on the front of my one ton dually pick up truck. I remember wearing a hat that said "farm and get- it then had a big screw on it" but in the my time fighting I came to understand why I was so angry in High School, afterwards etc... and I knew I had to change because one can not live life like that. I remember praying promising I would take down the bug shield forever no matter what. I took down that bug shield Mr. Grant in 1996 when I won my reversal.

My aunt Joyce always said life is good if the mind does not go first.

I understand the importance of your farm Mr. Grant. It is something that is very rewarding if one does understand but I also am sorry for the anger thru no fault of your own that you are having to live with day in and day out. It shows you truely do care about the future.

Will I be able to save the farm, it is something that I pondered for years. I believe we can Mr. Grant. Today, I see and know the evil.

Thank You for your hard efforts for our national security today and our future tomorrow. This is what makes great leaders forever rememorable Mr. Grant.


jeff c.

Gary Grant, President, BFAA said...

And here's a copy an email that Jeff sent to president. Feel free to use this as a template to help frame your own outrage about this attack on America's farmers. Good work Jeff.

Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2008 17:54:36 -0500
Subject: stop the abuse
Mr. President:

Since 1980, the department of agriculture has not been complying nor monitoring the equal credit opportunity act. Employees were not trained properly and farmers were not advised of their rights. the executive order did not list the act itself.

For decades discrimination imbedded the operations of the USDA.

I ask for a executive order "staying all foreclosures" from which the department is forced to clean up its mess it created.

We talk about 30% not entering farming and not replacing the older age gap, why not do something today to stop the bleeding and create the much need interest in the people knowing their department always will have their back.

I ask you to read the letter enclosed.

Before you go let history know what leadership is all about. There has been a attack on our national security Mr. President. I ask for your help.


Jeff C.

Gary Grant, President, BFAA said...

Another letter in support. Thank you William!

March 5, 2008

Via facsimile: 202-456-2461
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Sustaining and preserving family farms in America is not only a moral obligation of a President, but a life giving force for the citizens of the United States and often world wide populations. As a Compassionate Conservative, we feel you need to be made aware of a situation in North Carolina that requires your assistance and intervention to do just that—protect and preserve a family farm of a Black family that has been productive for generations. We know you have little patience and regard for racial discrimination and it is our sincere expectation that you will intervene to see justice done to a very deserving NC farm family and community leaders.

The farm of Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant in the New Deal Resettlement Community of Tillery, North Carolina has been the victim of racial discrimination by the local United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the former Farmers Home Administration (FmHA). This fact has been proven repeatedly by the shameful loss of farms owned by Blacks in the South and has been confirmed by studies of the practices of the USDA and FmHA.

In 1996, a judicial ruling in favor of the Grant family was issued in a Final Judgment that covered four years of discrimination against Mr. and Mrs. Grant including the USDA’s office of Civil Rights. The majority of the debt was acquired in the early 1970s and persisted due to a series of “declared disastrous” years. It was determined that because the family was Black, the loans had higher interest rates and less favorable terms. Additional debt has been added to the original amounts since that time. I understand the USDA failed to comply with the 1996 ruling and the debt continued to accrue interest and penalty. Due to the lack of compliance with this decision, the Grant family has had to continue to struggle with the United States Department of Agriculture, which is a violation that should be pursued by the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. There is no legal, moral or convincing reason this family should continue to endure the continued pursuit by the USDA while they are non-compliant with the 1996 Final Judgement.

Our family has been farmers since the mid 1770s and we join with the Grant family and find this injustice to be intolerable. We plead for your intervention, power and influence to end this family’s struggle against the obvious and judicially validated racism and bigotry. Only you have the power to stop the Writ of Execution of Foreclosure on the only remaining Black farm in the New Deal Resettlement in Tillery, North Carolina. The loss of this farm will shame you and all citizens of the United States as well as all efforts to bring equity and balance for all people, regardless of color or ethnicity under the US Rule of Laws.

I close with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”


William H.