Sunday, December 12, 2010

Under the Cloak of Darkness


December 10, 2010


Contact: Gary R. Grant, President at (252) 826-2800


Tillery, NC

Under the cloak of darkness in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, December 8, 2010, the first Black president of the United States signed into law H. R. 4783 which may be the very instrument that will once and for all seal the fate in exterminating Black farmers in America. Against a back drop of the American flag, with several government officials standing behind him and approximately 100 on lookers, including elected officials, Black farmers and Native Americans from several states enjoined in the Cobell Settlement case, the general mood in the room was one of "elation and excitement."

As I personally witnessed this historic occasion, feeling extremely emotional about how overwhelmed my parents, the late Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant (deceased 2001 six months apart), would be to know that their years of civil rights struggles helped lead to the reality of an elected African American president, I thought too, of the horror of the hardships and heart break of my late parents, who filed their discrimination suit against their USDA local office more than 30 years ago, yet have never received their compensation for their settlement through the Administrative Process (1996), and other Black farmers who have died never having had closure to their discrimination claims against the USDA.
I also thought about my late brother Richard D. Grant (deceased 2004), a farmer and Viet Nam Veteran who died way to early from the stress of twenty-five plus years of struggle to get justice for discrimination against him.

There can be no doubt about President Obama's commitment to complete this historic legislation, since he was the Senator who introduced a bill when he was the only black Senator in the U. S. Senate. After his statement to the group and signing the bill, President Obama seemed more eager to shake the hands of the legislative members present than those hard working, suffering farmers and advocates for Pigford and seemed to lack a warm connection to the lowly farmer. Perhaps he should take Shirley Sherrod up on her invitation, and I offer the same, come out to rural America and meet some real struggling citizens.

Since I have been privileged to meet with two other presidents on this issue, the noted difference is that President Clinton took the time to pose with each Black farmer as he entered the room. President Bush did not rush from the room after addressing the "black leaders" and allowed time for photographs to be taken, including candid shots.

And certainly, Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), John Lewis (D-GA) Maxine Waters (D-CA), and many others must be given credit for their many years of hard work and standing firmly behind the scenes working to make both Pigford I and now Pigford II possible.

Entering the White House on Wednesday, December 8, 2010 was reminiscent of my first opportunity to meet a sitting president, Bill Clinton, on a cold and frigid December (1997) night that I also term "under the cloak of darkness," when a meeting with Black farmers had to be changed to an integrated meeting with "small family farmers" so that the tenor of the meeting would be "politically correct," even though it was only just Black farmers who had filed a class action against the USDA in August of 1997.

Or the fact that President George Bush met with some three hundred "Black leaders" and held a private meeting with a couple of Republican Black farmers from Georgia who had supported the ouster of a great Black representative, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (GA), as some source of political commensurate payment for the struggle of Black farmers.

Seemingly forgotten in the process are those Black farmers who are in the Administrative Process or have outstanding court claims, like my parents, not to mention those who filed Civil Rights claims during the "Bush years" who are now threatened with loss of their claims because of the Statutes of Limitations being used against them since the Bush Administration did pretty much as the Reagan Administration by stripping the office of Civil Rights and not following up on filed claims.

Interestingly and conspicuously forgotten on this occasion was Tim Pigford for whom the class action is named, although Elouise Cobell, a Blackfoot nation member, and former USDA Secretary Dan Glickman were present.

So all in all, we close a chapter, but the story is far from being completed as the evil and recalcitrant agents of the government never lost their employment, and are now preparing for rich retirements with many benefits from having stolen the land, the livelihood, the health and for causing all manner of family destruction in the lives of so many Black farmers.

To add insult to injury, to have two current Republican U S Congressional Representatives to refer to the Pigford lawsuit as "fraud" and as a form of "reparations" while they insist on a windfall of unjust tax cuts for the wealthiest two per cent boggles the senses and reminds us once again that there is little honor bestowed on an elected Black President, and that racism threatens and is still sustainable for future generations of black and other children of color, and will be staggeringly costly for all Americans.

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