Monday, March 17, 2008

An Older Post; Obama Doesn't Respond Until After Fourth Invitation

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
President, BFAA

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pigford Class Hopefuls BEWARE OF SCAMS!



Based on information gathered at the 10th National Black Land Loss Summit, the more than 60,000 Late Claims for the historic Black Farmers Class Action – Pigford vs. Glickman, farmers, their decendents and heirs who are looking forward to becoming part of the lawsuit should be cautioned about signing “legal papers and retaining attorneys” before the US Congress and President George W. Bush pass and sign the 2007 Farm Bill. As in the past, there are always those lurking to see, once again, how they can profit from the struggles and catastrophes of others. What needs to be known:

1. How much money will be allocated by Congress?
2. What will be the process for people to have their cases evaluated?
3. What requirements will one have to meet?
4. Does being admitted for evaluation mean I will be successful in the Class?
5. What legal fees will be paid by the government and what legal fees will the claimant be responsible for?
6. How much is a lawyer charging for his/her services?
7. Can anyone other than lawyers file papers for you?

Then you must also consider JUST HOW MUCH PROOF do you have to prove discrimination. It has been the position of BFAA since Attorney Al Pires and the USDA agreed on this “Consent Decree,” that the government would find as many ways as possible to prevent those who have experienced the USDA’s discrimination to simply stall and hold off until the farmer is no longer willing to undergo the torture, is in such a state of ill health that real facts can no longer be recalled or may have died. Decendents trying to carry the case forward may not have all the facts, papers and other pieces needed to be successful in the process.

BFAA cautions on this issue based on the fact that almost 40% of the original claimants were denied and 10 years after Pigford successful claimants are still trying to collect.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact the BFAA office at 252-826-2800 or

The 10th National Black Land Loss Summit was held February 15-17, 2008, held in the Historic Communities of the Tillery Resettlement Farm and the Franklinton Center at Bricks, with 13 states represented and speakers from the Pigford Monitor’s Office, the USDA Office of Civil Rights, Researchers, Activists and farmers and landowners, all who are dealing with the Pigford Class Action.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

We Shall Not Be Moved Documentary Trailer Available

To learn about the importance of land for rural communities, watch our new video about the Tillery Community. The entire trailer is now available for viewing down below. To order a copy please click here.

Spencer Wood and Tillery Community Recognized

February 27, 2008

Spencer Wood and Tillery Resettlement Community Recognized

Press Contact: Gary R. Grant 252-826-2800

Tillery, NC – During The Awards Luncheon at the 10th National Black Land Loss Summit, NC Spencer Wood, PhD of Kansas State University was awarded the “A Man Called Matthew Award” presented by the Concerned Citizens of Tillery (CCT) and the Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant Decedents. The award named in honor of the late Matthew Grant (1918 – 2001), established by CCT in 1988, is awarded periodically to an outstanding individual who supports community based economic development through African American land retention, family farm sustainability, and the development of youth entrepreneurial leadership. While the award has been given eleven times in the twenty years of its existence, Wood is only the second college professor to receive the honor.

Spencer Wood, a native of Colorado, is a professor at Kansas State University. He is a member of the Concerned Citizens of Tillery (CCT) and a board member for the national Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (BFAA). Both BFAA and CCT sponsor the Black Land Loss Summits. He met Gary R. Grant in 1998 during the court hearings on the now historic Pigford vs. Glickman, USDA Secretary Class Action on behalf of Black farmers and has worked diligently on the issue of Black land loss with much vigor. He has helped to organize all ten Black Land Loss Summits and attended eight. He has worked on several significant research efforts, especially in establishing a Fund for a Rural America Center on Minority Land Security.

Also, Senator Ed Jones presented the Concerned Citizens of Tillery (CCT) a special recognition from the North Carolina Senate. The Certificate of Recognition was accepted by CCT Board Chair Gary R. Redding, and it read in part “upon the occasion of its 30th Anniversary and recognizes the group for co-hosting the 10th National Black Land Loss Summit.”

Sen. Jones also made Special Presentations of Recognitions to the five remaining original Resettlers of the Tillery Resettlement Farms of the 1930s and 40’s. Present for the presentations were Adell Edmonds Davis and Delores Harvey Amason, accepting for her father Leroy Harvey. All certificates were signed by Beverly E. Perdue, President of the Senate; Marc Basnight, President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Senator Edward Jones, 4th Senatorial District.

He has also written and been published on the decline of African-American farmers including "Who Owns the Land?: Agricultural Land Ownership by Race/Ethnicity" and "Returning African-American Farmers to the Land: Recent Trends and a Policy Rationale. " He has authored several other papers pertaining to historical efforts to combat Black Land Loss. Wood’s dissertation explores the importance of land ownership in Mileston, MS an African-American New Deal Resettlement Community in the Mississippi Delta. In particular, he explores how land ownership fostered civic growth contributing to Mileston's significant role in the Mississippi civil rights movement. Wood can be contacted at sdwood At ksu DOT edu.

Photo Caption 1- Spencer D. Wood, PhD Sociology smiles broadly with decedents of Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant after receiving the “A Man Called Matthew Award” during the 10th National Black Land Loss Summit. Left to right are: Gary R. Grant, President of the National Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) and Executive Director of Concerned Citizens of Tillery (CCT); Dr. Wood; Evangeline Grant Redding Briley, Master Sky Cameron Myers (3rd generation descendent) and twins Gary Rudolph Redding and Haile Redding Myers (second generation decedents).

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