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Most in Congress—even deficit-hawk Republicans like House Minority Leader Rep. John

Boehner—are on record supporting the settlement. But heading into November, they

likely don't want to have an additional $1.15 billion next to their name in campaign

ads about government spending.



Why isn't Washington paying what it owes to black farmers?

By Chris Kromm


For many, the scandal surrounding Shirley Sherrod's dubious ouster from the U.S. Agriculture Department was the first they'd heard of civil rights battles over farm policy, particularly the landmark Pigford case focused on redressing decades of discriminatory policies against African-American farmers.

Filed in 1997 by North Carolina farmer Timothy Pigford, the class-action lawsuit against the USDA led to two momentous victories for the plaintiffs: In 1999, the black farmers reached a settlement with the government for over $1 billion.

However, many black farmers never had their cases heard because they filed late—over 73,000 petitions that became Pigford II. (The reasons for the late filings have been blamed on inadequate notice being provided, extenuating circumstances like hurricanes, and, according to one of the judges, bad lawyers for the farmers, "bordering on legal malpractice" [pdf].)

On February 18 this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Washington was settling the Pigford II claims for a total of $1.25 billion. Anticipating this, Congress appropriated $100 million for the settlement in the 2008 Farm Bill, so President Obama requested that Congress include the remaining $1.15 billion in its FY2010 budget.

But Congress never coughed up the money. Sen. Inouye (D-HI) introduced an amendment to the spending bill, but on March 10 the Senate voted 66-34 to end debate, immediately killing the measure.

The Pigford II settlement funding came up again in Congress in June, when a measure to extend unemployment benefits also included funding black farmer claims. But Senate Republicans blocked that bill on a 57-41 filibuster.

Funding the settlement emerged again this month, when Democrats attached it to the emergency spending bill for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The House approved the measure, but last week the Senate again voted it down. In all, 51 senators voted against the version of the bill including funding for the USDA settlement, including 11 Democrats.

Why has the Senate failed three times to provide funding for a settlement the government agreed to honor? The answer likely has to do with election-year politics.

Most in Congress—even deficit-hawk Republicans like House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner—are on record supporting the settlement. But heading into November, they likely don't want to have an additional $1.15 billion next to their name in campaign ads about government spending.

But unless the federal government reneges on the settlement (there's a loophole that allows the USDA to vacate the claims if Congress doesn't give them the money, but the Obama administration has said they won't go this route), they'll have to pay for the USDA claims sooner or later.

As it stands, the Senate is just putting off the inevitable—and playing politics instead of honoring its legal obligation to African-American farmers.

Source: Southern Studies  

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Shirley Sherrod long a thorn in Ag Dept.'s side—By Willie Brown—San Francisco Chronicle July 25, 2010As an old pro, though, I know that you don't fire someone without at least hearing their side of the story unless you want them gone in the first place. This woman has been a thorn in the side of the Agriculture Department for years. She was part of a class-action lawsuit against the department on behalf of black farmers in the South. For years, she has been operating a community activist organization not unlike ACORN.

I think there were those in the Agriculture Department who objected to her being hired in the first place. Plus there was the politics. If you are running for election in south Georgia, you don't want to have to explain someone like Sherrod. But I have to add that the overreaction of the White House once again underscores Obama's own problem with race. This president has carefully crafted his image, and it hinges on his not being seen as a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton, as a flack for the NAACP or the Urban League.

In other words, he does not want to be seen as a "black" president. He wants to be seen as a president who happens to be black. That mind-set permeates his administration. Anytime there's an issue that is clearly "black," the Obama people do not want to be associated with it in any fashion. We saw it first in his distancing himself from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and to a lesser extent in the dust-up between police and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. And now this.

Obama has come in for considerable criticism from a number of respectable and important black people. He has a Latino issues adviser. He has an adviser on gay rights. He has an adviser on senior issues, on labor—but there is no African American issues adviser. There has been no big black cultural celebration at the White House. There's only one black in his cabinet. Even George W. Bush had more blacks in positions of power than Obama. Frankly, I think some of the sniping is unfair. Obama really is trying his best to elevate the racial climate and bring this country into the 21st century—but there's a lot of mid-20th century left in America.—SFGate

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Hard feelings about handling of Shirley Sherrod have deep roots in Georgia—Black farmers in the South have been subject to discrimination, even in recent yearsand the former USDA official has been right there with them.—Willie Adams [photo above] was one of the first farmers to join a class-action suit for discrimination settled for $2 billion against the USDA in 1997. . . .

In Sherrod's southwest Georgia home, many saw a painful loop of history.

The racism charge was not lodged at just any official. Her family is intertwined with this region's tortured tale of racial animus. And the agency that quickly distanced itself from her was not just any arm of power. The Agriculture Department has long been a symbol of lingering institutional discrimination.

And southwest Georgia is no ordinary pocket in the Deep South. Historians describe it as among the most difficult to integrate in the 1960s. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. left Albany having accomplished little. Change was so slow to come that sharecropping, although rare, existed until the early 1970s.

Erma Wilburn, who once participated with Sherrod in a farming cooperative, sees much work left to do to obtain equality. The election of a black U.S. president has not changed that, she said.

"You don't fire a black woman from the South like that," Wilburn said. "Don't you know she had to go through something to get to where she is?"

Shirley Sherrod was born Shirley Miller just outside Albany in Baker County, or "bad Baker County," as it was also known by blacks in the area. Her father grew corn, cotton and peanuts on the more than 500 acres he owned. Sherrod and her sisters worked in the fields, went to the Baptist church and studied hard.

She was a senior at the all-black East Baker High School, about to become the first to graduate in her family, when she got the news on a March afternoon in 1965. Her father had been shot. Relatives rushed to the hospital to give blood. It was too late.

The family says Hosie Miller was killed by a white neighbor after a dispute over cattle. No one was ever indicted in the case. Sherrod says the killing led her to her calling, to work for justice in southwest Georgia.

She married Charles Sherrod, who was part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and had come to town to register black voters. He was a leader in the coalition of civil rights groups known as the Albany Movement.

In 1969, the Sherrods and other leaders formed New Communities Inc., a cooperative farm run by committee. For the next 15 years, about a dozen black families lived and worked there.

"We shared what we had," Wilburn said. "We supported each other."

The farm, like many in the region, was battered by drought in the 1980s. Unlike other farms, New Communities' request for a federal emergency loan to build a small irrigation system was denied, without clear explanation, an arbitrator later found. The next year, 1982, the group decided to sell timber to help keep the farm afloat. But the USDA unexpectedly took the profits as a precondition for another loan. When New Communities applied for a loan in 1983, the agency requested a deed on the land as collateral. It took the deed, but gave nothing in return.

By 1985, New Communities was bankrupt and the last of its farm, once nearly 6,000 acres, was sold. Across the South in the 1970s and 1980s, scores of black farmers lost their land and livelihoods while the USDA, historically a sort of safety net for family farms, allowed them to slip through. Unable to get timely loans, denied bank credit, and poorly informed of the options available, their farms sputtered.

In August 1997, a North Carolina farmer named Timothy Pigford sued the Agriculture Department, claiming racial discrimination and arguing that civil rights complaints had not been responded to since the Reagan administration had dismantled the Office of Civil Rights in 1983.

A USDA study at the time found that blacks waited three times as long as whites to get federal loans processed. Hundreds of black farmers signed on to Pigford's class-action lawsuit. Negotiations in the case turned ugly when a government lawyer allegedly used a racial epithet in referring to a farmers' advocate on a conference call.

Less than a year later, a judge approved a $2-billion settlement. The pact allowed each farmer to seek $50,000 cash and debt forgiveness, or pursue a larger amount through arbitration.

In 2009, chief arbitrator Michael Lewis ruled the department had discriminated against New Communities in denying it a loan. Unlike the Sherrods, white farmers who put up collateral received money in exchange. The government's demand that New Communities turn over $50,000 in profit from the timber sale "smacks of nothing more than a feudal baron demanding additional crops from his serfs," Lewis wrote.

New Communities was awarded $12.8 million. Shirley and Charles Sherrod each were awarded $150,000 for "mental anguish." By some estimates 80,000 black farmers were shut out of the Pigford settlement because of late claims and, in some cases, poor legal representation. Congress has agreed to reopen the case, but has not yet appropriated money for more settlements.

Last week, it missed another chance. The Senate pulled $1.25 billion for black farmers out of another funding bill. But for locals here, they still have the gracious example of Shirley Sherrod.

 On July 26, a week after she had been attacked, apologized to, vindicated and interviewed by media out of state, Sherrod visited a campaign office tucked in a strip mall here.

A small crowd, mostly middle-aged black women, had come for a campaign kickoff for the local congressman. But it was also a homecoming of sorts for a local daughter. The women sat quietly on folding chairs in neat rows. The heat from outside oozed in. Hand-held fans were flapping. A punch bowl was sweating.

When Sherrod entered, the cheers began.

"Shirley! Shirley!"

Source: LaTimes

*   *   *   *   *

The civil rights heroism of Charles Sherrod—Andrew Breitbart sure picked the wrong people to symbolize black "racism." Taylor Branch and Clay Carson weigh in— July 22, 2010—People who care about civil rights and racial reconciliation may eventually thank Andrew Breitbart for bringing Shirley Sherrod the global attention she deserves. Really. Her message of racial healing, her insight that the forces of wealth and injustice have always pit "the haves and the have-nots" against each other, whatever their race, is exactly what's missing in today's Beltway debates about race. What's even more amazing, but almost completely unexplored in this controversy, is the historic civil rights leadership role of her husband, Charles Sherrod, an early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who served on the front lines of the nonviolent civil rights movement in the early 1960s. . . .

Sherrod was SNCC's first field secretary, and he co-founded the Albany movement after a student sit-in at the local bus station (to test a recently enacted desegregation law) led to a years-long campaign that ultimately involved Martin Luther King Jr. and the intervention of President John F. Kennedy. He traveled to the historic (and almost all-white) 1964 Democratic National Convention, when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party fought for more black representation. He was jailed several times and stayed with SNCC until 1966, when Stokely Carmichael became chair and whites were expelled, but he'd already become more focused on his work in southwest Georgia than SNCC politics. Sherrod got his doctor of divinity degree from New York's Union Theological Seminary, then returned to Albany to found the Southwest Georgia Independent Voters Project, then the agricultural cooperative New Communities Inc. He served 14 years on the Albany City Council, and he still lives there, known to civil rights movement veterans but obscure to the wider world, until his wife was attacked by the ignorant bullies of the right. . . .

Taylor Branch hopes the ugly treatment of Shirley Sherrod has the unintended positive consequence of "adding some context about a truly remarkable couple." Branch was sequestered in a Philadelphia library, researching his next book, and emerged to see headlines about some squabble over a USDA official. He read the story: "I said, 'Oh my God, it's Shirley Sherrod?' She is such a gem, and he is such a gem. We should really be listening to what she has to say."

Clay Carson agrees, but he couldn't resist voicing disappointment in President Obama for the administration's rapid dismissal of Shirley Sherrod before all the facts were in. "This is a symbol of something much larger: On civil liberties issues, he's just lost it. Nobody should ever be dismissed from a position for something they're saying on Fox. As a matter of principle, you don't fire someone without some kind of internal due process and investigation. But this is an administration that can order the assassination of an American citizen. It's disappointing, to say the least." Salon

*   *   *   *   *

Lies and the Vilification of Black Women  / Olbermann: The witch-hunt vs. Sherrod

The rapid and misguided condemnation—and subsequent resignation—of Shirley Sherrod has reignited a lot of questions about the role of race in America's political landscape. As Nation columnist Melissa Harris-Lacewell explained last night on Countdown, American politicians have long been assigning blame to black women—and "the mythical welfare queen" in particular—for a whole host of problems. 

"The vilification of black women for sport and political gain has been sort of a basic part of the American political strategy for both the Republican and Democratic parties for a couple of decades now," Harris-Lacewell says. And the fact that the NAACP, the organization that should have come to Sherrod's defense, lacked the basic understanding of her background that would have helped them correct the problem is the worst of it.

"To say her last name alone should have prompted, for the head of the NAACP, an immediate moment of pausing," Harris-Lacewell says.—Carrie Battan 

*   *   *   *   *

Black farmers, Indians closer to US settlement—By Mary Clare Jalonick—20 November 2010—Under legislation passed by the Senate on Friday, black farmers who claim discrimination at the hands of the Agriculture Department would receive almost $1.2 billion. American Indians who say they were swindled out of royalties by the Interior Department would split $3.4 billion. Both cases have languished for more than a decade, and plaintiffs say beneficiaries are dying off. "The Senate finally did the right thing," said John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association. "They stepped up and told the world civil rights still matter in America."

The legislation was approved in the Senate by voice vote Friday and sent to the House. The money had been held up for months in the chamber as Democrats and Republicans squabbled over how to pay for it. . . . For the black farmers, it is the second round of funding from a class-action lawsuit originally settled in 1999 over allegations of widespread discrimination by local Agriculture Department offices in awarding loans and other aid. It is known as the Pigford case, named after Timothy Pigford, a black farmer from North Carolina who was an original plaintiff.

The government already has paid out more than $1 billion to about 16,000 black farmers, with most getting about $50,000. The new money is intended for people—some estimates say 70,000 or 80,000—who were denied earlier payments because they missed deadlines for filing. The individual amounts depend on how many claims are successfully filed.AJC

*   *   *   *   *

Charles Sherrods Uncle Toms  / Sherrod New Communities Suit  /

Rev. Charles Sherrod Delivers Keynote Address at Race and Law Conference

The Rev. Charles Sherrod delivers a keynote address at "50 Years After the Sit-Ins,"

a conference at the University of Virginia School of Law.

*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  /  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  /  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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Ten years ago, Rohan Marley, Co-Founder and CEO of Marley Coffee, set out to fulfill one of the visions left by his late father to establish a business centered on giving back to the underprivileged and voiceless. Bob Marley always said he wanted to return to farming one day after his music career was completed, but he never had the opportunity after his passing in early 1981. Here is where the story of Marley Coffee begins.

Marley recalls a story from his childhood to help explain his desire to become a farmer and pass on the legacy his father had set forth so many years earlier. “The idea of farming was always interesting to me growing up as a child because my father, my mother and my grandmother would always discuss it,” he says. “My entire family still deals with farming. When I lived in Miami, we had a garden in the backyard where we grew all types of fruits and vegetables.”

He vividly remembers his grandmother drying their wild coffee berries in the sun, hulling and roasting them for her own cup of coffee each morning. But it was on a vacation years later to Jamaica where Marley came to the realization that farming was ultimately his calling.

“In 1999, a friend of mine introduced me to this land in Jamaica and when I first approached the land I fell in love with the river,” he recalls. “Once I purchased the land north of the river, I realized we had all of this land. There were fruits and coffee already growing on the land. So I figured I couldn’t let it go to waste. I said to myself I might as well learn the process of growing coffee and get into the full ideology of what farming is all about, but not just farming, but learning the intricacies of marketing coffee because it’s a real commodity around the world.”

Three years ago, Marley and his longtime friend Shane Whittle officially launched Marley Coffee in Jamaica, the United States and Canada. Marley Coffee is an international gourmet coffee company with corporate offices in Vancouver, British Columbia, Los Angeles, California and Jamaica. The Marley Coffee 52 Acre Private Estate sits atop the Blue Mountains in Chepstow, Portland Jamaica. This land has been long revered in the region as the home of the world’s most desirable coffee beans. . . . Soul Culture

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Part 1) One Cup Of Coffee  /  Part 2) One Cup of Coffee

Marley's rich, aromatic coffees are a result of careful, loving cultivation and roasting we believe that ethical coffee tastes better. We use the highest standards of sustainable farming and pay our farm workers twice the average wage.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform

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Tax reform will be a major issue debated in the years ahead. Growing budget deficits and the expiration of various tax cuts loom. Reform, once a philosophical dilemma, is turning into a practical crisis. By framing the various tax philosophies that dominate the debate, Bartlett explores the distributional, technical, and political advantages and costs of the various proposals and ideas that will come to dominate America’s political conversation in the years to come.

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The White Masters of the World

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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posted 29 July 2010




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