Religious leaders and other supporters and advocates are urging caution to Black farmers before accepting the recently approved and released government settlement. The $1.2 billion Pigford II Settlement fund was established to compensate Black Farmers left out of the 1999 settlement of a suit alleging discrimination against Black farmers in government assistance. Eligible Black farmers have until May 11, 2012 to file a claim.
According to an article on Commercialappeal.com, Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association which represents about 10,000 Black farmers from Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, joined with clergy and other leaders at a meeting in Memphis, Tenn. Jan 2 to speak on this issue.
The rally was called over concern, the Tri-State Defender Online reports, that an appeals waiver will forever bar Black farmers from potential cash compensation and possibly up to 2.5 million in relief.
Burrell, according to Commercialappeal.com, is concerned about the requirement of waiving the right to appeal that is part of the claims process. “These lawyers get them in a room with the waiver and they’ve signed off their rights in 5-10 minutes. They don’t realize what they’ve just done, and I can’t help them.”
During the meeting, according to Tri-State Defender Online, several clergymen urged caution. Dr. Reginald L. Porter Sr., pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, said, “This is not a farmer’s fight. This is a fight for freedom. If we are going to have freedom, we must take the Promised Land.”
After telling the story of his family and its history rich with farmers, Dr. LaSimba Gray Jr., pastor of New Sardis Baptist Church, told those assembled, “You’re never broke if you got some land. We should have gotten our ’40 acres and a mule.’ Though you deny me, yet I will get my justice.”
“We will stay the course,” Bishop David Allen Hall Sr., pastor of Temple COGIC, told the group according to Tri-State Defender Online. “We will not be denied. There will be a reckoning for America and a reckoning for us. Your forbearers didn’t sharecrop the land to see you sign it away.”
Hall told the Knoxville News that the event was to show there was church support. “What we want to do is show that we have ecumenical support. The church is sending a loud message to Washington that the farmers are not a voice in the wilderness.”