Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shirley Sharrod, 1986, and the New Communities Black Farm Coop

UPDATE: My info wasn't correct, either... New Communities went bankrupt in 1985. After that--and until sometime in the 90's from what I can tell), Shirley Sharrod was an employee of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives - Land Assistance Fund (Fighting to save black owned land since 1967 with cooperatives) Different organization, same mission. (New Communities was a member of the Federation until it went bankrupt.) See below the initial post for even more info

In reply to USDA Official, Shirley Sherrod Resigns After Inflammatory Anti White Speech (Video) – IndyPosted, and the following passage in particular:
"It should be noted that she admitted to discriminating on the basis of race in her capacity as a federal official administering tax dolars that were allocated for assistance to farmers who had fallen on bad times."
That is incorrect. She admitted to not doing anything more than was necessary for a white farmer with an overly inflated ego 24 years ago, when she was running the New Communities black farm coop, which she and her husband started, and which--as the name implies--was a coop for assisting black farmers who were down on their luck. She was not a federal official at the time, and could not allocate government funds to anyone--though I'm given to understand, she could direct you to folks who could.

Further, it sure seems to me that her point in telling the story was as a parable AGAINST bigoted thinking and action... "It's not about black and white, it's about helping the poor... It opened my eyes."

As the context of the story she told comes out and the full unbreitbarted video of her whole speech emerges, I suspect this is going to become a very different story. But nevertheless, Andrew Breitbart and his propaganda machine, along with FoxNews, will have captured another scalp at the expense of the truth...

If it's true... If bullies like them really were able to successfully run a woman off for admitting she made a mistake a long time ago, and for urging others to be more inclusive than she once was, I feel very sorry for Shirley Sharrod, for the state of the news media in general, and ultimately, for us all.

Submitted for moderator approval 7/20/10, 2:20 AM

More info: (Found and cut/pasted from Senate Sketches # 1155 | Doc's Political Parlor)

This story of persistence has its genesis in the late sixties. A group of Black Farmers near Albany, GA came together to convert civil rights gains into economic, social and community gains. Riding the lifting waves of hope, some 15 families came together to form a non-profit corporation to farm. It was called New Communities, the name symbolizing their hopes for a new economic, social and institutional order. Two strong civil rights leaders, Charles Sherrod and Shirley Sherrod, along with others, led the effort. They were determined.

Still riding the undulating waves of hope, these Black farmers, under the umbrella of New Communities, purchased 935 acres in 1969. Then in 1970, they purchased another 4800 acres for a total of 5,735 acres. This may well have been the largest mass of Black-owned land in these United States. They were persistent.

Times were hard, but New Communities forged ahead facing challenge after challenge. However, race was still riding high on different but powerful and adverse waves. From the beginning, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with many others, threw road blocks in their way at every turn. But these Black farmers would not give up. They were determined.

Just to keep the farm going in spite of these road blocks and challenges, they sold 1348 acres of the land in 1978. But USDA continued with its road blocks. They denied loans to New Communities, refused to allow it to restructure its loans, and took some of its monies when timber was sold in an effort to keep afloat.

USDA was also persistent and determined. New Communities was finally forced out of business in 1985 when it filed for bankruptcy. The Black farmers lost the remaining 4,387 acres. It seemed that their dream of a New Community had come to an end. But they refused to quit; refused to give up; refused to cease being determined.

Both Charles and Shirley Sherrod continued to assist other Black farmers: Shirley as a full-time employee of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives; and Charles as a member of the Federation Board of Directors.
There's more to the story, too... Check the link.

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