The USDA Did It Again
African American farmers of our land are still faced with extinction. Their land is being taken away. It is a well kept secret to many, but to some of us it is all too real.
The story of a 67 year old military veteran and farmer, Eddie Wise and his wife, Dorothy (to whom Eddie refers lovingly as (“my Brown Sugar”), is the latest example of the outrageous action by the U.S. government against a black farmer.
Eddie and Dorothy Wise are shown on the right in the photo above. This was in better times.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2016, around 7:30 a.m., at least fourteen (14) Federal Marshals in full military gear with full scale military guns drawn, along with several county sheriff officers, descended on the 106 acre farm in Nash County, N C, and forcibly escorted Eddie Wise and his wife, who was still in bed and suffers from a debilitating medical condition, out of their home and off the land that they have owned for more than 20 years.
Not only did the Federal Marshals render Eddie and Dorothy immediately homeless and landless, but did not allow them to take any of their belongings except the clothes on their backs. They also insisted on “securing” every firearm legally owned by Mr. Wise.
A Duke University Adjunct Professor, a friend of the Wises, took pictures and acquired some sound, but was summarily put off the property also. We will soon post those photos. They are chilling.
Mr. and Mrs. Wise need our support to help them with everyday living expenses until they get settled. That includes food and lodging and related expenses. When legal counsel is secured, that will require more funding.
A year ago, you helped us raise funds to send farmers to a Black Land Loss Summit in DC. That support is appreciated. Right now, your contributions to BFAA, the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association, will be earmarked specifically for Mr. and Mrs. Wise.
Please support them with your contribution to BFAA.
Until the 1997 black farmer law suit, Pigford vs. USDA, the black farmer was virtually invisible on the American scene.
The fight to save the black farmer and the land owned by black farm families brought together Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Wise and many other black farmers in a mutual battle to survive and to tell our stories and be compensated for years of discrimination by local and federal farm agencies against black farmers across the south and in other parts of the United States.
Even in this most troubling and historic setting, civil rights leaders abandoned black farmers, the black church abandoned black farmers, and the well paid attorneys assigned to legally represent black farmers exploited and took advantage of black farmers. No leader from the civil rights community showed up to represent justice when the federal government sent armed military marshals to launch their surprise assault on Eddie and his wife Dorothy during the early morning hours of January 21, 2016, to force them off their 160 acre farm, leaving their hogs and farm equipment, and demanding that they leave with only one vehicle and the clothes on their backs.
Being defined and regulated by local banks and the
US government was no great phenomenon, but suffering the sanctions and ridicule of local black businesses that formally depended mostly on the business of black farm families undermined the progress , economics, and stability of the black community. Without black farm families, who was there left to provide the finances to sustain black stores and restaurants, etc. Take note of how many small black businesses have disappeared in the last 30 years. In fact small rural towns have all but disappeared and died. Our schools are in trouble. The legislative and political clout we had developed over our lives is in jeopardy mostly because small black farmers, like Eddie and Dorothy Wise, have all but disappeared.
The beautiful thing in all the tragedy is that black farmers found each other. We organized the Land Loss Fund and the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (BFFA), both viable organizations under which we developed smart political tactics, communication skills, protest movements, and media campaigns to arouse controversy and help us survive.
As some us appeared before the U S Congress, others were invited to be interviewed on the national television programs like CBS’s “60 Minutes,” and others have been the subject of university students, who visited our homes and wrote papers about the successes and perils of black farmers to earn advance college degrees. These academic papers will be studied and presented to the public and other students for years to come.
We set up a “Miss Black Earth Pageant,” to raise funds to help support black farmers. Young and adult women who were students, teachers, farm wives and other professionals who had always wanted to enter a pageant were a beautiful sight and the monies they raised was used for scholarships, and to help pay light bills and heating bills.
So you may ask why is the suffering and injustice of black farmers an appropriate subject at the funeral of our beloved Mrs. Wise. These matters are important because farming had become their primary investment and way of life. These matters are important because the treachery and psychological insults against this couple at the hands of our government no doubt impacted negatively on her physical and mental health and the timing of her death, as they have had on the untimely demise of other farm women.
What we love most about this couple is that you cannot talk about one without talking about the other. Eddie and “Brown Sugar” were changers of a cultural paradigm.
Seldom are women of color recognized for the dynamism of their service, unconditional love, and child rearing skills. Seldom are women of color the focus of appreciation and affection, their unusual beauty and human needs, and the mysterious way in which they get things done.
Not so with this special woman. Upon meeting the two of them Eddie alerted you that this woman is “My Brown Sugar,” which told me that you best watch your step and give her the respect she deserves. But she was not just a pretty flower on his arm, “Brown Sugar,” always adorning a special hat, joined us in our farm meetings and planning sessions. She was part of our annual Black Farm Summit and the Environmental Justice Conference. All the sweet potatoes, collard greens, and country meats grown on their farm that Eddie so generously shared were profound gifts from Mrs. Wise also.
In closing may I leave you with words from this well known spiritual:
“Oh, when I come to the end of my journey
Weary of life, but the battle is won
Carrying the Staff and the Cross of Redemption
He’ll understand, and He’ll say ‘well done’.”
Lovingly & Respectfully submitted,
The BFAA Family
Gary R. Grant, President
And the surviving children of the late Matthew & Florenza Moore Grant
From: Gary R. Grant, President BFAA
UPDATE ON EDDIE AND DOROTHY WISE
The saga of Eddie and Dorothy Wise continues in its many forms. I have to apologize to all who have been concerned and supportive of the couple since January of this year. But, the BFAA organization has become totally volunteer and besides support from the BFAA board members, our office staff is basically null and void because everyone is trying to survive by keeping their employment.
That said, I do want you to know that I have been keeping up with the Wises. Things are not getting any better. Eddie continues the legal fight by filing of necessary and needed papers in the federal courts. At the same time, their health is still on the decline. So much so that in October of this year, both of Dorothy’s legs were amputated due to her diabetes getting worse. Eddie says the doctors informed him that one leg was completely dead and the other one’s circulation was so poor that it was poisoning other parts of her body and that there was a need for both legs to amputated above the knees. Well, I can assure each of you that Eddie truly loves Dorothy and would do anything for her. His response to the doctors saying that she would die if immediate action was not taken was “I don’t want to lose my Brown Sugar. We will have to move forward.” And so they did. Further, Eddie now needs knee braces for both legs in order to be able to move somewhat freely.
Eddie is currently staying with his sister in Williamston, NC which puts him thirteen miles from the rehabilitation facility where Dorothy is undergoing rehab. He is there every day, pretty much all day, continuing his loving support of his beloved wife.
When speaking with Eddie he is still optimistic and continues to thank everyone who has been supportive of him and Dorothy.
Filing in the Federal courts, needed gas for traveling back and forth to see Dorothy and trying to pay a bit on legal fees, Eddie says the donations have been of great support.
With that, I am appealing to all to continue to do what you can to support this couple. Only if you have been there to suffer injustice can you understand the need to keep the fight going. There are others out here who are also keeping the fight going against the continued discrimination that the United States Department of Agriculture continues to inflict on Black farmers, women farmers, Native American farmers and women who are being sexually harassed. Thus, anyone who can keep up the fight helps to bring more awareness to these issues.
So, with this update, please do what you can financial to support the Wises and keep them in prayer and hope as they continue this struggle that continues to consume much of their lives. If you have questions, please let me know and let’s help the Wises FIGHT BACK with great effort.
Please continue to go to https://www.gofundme.com/39m8623g and show your support for the Wise Family by any amount that you can afford and pass the word along. If you do not use on- line for contributions, you can send support to BFAA, PO Box 61, Tillery, NC 27887 and note for the Wises on the Memo line. That way your message can be received as well or send a supporting e-mail to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eddie was in the BFAA office this past Friday (8/26/2016) to pick up mail that had come for him and Dorothy through the BFAA PO Box here in Tillery. Again, Dorothy was not with him because it is becoming more increasingly difficult for her to be as mobile as Eddie. Even Eddie is moving slower as he now has knee braces for both knees to help him move. Guess this is one result from jumping out of planes as he gave his service to the country though his military service.
Yes, they are still in the motel. Why? Well, as we sought to find them “senior housing,” we found that their income is too high to qualify for government senior housing and prevents them from qualifying for other assistance. Seems senior housing for them will run in the neighborhood of $2,000 plus per month. Eddie’s philosophy on this is that they are comfortable where they are and can stay in the motel and pay storage fees for their belonging for way less than $2k per month. However, he has not stopped looking for other housing.
When asked about renting a house, he replies, “Lots of houses on the market for sale, but very few for rent. And again, rent is way high.”
So, as independent farmers, making adjustments to being “renters” of any kind takes time for strong spirited folk like Eddie and Dorothy Wise whose self-determination made them independent farmers to begin with.
We are still trying to ascertain if the USDA is still taking funds from his Army benefits and Social Security to pay the balance of what was owed to the USDA at the time of the foreclosed sale.
Please keep them in your thoughts and continue to support as best you can. They are brave solders in this war against the USDA and truly their struggle will be helpful to many.
We still have had no word from the filings at the Supreme Court of the United States, but will let you know once we have received any response.
Please continue to go to https://www.gofundme.com/39m8623g and show your support for the Wise Family by any amount that you can afford and pass the word along. If you do not use on-line for contributions, you can send support to BFAA, PO Box 61, Tillery, NC 27887 and that way your message can be received as well or send an supporting e-mail to them at email@example.com.
In the second photo, Eddie Slaughter (L) of Buena Vista, GA, and Gary R. Grant (R) share a light moment of remembrance from their 30 plus years of struggle with USDA in front of the US Supreme Court on Friday, July 8, 2016. Slaughter and Grant were the founding vice-president and president of the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) in 1997 as Black farmers prepared to file the now Historic Pigford vs. Glickman, Secretary of the USDA.
If you have any questions about an update, the eviction or just want to hear the WHOLE story... Please listen to it: https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/losing-ground-rebroadcast/
Do you know how to get a hold of Eddie? My name is Robin and he saved my life once. Maybe twice...rabid raccoon. Eddie call me 631-598-9383
Rain, did you find the answers in the postings?