July 2010, Week 4


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Fri, 23 Jul 2010 22:49:42 -0400
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Shirley Sherrod - Friend of Family Farmers & Victim of Racist Media - Willie Nelson and Ruby Nell Sales

1. Shirley Sherrod, a Family Farmer's Friend (Willie Nelson)
2. Digging For Truth Right Before Our Eyes (Ruby Nell Sales)


Shirley Sherrod, a Family Farmer's Friend

by Willie Nelson,
Singer/Songwriter, President of Farm Aid

Huffington Post - July 21, 2010


Shirley Sherrod has been a great friend to me, Farm Aid and
family farmers for 25 years. She has always worked to
improve economic opportunities for family farmers in the
South, going back to when I first met her as the director of
the Georgia Field Office for the Federation of Southern
Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. Like Ms. Sherrod herself
has said, she's always tried to help those who don't have so
that they can have a little more.

The real story of Shirley Sherrod deserved to be told a long
time ago. She has had an amazing impact on the lives and
livelihoods of hundreds of families and communities
throughout the South. Farmers of every race have struggled
with the income inequities that have persisted for
generations, and advocates like Ms. Sherrod have moved
mountains to ensure that families can remain in their homes
and on their farms.

While all family farmers in our country face an uphill
battle to stay on their land, growing good food for rest of
us, black farmers have lost their land at an alarming rate,
faster than any other family farmers. Lending discrimination
and inequities in agriculture programs are largely
responsible for the shrinking number of black farmers. Farm
Aid began supporting the Federation in 1985, where Shirley
worked at the time, because of the group's unique ability to
reach out and help struggling farm families in the South.
Many had owned their land for generations and were, and
continue to be, under constant threat. We continue to
support the Federation's work to this day, and hundreds of
farmers are still on their land because of Ms. Sherrod's

During her time at the Federation, she fought to make sure
that family farmers got what they needed to stay on their
land. She has been a national leader for family farmers and
a compassionate, courageous advocate for all struggling
family farmers. Shirley Sherrod has dedicated her life to
working on behalf of family farmers, civil rights and the
alleviation of poverty and it's up to Secretary Vilsack to
right this wrong immediately.

This country desperately needs more farm advocates with Ms.
Sherrod's expertise. But this is not just about a job --
it's about ensuring that Shirley Sherrod has the opportunity
to continue to support family farmers and the rural poor,
something she has spent her life doing.

[Willie Nelson is the president of Farm Aid. For 25 years,
Farm Aid has worked to build a vibrant, family farm-centered
system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board
members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave
Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support
Farm Aid's work with family farmers and to inspire people to
choose family farm food. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised
more than $37 million to support programs that help farmers
thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take
action to change the dominant system of industrial
agriculture and promote food from family farms.]


Digging For Truth Right Before Our Eyes

by Ruby Nell Sales, 
Director of the SpiritHouse Project

[submitted by the author to portside]

July 23, 2010
As I listened to the debate on whether Shirley Sherrod is a
racist, I remembered the community of Black people who
reared me. Although many of them were not formally educated
like many of us, they knew White lies when they heard them.
They never would have allowed themselves to hear the lies
without a hermeneutics of suspicion. Nor would they have
been so willing to let White folk have the final say about
reality. Shaking their heads they would say," poor White
folks, they lie as a matter of habit and training! They just
pitiful." And for the Black person who believed the lies,
they would shake their heads in unison and said, "Poor John
or Annie, that poor child does not have the sense that he
was born with."

With their voices and gesticulations rising up in me today,
I want to add my voice. I, too agree that justice demands
reparations in the case of Shirley Sherrod. I also believe
that what happened to her is symptomatic of systemic and
ideological racism. In the short term restoring Sherrod to
her job deals with the issue on an individual basis.
However, it fails to contest a bulging and revisionist White
supremacist culture that plants its feet in a long tradition
of White Historical lies. On this note, pointing the finger
at Shirley Sherrod as the real racist follows a pattern of
Whites using their presence and voice in the public square
to obscure the truth and nature of their history and deeds
by demonizing Black people.

In constructing this narrative of Black racism, they attempt
to set us up before the world as Immoral Whiners and liars
who accuse Whites of racism when the real disease lies with
us. They want the world to say how can Black people critique
racism when it is a community of raging racists. Like
Europeans who claim that extermination of Jews never
happened, these 21st century White cultural warriors want to
erase the realities of the world that they made. Not only do
they deny the violent and oppressive history of segregation,
they destroy memorabilia and cultural artifacts that
document its existence while simultaneously destroying
evidence of Black resistance and resilience.

These are vicious White cultural warriors who thrive on low
intensive conflict and psychological warfare that splits the
Black community. That's why the news focuses more on the
role of the NAACP and without naming or holding Andrew
Breitbart accountable for his manipulation, race-baiting,
racist slander of Shirley Sherrod that resulted in her
loosing her job. His is not a benign act. It is an
aggressive attack on Shirley and Black people as attested by
his charge that because Blacks clapped at Shirley's speech,
we are the real racists, and he is the righteously indignant
White person protecting himself and other Whites from the
blows of Black racism.

I must disagree that the firing of Shirley was a mistake. It
is a pattern of racism and a calculated act designed to
remove her from the powerful seat of Director of Agriculture
in the South where the land has been a site of White theft,
greed and economic exploitation. Saying I am sorry does not
do it. The intentions and consequences are too great and
costly for Black people and democracy both in the short and
long term.

Finally, it amazes me that many Blacks and progressives hold
up the entire tape as justification that Shirley is not a
racist. If we understand systemic and ideological racism,
the question for us is not did she or did she not- the
question is whether Fox News and Andrew Breitbart are
willing to carry the weight of 300 years of Whites
systematically oppressing the Black collectivity and
terrorizing it with 100 years of lynching and setting Black
bodies on fire while using post cards to circulate and brag
on their deeds. From where I sit, they do not have the moral
authority to decide what is or isn't racism.   Shirley does!
Neither is the weight of the history of racism on Shirley.
It is on them!

[Ruby Nell Sales is a highly trained, experienced, and
deeply committed social activist, scholar, administrator,
manager, and educator in the areas of Civil, Gender, and
other Human Rights. She is an excellent public speaker with
a proven track record in conflict resolution and consensus
building. Ms. Sales has preached around the country on race,
class, gender, and reconciliation, and she has done ground-
breaking work on community and nonviolence formation. Ms.
Sales also serves as a national convener of the Every Church
A Peace Church Movement. <
http://www.spirithouseproject.org/aboutruby.cfm> ]



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