Rural Development Leadership Network Graduate and Board Vice Chair Shirley Sherrod was appointed Georgia Director for Rural Development by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on July 25. Only days earlier, she had learned that New Communities, a group she founded with her husband and other families, had won a thirteen million dollar settlement in the minority farmers law suit Pigford vs Vilsack.
In announcing the appointment of Shirley and other new officials, Secretary Vilsack said:
These individuals will be important advocates on behalf of rural communities in states throughout the country and help administer the valuable programs and services provided by the USDA that can enhance their economic success.
Shirley was a graduate in the first group of RDLN Leaders and served as Vice Chair of their Board of Directors. She served as Georgia leader for both the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI).
New Communities, Inc. was the land trust that Shirley and Charles Sherrod established, with other black farm families in the 1960′s. At the time, with holdings of almost 6,000 acres, this was the largest tract of black-owned land in the country.
In 1969, New Communities received a planning grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity and was “encouraged” to expect a bunch of funding for implementation, but Governor Lester Maddox blocked further funds for the group to come into the state.
Even without the funding, New Communities built up farming operations to help retain the land. They had highway frontage where they had a farmers market to sell their crops. They raised hogs and had their own smokehouse that they built on the highway where they sold meat. Their sugar cane mill on that same highway also attracted customers. They raised eight acres of Muscatine grapes, which are now widely grown in the area. They also had 1,500 acres of row crops, including corn, peanuts and soybeans.
New Communities claimed that over the years, USDA refused to provide loans for farming or irrigation and would not allow New Communities to restructure its loans. Gradually, the group had to fight just to hold on to the land and finally had to wind down operations.
In 1985, Shirley entered the RDLN program. She got a master’s degree, helped orient all succeeding groups of RDLN Leaders, and became vice chair of RDLN’s Board of Directors. She also chaired the board of the Farmers Legal Action Group. New Communities received approximately $13 million ($8,247,560 for loss of land and $4,241,602 for loss of income; plus $150,000 each to Shirley and Charles for pain and suffering). There was also an unspecified amount in forgiveness of debt. This was the largest award in the minority farmers law suit (Pigford vs Vilsack).
Yesterday, Shirley Sherrod lost her government job. All because C-Span cameras were at a speech she gave to the NAACP in March.
Andrew Breitbart released an excerpt from this speech on Monday. The video showed Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, making a speech at an NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. Ms Sherrod was relating a story about providing only minimal help to a white farmer who came to her for help.
Tuesday, Sherrod told CNN that the video was taken out of context. She said that a video of her entire speech would show that she described the 24 year old incident as a turning point in her life. Ms Sherrod said that was the point where she learned it was not all about race, it was about poverty. (Share the wealth!) She says that she eventually helped that white farmer to keep his farm and even became friends with the farmer and his wife.
Shortly after Shirley Sherrod resigned, the NAACP President Ben Jealous (What a great name. How long have you been jealous, Ben? And what are you jealous of?) released a statement condemning her:
We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers. Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.
The NAACP changed their mind Tuesday afternoon.
NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous issued a statement saying that they were “snookered” into believing that USDA employee Shirley Sherrod expressed racist sentiments at a local NAACP meeting in Georgia earlier this year. Jealous accused conservative activist Andrew Breitbart of deceiving millions of people by releasing only partial clips. He said the full video makes clear that Sherrod was telling a story of racial unity:
The tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited to create a false impression of racial bias, and to create a controversy where none existed. This just shows the lengths to which extremist elements will go to discredit legitimate opposition.
Meanwhile, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., Agriculture Department spokesman Chris Mather said Sherrod was “let go” because of what she said in March, not due to her actions in regard to the farmer two decades ago:
She was asked to resign because of the comment she made when she was a political appointee. It’s not what happened decades ago. It’s the comments she made in March.
Mather also claimed that the White House played no part in Sherrod’s resignation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asked for her resignation and he accepted it when Sherrod gave it, Mather said:
This is the Secretary’s decision. There was no pressure from the White House.
Vilsack said in an earlier statement:
Our policy is clear. There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA and we strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person. We have a duty to ensure that when we provide services to the American people we do so in an equitable manner. But equally important is our duty to instill confidence in the American people that we are fair service providers.
A White House official claimed that President Barack Obama was briefed after Vilsack made the decision on Sherrod and that the decision was Vilsack’s alone but that the White House backed the decision.
This official also said the White House, contrary to what Sherrod is telling everyone who will listen, did not pressure the Agriculture Department to fire her.
In her CNN interview, Sherrod said she received “at least three calls telling me the White House wanted me to resign… and the last one asked me to pull over to the side of the road and do it.” According to Shirley, the administration was afraid that Ms. Sherrod was going to be seen on Fox News’ Glenn Beck Program.
And now, just as I am about to publish this article, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this morning he will reconsider the department’s decision to fire Sherrod:
I am of course willing and will conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts to ensure to the American people we are providing services in a fair and equitable manner.
This is a 180 degree turn from the administration’s earlier stance, upholding the firing.
What a circus.
This story is not going to go away. (Sorry, Scooter.) Breitbart was on all the cable news shows last night. He said that he now has the full video. He also related that his purpose for releasing the video was to show the joyous reaction of the NAACP crowd at Sherrod’s March speech when she told them about not fully helping the white farmer. Releasing the tape was never about Ms. Sherrod at all. It was to show just how hypocritical the race-baiters at the NAACP are. Brietbart is a master at revealing video evidence. Remember ACORN?
The NAACP showed a serious lack of judgement when they issued their resolution condemning the Tea Party Movement as racist. While it is clearly evident that the Far Left leaders of the Democratic Party had a hand in pushing the presentation of this resolution, I do not believe that they realized the intensity of the response that they would receive. The Liberals exist in an isolated world, divorced from the realities that face average Americans. I guess they thought that Americans were going to believe their propaganda. Guess again. The “If you don’t support Obama, you’re a Racist” message does not work, Libs. In fact, it never did.
Sources: rural development.org, biggovernment.com, msn.com, daily caller.com