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Oklahoma supporterin Tennessee
On this date in 2002, the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association staged a “prayer vigil and sit-in.”
Black farmers from Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, and other southern states, and the national president of the Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association (BFAA), Gary R. Grant, participated. The first five protests occurred at the Farm Services Agency (FSA) offices in Brownsville and Bolivar, Tennessee. It supported Black farmers who had been denied or delayed operating loans.
At the time of the sit-in, corn was ready to be harvested, cotton plants were setting their blooms, and vegetable crops were ripe for picking. Many Black farmers who had applied for operating loans to plant their 2002 corps had not received their loan proceeds in Haywood and Hardeman Counties, Tennessee. "The main thrust of the Prayer Vigil and Farmers' Sit-in is to garner public and ultimately congressional support for establishing a Separate but Equal lending agency specifically for African American borrowers. To do otherwise will guarantee the demise of the African American farmer in the United States," charges Tom Burrell of the Tennessee-BFAA Chapter.
Black farmers who prevailed on April 14, 1999, in Pigford v Glickman (USDA) class action lawsuit are entitled to operation loans. They are still denied access to loan benefits, made available by the Consent Decree signed by Judge Paul Friedman.