Black Farmers

Demonstration at the White House, March 1, 2023: My Personal Reflections by Dr. Waymon Hinson


Photo:  Charla Hinson, advocate for Black farmers, wore what I think is the most provocative sign, “WE GAVE YOU THE WHITE HOUSE. YOU GAVE US TOM VILSACK.”


 The event had been scheduled for quite some time. It was designed to serve as the anniversary of the Fairness Hearing before Judge Friedman on March 2, 1999. We believed then as we strongly believe now that the Pigford v. Glickman Consent Decree was a gross miscarriage of justice. White America thinks Black farmers made off like bandits in Pigford I and Pigford II, but those walking closely with Black farmers know the truth, and that brutal truth is that most Black farmers are worse off now than they were before Pigford I. 

So, my wife, Charla, and I organized our schedules, worked on our flights, and made our way to Washington, DC. Flying into Reagan International was stirring as we flew over and saw the most prominent of the buildings of the US government, knowing that we were there to protest in front of the White House. 

Charla oftentimes attends these sorts of things with me. Not only is she my Beloved, she is our partner in fighting for justice. We live in a red state and go to a red church, and she has red friends, so she knows well these complicated matters. 

We gathered with old friends and new friends in the lobby of the Cambria Hotel Riverfront DC. It was a sight to behold, folks we had not seen since 2005 or 2008 or 2019. It was an inspired and inspiring gathering. 

Some 75 or so of us gathered for dinner later that night. We heard from key leaders, Lawrence Lucas, Tracy Lloyd McCurty, and Lloyd Wright, members of The Justice for Black Farmers Group. We got our marching orders. We heard a short speech from Danny Davis, D (VA), a man who knows well the plight of the Black farmer. 

For those who follow this blog, I have mentioned before these three soldiers in the war against discrimination: Lawrence Lucas, Representative, Justice for Black Farmers Group, and President Emeritus, USDA Coalition of Minority Employees; Tracy LLoyd McCurty, J.D., Director of the Black Belt Justice Center; and Lloyd Wright, Black farmer and former Director, Office of Civil Rights, USDA. 

We knew that Wednesday would be a long, tiring day, so we dispersed after dinner. 

We met up early the next morning over breakfast and then shortly thereafter to get our assigned protest signs. Again, it was an energetic crowd as we moved about, chatted with folks, and talked about the day. 

We arrived in front of the White House at about 11:30 and assembled on the sidewalk with our banner and our signs and the Demonstration was underway. “We Gave You the White House. You Gave Us Tom Vilsack,” “No Check No Vote,” “USDA The Last Plantation,” and others. We chanted as we moved behind the large banner. We had only one-half hour to create a ruckus, and that we did. Many passers by stopped and watched and some even asked questions. 

We could not stop. We were not to use megaphones, which we did, which was against policies. At one point an angry female police officer got in my face saying, “Sir, if you don’t keep moving, we may arrest you.” I simply stepped down onto Pennsylvania Avenue, and then the woman demanded documents from Tracy and thankfully Lloyd had brought copies. That was an intense moment. Senior citizens had to stop and rest, and they did so with their signs next to the fence with the White House in the background. We observed what must have been Secret Service Agents on the roof top, dressed in black with guns and cameras. We wondered if they could hear us. They could certainly see us. That’s what we wanted, for the White House and the US Department of Agriculture to know that we were there. We had caught wind that the USDA told two HBCUs not to attend the demonstration. 
Photos by permission of Heather Malaika Hicks.
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