Louisiana Record

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Delegation of clergy goes to White House to discuss prison reform, other legislation related to African-Americans


By Angela Underwood | Aug 22, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Memphis-based bishop of Temple Church of God in Christ and a delegation of clergyman met with Senior White House Adviser Kevin Childs Tuesday to discuss issues related to African-Americans.

Among the topics on the table for discussion was farming, prison reform, economic development in the Black Belt and other legislation.

“I thought it was excellent,” Bishop David Hall told the Louisiana Record. “We did not get to meet with the President ... but Mr. Childs gave us every dignity and offered us the privilege to sit down with him.”

Bishop David Hall

Hall, an ecumenical support adviser for the Memphis-based Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA), has been working with the Black farmers on a recent lawsuit against Stine Seed Company in Iowa. Led by BFAA  President Thomas Burrell, a group of black farmers, including some in Louisiana, filed a class-action lawsuit in Tennessee federal court last spring, alleging Stine sold them bogus soybean seeds at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Convention in Memphis in 2017.

Though Burrell did not attend the White House meeting, he told the Louisiana Record it came as a result of his visit to Washington with members of the Trump administration after he first took office.

“We were the VIP guests of President Trump as a result of a White House invitation in January 2017 where he was the keynote speaker for the 67th Annual Convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation,” Burrell said, adding the BFAA was received well, with several congressional officials expressing their concern for black farming issues. 

“(The) bishop’s meeting yesterday is a follow-up to one of those promises.”

Along with discussing establishing a Black Farmers’ Credit Union, and soybean tariffs and how they have hurt the black farmer with Childs, Hall said he also expressed gratitude for the recent $12 billion aid package for farmers hurt by recent tariffs. He also asked that the president accept a 2017 federal appeals court ruling against the USDA for $1.6 billion, where black farmers were denied crop loans and other assistance.

“We do need this administration’s support in bringing to bear what the Third Court of Appeals said and that is that we were discriminated against,” Hall said, noting he was encouraged by the meeting.

Burrell was grateful that Hall’s visit went well regardless of the president not being able to attend.

“Keep in mind he is the president of the free world and United States, and may not always be able to meet at his house,” Burrell said. “But, to the extent that he has made his house, i.e. The White House, available to talk to officials there about our concerns speaks volumes regarding this administration.”

Most of all, Burrell said it confirms the BFAA is “on the right track,” as the group continues to advocate for the African-American farmer, adding although the USDA lawsuit is closed, BFAA’s fight for justice remains open.

“We cannot afford to not advocate,” Burrell said.

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Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association White House

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