Meridian, Miss. Payments for the second wave of the Black Farmers' lawsuit are now being dispersed. The initial lawsuit was filed in 1997. It alleged that the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against black farmers with the allocation of loans, disaster payments and other assistance.
This month the U.S. government is starting to distribute 18,000 checks to the individuals who joined the second wave of the Black Farmers Lawsuit. According to the president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, a total of 44,000 claims that were filed as part of the second wave of litigation were denied. Despite this fact, Thomas Burrell says it's not too late for others to seek compensation.
"Because the statute of limitation that Congress passed is still open.
That is the most important thing to remember," says Burrell. "The Appropriations Act of 1998 in affect waived the statute of limitation. Now, that waiver is still in motion. The lawsuits themselves may be closed, but the statute of limitation, which is perhaps the most powerful piece of legislation that made this lawsuit available in the first place, it was signed, and therefore we're arguing that as long as the waiver is still in motion the courts could open up and either allow folks to get into the last lawsuit or create another one."
Monday morning Thomas Burrell was in Meridian as part of an informational tour through parts of the south. He says his organization is working to help people who were affected by this type discrimination get compensated.
"We have filed motions to intervene, but more importantly we're helping them to do what's called filling out an affidavit, and that is how they would explain how they were discriminated against."
The Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association is a national organization that is based out of Memphis, Tennessee. Most of its members are from the southern region. For more information about the group's involvement with the Black Farmer's lawsuit log onto www.mybfaa.org or call (901) 522-8880.
The Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association recently wrapped up a tour in Alabama. It's hosting one more information section Monday, October 21st from 5 PM until 8 PM at the Frank Cochran Center in Meridian. Two more sessions will be held Tuesday, October 22nd at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg from 10 AM until 1 PM and from 2 PM until 4 PM.