Working Together for Change & The Federation/LAF – 2015-08-21 01:13:56
Special to Environmentalist Against War
ATLANTA (August 20, 2015) — On August 15, 2015, we in America witnessed the passing of Julian Bond who was a beacon of light, a messenger and worker for justice. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (Federation) acknowledges in appreciation the breadth and profound work, as well as advocacy, of Julian Bond throughout the South in both urban and rural communities. In fact, throughout the country it is acknowledged that Julian Bond articulated the vision and need for change in America and then worked diligently to accomplish precisely that — change.
But Bond stressed that he was part of a “peoples” movement that worked together to alter forever the American landscape. In 2005, in his address to the 96th Annual Meeting of the NAACP, Bond quoted Martin Luther King:
“When the history books are written in the future, somebody will have to say, ‘there lived a race of people, a black people’ who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected a new meaning into the veins of history and civilization” (NAACP )
Bond said further that, “King was the most famous and well known of the modern movement’s personalities, but it was a people’s movement. It produced leaders of its own; but it relied not on the noted but the nameless, not on the famous but the faceless. It didn’t wait for commands from afar to begin a campaign against injustice. It saw wrong and acted against it; it saw evil and brought it down” (NAACP).
Much of the focus of Bond’s renowned contributions is largely, and importantly, centered on his role in the founding of and leadership with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and his leadership in the NAACP, as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center.
We at the Federation will add another important aspect to his long list of achievements, however, and that was his advocacy and support of the creation of economic independence of and by the Black community. Bond’s statement perfectly emulates that of the Black community in the rural South, “It saw wrong and acted against it” and Bond was there to support these efforts.
By 1965, “SNCC had built two independent political parties and organized labor unions and agricultural cooperatives . . . . Unlike mainstream civil rights groups, which merely sought integration of blacks into the existing order, SNCC sought structural changes in American society itself” (Monthly Review).
Not long after the creation of SNCC in the early 1960’s, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives was created in 1967 and, in fact, grew out of the civil rights movement. As civil rights attorney J.L. Chestnut said, “There were many organizations that were spawned by the blood that was spilled on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, and the Federation was one of those.”
The Federation’s mission is as follows:
We strive toward the development of self-supporting communities with programs that increase income and enhance other opportunities; and we strive to assist in land retention and development, especially for African Americans, but essentially for all family farmers.
We do this with an active and democratic involvement in poor areas across the South, through education and outreach strategies, which support low-income people in molding their communities to become more humane and livable.
We assist in the development of cooperatives and credit unions as a collective strategy to create economic self-sufficiency (Federation).
In 1971 Julian Bond spoke at Federation’s 4th annual meeting at Mary Holmes College in West Point, Mississippi. Charles Prejean, the first Executive Director of the Federation, worked closely with Julian Bond, during the initial years of the development of the Federation, from a base in a small office in Atlanta to a regional organization spread across the South. Prejean invited Bond, then a Georgia state legislator, with a national following, to speak at this important meeting.
The photo above of civil rights and rural development activists was taken in 1963; Julian Bond is the second one on the left. This was 4 years before the founding of the Federation and 8 years before Bond spoke at the 1971 Federation meeting in Mississippi. To the far left in the photo is Mississippi farmer and cooperative leader E.W. Steptoe who was the creator of the “Miss-Lou Cooperative” in the late 1960’s and who was involved with the Federation after its founding. Mr. Steptoe’s family members are to this day supportive of and engaged with the organization.
In the Federation’s 25th Anniversary Annual Report, in 1992, is the following quote from Mr. Steptoe: “Our cooperative is like the railroad station in our community. It will be here, even if the trains don’t come anymore and somebody far away decides to pull up the track, we will still have our cooperative in our community because we built it ourselves, no matter whatever else happens”
Mr. Steptoe’s message was echoed in much of Bond’s organizing narrative. In 1971, for example, Bond spoke at both the Federation’s annual meeting and at Tuskegee University emphasizing the “pressing issue of (Black’s) controlling their own lives”.
Julian Bond’s leadership and advocacy was felt throughout the South. His support of the work of the Federation was on-going all these many years. He also helped lay the ground work for it all in his messages and rallying for support for cooperative economic development and economic independence.
Another important connection to Julian Bond and his family was that the Federation’s first attorney was Howard Moore who is married to Julian’s sister, Jane Bond Moore. As we say, “the roots run deep.” Working together in all these various aspects and areas helped strengthen the movement for change and empowerment.
We are all eternally grateful for having had Julian Bond in our midst.
Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 49th year, assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.
2769 Church Street, East Point, GA 30344
404-76- 0991 Â· www.federation.coop