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Synopsis: Live Panel – Zoom
July 29, 2021
10:00 AM EST

Zoom Link (click on the title of the panel below to go to the live panel):

Combating Systemic Discrimination at U.S. Department of Agriculture

The USDA has long used the term “socially disadvantaged” farmer and “historically underserved” farmer. Many call USDA “the peoples’ department,” but we refer to it more accurately as “the last plantation.” While on the surface, the class action suits Pigford I and II would suggest that things have changed and that farmers prevailed, we believe that nothing has changed. Under Secretary Tom Vilsack, who served two terms under President Obama, there is substantial evidence that institutional racism, sexism, and other abusive behavior discrimination went unchanged. Some will tell you that their Civil Rights administration is the best ever at the USDA. Unfortunately, facts differ from that false narrative. A current example of civil rights offenses is the USDA Forest Service, western division, in which harassment and sexual perpetrations continue (see podcast below). This workshop, then, provides a current update as the dysfunctional behavior within the Office of Civil Rights and how farmers and employees continue to be harmed.

Lawrence Lucas (Moderator)
Tracy Lloyd McCurty JD
Lesa Donnelly
Emma Scott
Nathan Rosenberg PhD

Director's Bio

Lawrence Lucas (Moderator)
Lawrence Lucas was a long-time employee of the USDA, appointed by President Carter. He served as President of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees and since his retirement as President Emeritus. He also serves as a Representative for the Justice for Black Farmers group. He has engaged Senators Warren, Sanders, and Booker, on behalf of The Justice for Black Farmers Act of 2021 and debt relief under The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Tracy Lloyd McCurty
Tracy Lloyd McCurty is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Black Belt Justice Center (BBJC), a legal and advocacy nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and regenerating African American farmlands through effective legal representation, advocacy, and community education. She has served as a legal advocate on a range of issues disparately impacting the African Diaspora community; however, her most cherished work has been in the service of multigenerational farm families in the rural South.

Lesa Donnelly
Lesa Donnelly worked for USDA, Forest Service, in California (Region 5) from 1978 to 2002. She retired in 2002 under a settlement agreement. She represents federal employees at USDA and other federal agencies in EEOC and MSPB cases. She filed a sex discrimination class action lawsuit in 1995 on behalf of 6000 Forest Service women. Lesa currently serves as the Vice President of the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees.

Waymon Hinson
Waymon Hinson holds a Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi and is licensed as a psychologist and marriage and family therapist. His work history includes 26 years with three universities, including Abilene Christian University and 8 years with an American Indian tribe. He is affiliated with Gary Grant and the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Tillery, NC. He also serves as “advisor” for the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees and the Justice for Black Farmers group. His publications focus on Black land acquisition and dispossession up to 2017. He has completed a documentary with Shoun Hill that chronicles African American farmers who prevailed against the USDA and DOJ in the late ’90s. It is screening here at the Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival.

Lloyd Wright
Lloyd E. Wright is a farmer and a retired United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) employee with 37 years of service with USDA. He served as the Director of the USDA Office of Civil Rights in 1997-98, during the beginning period of the Black farmer class action lawsuit (Pigford). Lloyd E. Wright served as an advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and worked on civil rights program complaints that were filed between year 2000 and 2008 and not processed.

Emma Scott
Emma Scott is a Clinical Instructor at the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. She oversees
FLPC’s Sustainable and Equitable Food Production Initiative and the Clinic’s ongoing collaborations in
the Mississippi Delta region as a member of the Delta Directions Consortium as well as FLPC’s farm bill
policy work and the Farm Bill Law Enterprise.

Nathan Rosenberg
Nathan Rosenberg is a visiting scholar at the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and an adjunct
professor at the University of Iowa College of Law. His work focuses on inequality, food systems, and the
environment. Nathan has previously taught at the University of Arkansas and New York University and
worked as a consulting attorney for Earthjustice, a legal fellow for the Natural Resources Defense
Council, and as director of the Delta Directions Consortium.

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