The University Record, January 24, 1994

‘A landless people is a hopeless people’—they have no relationship with the earth

By Kellee Davis
News and Information Services

More than 30 years ago, Rev. Alfred Sampson, pastor of the Fernwood United Methodist Church in Chicago, marched with Martin Luther King Jr. for the right to eat a hamburger in a restauraunt.

“Today if I have to die, it will be over the crowder peas and yams of our Black farmers,” he told students as he addressed issues of self-sufficiency and how food can be used as a means of economic empowerment for African Americans.

As president of the International Coalition of Black Farmers, Sampson stressed the importance of land ownership for Black farmers and Black-owned businesses in America.

“In a place like Chicago, one white man owns all of the sweet potato industry and the Greeks control the greens. In Detroit, 157 Chaldeans operate an entire food distribution system. In New York, the Jews and Koreans handle the produce. We need a harvest in our communities. When you don’t control raw materials you are always under the mercies of others.”

According to Sampson, the percentage of Black farmers who own land and raise crops in America has dropped by 60 percent since the early 1980s. He estimated that by the end of the century less than one-tenth of one percent of farm land will be controlled by African Americans.

“A landless people is a hopeless people because they have no relationship with the earth,” he said.

Sampson has developed a proposal that he refers to as AAFTA-NAFTA (African/African American Free Trade Agreement–North American Free Trade Agreement) plan.

“This is a spiritual and economic plan launched within our people, by and for our people, to trade with ourselves, implementing the fourth principle of Kwanzaa-Ujamaa or cooperative economics.”

If African Americans would trade within the triangle of Africans, Caribbeans and Latin Americans, he said, unemployment would be wiped out in those communities by the year 2000.

Sampson has opened a Chicago business, Home for the Black Farmers, that helps African Americans from the south sell their products. The organization hires Black buyers and truck-drivers who transport produce to Chicago for distribution and nationwide sale throughout the African American community.

He said the program is ideal because it forms a marriage between Black farmers and consumers that is essential for economic development.

“The goal of our organization is to open at least 100 stores across America where there are 100 strong, Black markets.”

When this happens, he said that African Americans will not have to depend on the support of other ethnic groups for survival.

“We as Black people are responsible for our own destiny. We must see ourselves as a nation within a nation that does business with our own nation-houses.”