Newswire : Mike Espy to receive Witherspoon Award at Federation’s 50th Annual Meeting celebration

Mike Espy
Mike Espy

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund will celebrate its 50th. Annual Meeting on August 17 to 19, 2017. The organization was founded in 1967, by 22 cooperatives and credit unions, arising from the Civil Rights Movement, serving low-income farmers and rural people in the South.
On Thursday evening, August 17, Attorney Mike Espy of Jackson, Mississippi will receive the 16th annual Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award at a fundraising banquet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Interstate 495 in Birmingham. Estelle Witherspoon was the Manager of the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alberta, Alabama and a founding member of the Federation.

Mike Espy served as the first Black Congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction, from 1987 to 1993. In 1993, President Bill Clinton selected him to be the first African-American and the first Secretary of Agriculture from the Deep South. Today, Espy heads the Mississippi office of the law firm of Morgan and Morgan and was involved in the Pigford Black Farmer Discrimination lawsuits against USDA.

Espy has worked closely with the Federation in all of his professional pursuits. As a Mississippi Congressman he co-sponsored the “Minority Farers Rights Bill” and helped to get several of its major components, including the Section 2501 Outreach Program, into the 1990 Farm Bill. As Secretary of Agriculture, he worked closely with the Federation on the efforts to bring greater civil rights concern to the department. As a lawyer, he worked closely with the Federation and our members on the Pigford lawsuit.

On Friday and Saturday, August 18 and 19, the Federation’s Annual Meeting will shift to the organization’s Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes in Sumter County. Friday will be a day of workshops, presentations and celebration of the Federation’s half century of work and achievements on behalf of Black farmers and landowners. Friday evening there will be a fish-fry, wild game tasting and other dishes from the regional membership of the Federation.

On Saturday, the Federation will hold a prayer breakfast followed by the organization’s business meeting, which includes reports from the Board of Directors, Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director, and state caucuses of the membership.

Cornelius Blanding said, “For five decades, the Federation has served its membership of Black farmers and other low income rural people across the South. We have held true to our mission and worked at the grassroots level to transform people and communities, many times in the face of racial hostility and economic exploitation, to win a better future with social and economic justice for our membership. I am proud to be part of the continuing legacy of the Federation and hope to lead it into the next half century of progress.”

Persons interested in attending the Estelle Witherspoon Awards Banquet and the 50th Annual Meeting should go to the organization’s website at http://www.federation.coop to register. Information is also available from the Federation’s offices in Atlanta (404/765-0991) and Epes, Alabama (205/652-9676).

Federation steps in to halt Wendy Hills foreclosure

Minutes before the foreclosure sale on Thursday, December 15, 2016, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, PLBA Housing Development Corporation and USDA Rural Development reached an agreement to sell the Wendy Hills Subdivision to the Federation. This averted the foreclosure sale, which was set for 11:00 AM at the Courthouse steps in Livingston, Alabama.
“We are pleased that we were able to secure funding to purchase Wendy Hills and avoid a foreclosure which would have caused an untold upheaval to the forty families living there. We want to continue to provide good housing for very low income people in Sumter County, which was the original intent and goal of Wendy Hills,” said Cornelius Blanding, Federation Executive Director.
Blanding continued, “ We know that we have to make some improvements to the property to bring it up to standards. We plan to secure financing for these improvements to the apartments as well as insure fire protection and safety for all of the residents.” “Our first step will be to insure the continued rental assistance, currently provided by HUD, to allow very low income persons to live in north Sumter County,” said Blanding.
Commissioner Drusilla Jackson, whose district includes the Wendy Hills Subdivision, said “ I was very concerned about this foreclosure and its impact on people in my district. I pledge to assist the Federation in any way I can to help insure that the housing is maintained for the residents who live there.”
The Wendy Hills Subdivision currently consists of 36 units, 10 one bedroom, 8 two bedroom, 8 three bedroom and 10 four bedroom apartments; an office and a playground area. Fire destroyed four of the original 40 units and they have not been rebuilt.
Mayor Carrie Fulghum of the Town of Gainesville and General Manager of the PLBA Housing Development Corporation said “ I am glad, as mayor of the closest town, that we were able to prevent the foreclosure of Wendy Hills and I am dedicated to insuring a safe and secure place for the residents of the Subdivision.”
For more information contact: Cornelius Blanding at 404/765-0991 or cornelius@federation.coop