2015 Expo Highlights ......

 

 

 

 

              Opening of the General Session Recap    

A dynamic panel of conservationists, leaders and political figures lined the podium for the 23rd annual conference of The NOPBNRCSE.  

President Drenda Williams ledoff with remarks about The Expo and its accomplishments. Record registrationthis year without agency funding. She reminded the group about the importanceof partnerships and that is why the Expo is so important to the agriculturecommunity especially the landowners.  

Williamsnoted the Board is working on a strategy to address concerns affecting Blackemployees around the nation. The core message of Williams’ speech revolvedaround overcoming obstacles. She noted that similar to the Black Lives Mattermovement that has recently gained much attention in our society, there are alsoinjustices among minority employees in the workplace: decreased hires,transformations that adversely affect minority employees, and lack of diversityaccountability.

‘Whydo we need The Organization today?’ Williams posed to the audience. “Yes, we dohave visible accomplishments in regards to promotions and career development.Truth is, we have made progress; however, we have a long way to go towardequality in job opportunities and advancement.”                       

Williamssaid that “we need to return to our Founding Fathers’ original vision and theirwillingness to reach down and lift up those employees behind them. “That is thepurpose of this Organization and that is my call of action to you. Reach up,down, forward and back to help our members.” 

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black touted agriculture’s significance to the state’s economy contributing more than $72 billion a year. Commissioner Black welcomed The Organization to Georgia and swore in every willing member as an honorary citizen of Georgia.

Georgia STC Terrance Rudolph welcomed everyone “home” to Georgia where the Organization has so much history. He expressed his sincere gratitude for the conservation work that has been done to date and looks forward to benefits outcomes that will be reaped because of it.

Southeast Regional Conservationist James Tillman said that many of us have advanced professionally because of The Org.  He thought of what it’d be like without it. He said prior to his arrival, he thought about coming to the conference and it gave him the excitement like “coming home to mama” because mama is important. The Org has been there for him for advice, comfort and counsel.                       

Deputy Chief for Strategic Planning & Accountability Lesia Reed said that without The Org she wouldn’t be where she is today and gives thanks to the folks’ shoulders that we stand on. She said for her, every day is a good day for her because she is sitting in the seat of decision making and that Black employees matter to her every day.                       

Associate Chief for Conservation Leonard Jordan expressed that he was “so proud of what I see in front of me.” At the end of the day, he noted that it’s all about the lives that we impact every day.

              

"You Matter"- Opening Speaker, Kwesi Mfume

 

Keynote speaker Kwesi Mfume for the Opening of the General Session says it’s difficult to determine what condition "our" condition is in. There have been many changes but we still face many challenges. He noted the economic disparity for Black homeowners is growing. Full development should be our goal—not employment. To drive home the seriousness of his point—he added, ‘in slavery everyone had a job too.’

Referencing James Brown, he said he "doesn’t want you to give me or hand me nothing. I want you to open the door so that I can get myself in." To put it plainly, he just wants a fair opportunity to be given.  

Mfume noted that several of the morning speakers said that they are where they are because of those before them. It is important to remember, it was the path that was laid out for them which helped this change. As Leonard Jordan and Drenda Williams also emphasized, it is important to continue fighting for us and reach back.

With all of the developed minds we have, we should at least be as smart as a honeybee. Mfume says whether it’s their brain or instinct, it works. If a honeybee is in a room, it would fly around looking for a flower. It then lands on it to get nectar, gets excited and fulfilled on own life. But the honeybee also knows he has an important role. If the honeybee didn’t take time to leave some pollen on the flowers, the flower wouldn’t flourish and then the bee couldn’t eat.

Like the honeybee has an important role in life, so does everyone in attendance. NOPBNRCSE wants to make sure you matter.

 

Lloyd Wright Small Farmer Awards Luncheon

 

During opening remarks at the Lloyd Wright Small Farmer Luncheon, NRCS Retiree and Life Member Lloyd Wright applauded NRCS for its efforts to increase the number of African-American State Conservationists. There are now 13 African-American State Conservationists nationwide, most of whom are located in the South.

He urged the African-American State Conservationists to ensure the African-American producers in their respective states know who they are and the services NRCS can provide to help them conserve their natural resources.

Wright also bemoaned the plight of the African-American farmer—saying their numbers continue to decline. He was not joking when he said “If Black farmers were green-eyed frogs, they would be considered an endangered species.”

The Organization also paid tribute to former President William Hunt, who passed away in February 2015. President Drenda Williams announced The Organization will name its Life Membership Awards after him. The Life Membership Award is now known as the “William ”Bill” Hunt Life Membership Awards.” Anthony Hunt, Bill’s son, attended the luncheon on behalf of the Hunt family and helped  President Williams distribute the 2015 Life Membership Awards.

The Organization also announced the winner and two finalists for the Small Farmer Award. Mr. and Mrs. J.B. Turner of Alabama won first place. Ellis Bell of Arkansas won second place and Rickie Roddy of Texas won third.

The Turners of Harvest grow vegetables, raise cattle and produce high quality hay. They have worked with SCS, now NRCS, since the 1980s. During that time, the Turners have installed many conservation practices including pasture plantings, improved water facilities, cross fencing, pipelines, nutrient management and heavy use areas. The Turners have completed seven Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts, resulting in a resource management system as part of his operation. He farms 152 acres.

Keynote speaker William Barber III, President of the North Carolina NAACP, delivered a passionate speech designed to invigorate and inspire Organization members, spurring them to commit to making a difference on their jobs and in their communities. He focused his speech on “Using Your Influence.”

Barbour, pastor of Greenleaf Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, reminded conference participants that the nation had 250 years of free black labor from slaves. He said America’s agricultural land has been preserved “on the backs of the slaves.”

He reminded participants of why our organization was founded and how hard our founding fathers and mothers fought for professional advancement and increased opportunities for members.

“Some of us wouldn’t be sitting here if our founding fathers didn’t go to battle,” he said. “Use your influence against the odds. Against the odds, the seeds will grow… Use your courage, influence and intellect courageously and without fear.”

He reminded expo attendees of civil rights icon Rosa Parks’s courage; how she defied the odds to enact change. She served as a spark for a movement that benefited all African-Americans nationwide. He also cited Emmitt Till’s mom who fearlessly opened up her 13-year –old Emmitt’s casket so the world could see the atrocious acts committed against him. He called both of them “modern-day Esthers” from the Old Testament.

“You must use your influence to enact change, to help others,” Barbour stressed…”History is calling us to use our influence.”

He said we can use our influence to ensure private agricultural land is conserved.

He stressed that we must not fall to a lack of willpower to take action in the face of “wrong.” “You must use your influence to redefine your reality.”

Barbour echoed what Lloyd Wright said earlier—that 97 percent of black farms are in decline.

He reminded us not to just benefit from the wars and sacrifices of the pioneers and those brave enough to stand up to authority. He said some of us get positions and then we “forget where we came from.”

However, Barbour said this…”History demanded that someone stand and fight.”

We should use our influence for a real agenda such as economic sustainability, full employment for all, a strong safety net for farmers, preservation of land for small and minority farmers and fair tax reform.

“If we use our influence, God will use his,” Barbour said “..If I do my part, if I use my influence, God will use his….Do what you can while you can.”

  

 

 

 

 

Fire in My Belly Still

 

In his usual fashion, Frank Taylor, speaker for the Townhall meeting, forwent the stage for the floor—speaking directly to all in attendance at the 2015 Expo in his deep, booming voice that is his trademark.

Taylor boomed, “I still have fire in my belly.” Every soul has some light from nothing. “Whatever it was in my DNA that was in me, was birthed in 1958 with me.” He says his goal is Saving Rural America. He is proud of his accomplishments to date which include EQIP contracts for nearly all of the landowners that he worked with.

A large part of Taylor’s speech focused on relationship building. He emphasized how he made a commitment to Winston County Self-Help Cooperative to get it done [helping landowners] by starting with a relationship. He realized that there wasn’t love for Black farmers back home and that something needed to be done. Frank said “In a relationship, rejection is a permanent part of life but how you handle it is key and to never give up on your dreams.” His commitment has led to his success and he asked others to look at themselves. Everyone wants to win but only a few people want to practice. “It’s the level of commitment. What are you doing in practice?” Whatever you can do to help someone succeed in life is an accomplishment that will be greatly appreciated. 

Taylor stressed to farmers in attendance “Don’t leave here without any answers.” His call to action for all in attendance: “Don’t let rejection be your spring board—let it be your narrative. Only go forward.”

From another Perspective: Mrs. Yolanda Jackson, MS Farmer and NRCS Program Specialist
by Porche Jackson, MS

 

Listening to Mr. Taylor during his session about not giving up is the reason I’m where I am in my career today.  I grew up in a rural community called Ludlow, MS.  This community was family oriented and we learned to help each other with their farming.  In fact, I started driving a tractor at the age of 12 to move hay out of Uncle Wiley’s hay field. I remember getting up early during the summer months to go chop grass in the garden/field and I thought this was the worst of the worst for a kid. But what else was there to do living in rural America? The best part of my life growing up was that we never went hungry.

I never wanted to live on a farm after I grew up, but that wasn’t my call.  I knew I wanted to attend college, but got sidelined by decisions I made. At several times in my life, I gave up attending college and instead began a family. After years of struggling with life, I woke up one day and said ‘I’m going to college because my kids deserve better’ and that is actually what I did.  During the process, I met an interesting young man.  I graduated from Jackson State University and married this young man who was--guess what??? A farmer.

Mr. Frank, I know you inspired our young generation with your speech on this subject and I appreciate your desire and work to keep rural America in the farming business.

                   

 
 

Pearlie S. Reed Banquet with Judge Glenda Hatchett, Georgia

Poised andpositioned like court was in session, Judge Hatchett commanded the stage at TheOrganization’s 2015 Pearlie Reed banquet. She first paid honor to the visionaryPearlie Reed for his sacrifice and leadership to The Organization and theagency over many years by quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. “Theultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort andconvenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

JudgeHatchett began her impassioned speech with police killings and maintained thatpassion throughout every topic. Silence often hung in the air as her audiencelistened intently. When discussing the killing of Black men by police, Hatchettsaid she used to say, “That could’ve been my son.” Now she says, “It is my son.They all are.” She prays for a world where a young boy can walk down the streetwith a bag of Skittles and ice tea.

Making theconnection between police brutality and the Organization, Hatchett says, “Weare called at such a time like this.” This is relevant to farmers and blackprofessionals. Like many of the audience members, Hatchett said that she iswhere she is because of God’s grace and because she stands on the shoulders ofgenerations of Black folks who made her achievements possible.

She also hada message for NRCS employees who won’t join The Organization. “Who thinks thatthey got ‘there’ on their own?” sheasked. “Rather, you’re in these positions and agencies because of folks whomade a difference—like Reed. If they’re going to benefit from the table, theyneed to pick or be there at the harvest.” She said she has little patience forthose who think they got there on their own.

Hatchettshared stories of her experiences as a Juvenile court judge. Once on a lunchbreak, she ran into a man who recognized her as the new judge. He told her,‘the problem with a lot of young black men is that nobody is calling these boys`son.’ His words stuck with her and she realized she could be a force forchange. As a juvenile court judge, she had the power to make a huge impact bygetting to these young boys early in their lives.

She also talkedwith a pastor who said he recently met with gang recruiters who told her thereason gangs are so successful is because they can love them better than thechurch can.

Hatchettadmits that she doesn’t know a lot about agriculture—only from what she learnedon her grandmother’s farm. But still, she says everything she’s mentioned inher speech deals with conservation because the battle is ‘everywhere’ and weare all on the battlefront.

“We are allbeneficiaries of the dream. I’m standing on the shoulders of mightygenerations.”  She told the story of anElder Mother in her church who gave her a handkerchief and told her, “Baby, Ican’t go with you where you going, but baby, you run on.” To her Elder Mother,this is a relay. She ran her leg of the race and passed it along to Hatchett torun this side of the race. And that’s exactly what Hatchett is doing –all thatshe can.

 

Pearlie Reed Award Winner: Lloyd Wright is the 2015 recipientof the Pearlie S. Reed Award.

 
 

   A Few Words of Wisdom from Our Retirees

Charles Adams,Retiree and Former ORG President – “It’s not important for you to have awall of plaques with your name on it. But instead, when you expire, that theysee the plaques that you helped them put up.”

Charles Roberts –“Got to work, make it fun. Learn to do the job and everything else will comealong. Develop a networking committee. And reach back and help someone else.”

Larry Holmes –“Find something that you’re passionate about. Ask yourself, ‘What do you dowhen you’re tired and don’t feel like doing anything else.’ That’s your passion.“

Carl Hunter – “Ifyou’re doing your best, the best job, can’t nobody take your job.”

Edward Ealy – “Smile one or two times a day tohelp get the day on.”

 

                                             
EXPO PHOTO GALLERY!!!
            

 

Great news! If you would like to view picturesof the sessions, speakers, people, and festivities of this year Expo, check outour new Photo Gallery page.

 

To view the page you must be a member. So why wait?Apply or renew your membership and see what the 2015 Outreach & AgEducation Expo was all about!

If you would like a picture for your personal useplease email the Communications Chair.

                     
 
2016 Expo Update
National Organization for Professional Black NRCS Employees will be held at the Atlanta Airport Marriott. Expo dates along with hotel rates will be announced at a later date.  
 
                                             


 




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