Amazing Grace Through Shirley Sherrod

Rather than be dispirited by the election results, it is time to light up the U.S. Capitol switchboard over the next few weeks to urge the U.S. Senate to pass the appropriation for thousands of black farmers in the Pigford 2 settlement.
Shirley Sherrod told me before the Freedom Fund dinner of the San Francisco Branch of the NAACP that the lame duck session of Congress may be the last opportunity to deliver the justice for black farmers.
Earlier that morning, I’d been humming the hymn Amazing Grace. Little did I know that I would meet amazing grace in person through Mrs. Sherrod.
On July 19, 2010, Glenn Beck thrust her into the spotlight as director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Georgia because a conservative blogger had posted a video saying that she had questioned whether to help a white farmer because of the abuses she had witnessed against black farmers.
Before the show came on, the White House had asked for her resignation.
Like Gov. David Patterson of New York, energy aide Van Jones and social secretary Desiree Rogers before her, Sherrod faced a quick exit from the first black president.
Later on, she told the entire audience that the 27th verse of Psalms had given her peace during the ordeal.
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

The story starts in southwest Georgia with Sherrod as the oldest of five girls to a prosperous farmer who had finally sired a male child. She was a senior in high school, planning secretly to go as far away from farms and harvesting as she could get. But her father was murdered on March 25, 1965.

2 When the wicked advance against me
to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

Losing the rock and the security of her existence, Sherrod chose then to stay and fight for black farmers, marrying a young Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee volunteer Rev. Charles Sherrod.
4 One thing I ask from the LORD,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

It was there that a penitent NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous showed up to apologize in person for initially attacking Sherrod’s remarks before learning the next morning that they had been taken out of context. Jealous was on the stage with her in San Francisco Friday night to express the apology in person and to pay tribute to another Deep South volunteer Dr. Amos Brown, who led sit-ins in 1957 and was youth leader of the NAACP in Mississippi in the 1960s.
6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

The full video showed Sherrod pointing out how she overcame her pain to help the white farmer save his farm–something she had pointed out to Department of Agriculture brass five days before the video emerged on Fox News. Yet, the Secretary of Agriculture panicked and pushed her out of the job she had held for just 11 months, administering $1.2 billion of farm assistance throughout Georgia.
7 Hear my voice when I call, LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.

Instead of taking a hastily-created outreach job once the secretary and White House apologized, Sherrod is being led to use the platform she’s been given to continue to fight for family farmers of all races.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

“I had the entire government of the United States against me, but when you have God with you, you can prevail.” Sherrod said. “We can’t let the Breitbarts of the world decide our future.” It was a sentiment echoed by Jealous, who said black leaders targeted by Beck are almost immediately the subject of death threats and harrassment, and in the case of an attacker in the Bay Area, actual terrorist attempts. That had been how Sherrod first learned of the doctored video, when she began receiving hate e-mails.
13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

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