Shirley Sherrod: “I’m the lady USDA fired”—and the Nonprofit Leader We Should All Admire

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June 16, 2011; Source: Washington Post | In literature, we are all familiar with Joseph Campbell's "journey of a hero" story arc, but in the nonprofit sector, we get to see heroes and heroines every day.  NPQ never fails to be astoundingly impressed every time we see a mention of Shirley Sherrod, the advocate for black farmers who was fired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the wake of a scurrilous attack video created by conservative videographer Andrew Breitbart. 

As readers know from our previous coverage of both the black farmers litigation and the stupid-actions-by-government routine done by Secretary Vilsack and the White House, Shirley Sherrod is a longtime nonprofit and civil rights activist. She never calls attention to herself, but she lives the principles she believes. Vilsack took the fall for the entire administration after Sherrod was fired while driving her car, ordered to text in her "resignation." She was offered her job back  – or some sort of job at USDA – but she refused. She did however remind Vilsack of the Department's need to focus on programs for the poor in rural areas, not a strong suit in this very urban Obama administration.

Recently, Vilsack and the USDA offered Sherrod a consulting gig – a $35,000 contract for a big assignment working on the Department's relationships with the poor, with African-Americans, etc. You have to hand it to the tone deaf USDA, sometimes called "the Last Plantation."

Sherrod turned down the penny ante consulting gig and lectured Vilsack again on the Department's failings in responding to the poor. Can you not be simply impressed by the integrity and commitment demonstrated by Shirley Sherrod, one of the best of the nonprofit sector? Read about our previous coverage of Sherrod's firing and of the black farmers litigation here and here and here and here.  Hang in there Shirley!—Rick Cohen