Organization: Cultivate Charlottesville
Location: Charlottesville, VA
In her words…
“My experience growing up as a southern Black woman with low-income roots means I’ve lived what many may still perceive to be a “historical narrative” of race and wealth inequity in the United States. And while I’ve come from humble beginnings, life has awarded me opportunities to build relationships with communities of wealth and power. My main goal is to be a bridge builder, hosting dialogue across differences so that decision makers can know and understand the true reality of our American food system through the lens of Black and Brown farmers and consumers. For me, it’s about enabling everyone to see that an equitable and just food system should and can be at the heart of every healthy community.”
What gives her hope…
Of course there is a lot of pain about the brutal events of August 12, 2017, but really there’s always been a lot of pain here in the Deep South. What is positive is that, in response, our whole community is digging deeply into that pain, rather than ignoring it, and coming up with some real innovations. People from many sectors are working together, pushing very hard to solve problems in a way that feels unprecedented. Talking with leaders around the region. I’ve heard people say that the response to this event has been at the forefront, prompting a level of change we have never seen.
From her office in Charlottesville VA, Shantell Bingham weaves together a hyper-local network invested in just food system transformation. As the Food Justice Network Program Director for Cultivate Charlottesville, the North Carolina native combats legacies of racism and systemic food insecurity in a graceful, historic town that became a flashpoint of national tension when a White Nationalist rally turned deadly in August 2017.
Building bridges across race and class lines, Bingham has directed her Charlottesville based coalition of more than 30 organizations in reshaping local historical narratives, sparking city-wide dialogue, and mobilizing neighborhoods for equitable food policy change. Her coalition work honors Black American traditions of power building in racial justice movements and has built upon her previous work co-founding the organization Growing for Change in 2015 as a renegade gardener, promoting the right to grow for tenants of public housing through mass garden production and transgressional placement of grow spaces. Amplifying her work to the regional level, this food policy expert is a member of the Community Ownership, Empowerment, and Prosperity Action team for the Chesapeake Foodshed Network’s 2000 organizations spanning across 6 states.
She hails from rural Goldsboro, NC as the daughter to a single mother of six kids. Bingham inherited traditions of growing and respect for the land from her great grandparents, who were tobacco sharecroppers that taught the value of kitchen gardens as a lifeline for food — and knowledge. In her short time, Bingham has a Masters degree in Public Health and has received a number of awards and fellowships, such as the Dalai Lama Fellowship, in pursuit of her vision and values. Young leaders like Shantell are prompting a major shift in power toward restorative and equitable racial dynamics grounded in rights, collaboration, and communal ownership for systemic change.