Community Matters

A Grassroots Approach to Addressing Transportation Issues

Michael Banner

This summer, the Foundation made seven grants totaling $189,000 for creative solutions to transportation challenges in Forsyth County. This grant round was initiated to address transportation issues that exist in many of our neighborhoods, preventing individuals and families from receiving vital access to healthcare, education, jobs, and healthy and affordable food – all contributing to systemic poverty.

One of the transportation grant recipients is Island CultureZ – a community wealth-building initiative in East Winston working to create local food system jobs through increased land ownership and market access. Island CultureZ works to address transportation issues for urban farmers and connect the urban and rural sectors to increase access to farmable land, resources, and shared knowledge amongst local farmers.

Through their grant, Island CultureZ will form work brigades to provide transportation for youth to work at urban and rural farms. Their approach is strategic in proposing something that can be grown from a grassroots perspective and organically over time.

Michael Banner is an urban farmer with Island CultureZ who shares his thoughts below:

It’s hard on the yard, but exponentially harsher on the boulevard where the asphalt don’t give much. Hot streets meet the soles of my Nikes, worn thinner – walking papers thin – as if hastily handed to a terminated employee fired for fitful tardiness.

With the emergence of our community organization, Island CultureZ, my thoughts oft’ return to building momentum and growing potential to really advance our mission – nurturing community self-reliance through working in unison to overcome poverty & oppression – and move forward, closer to our vision where we are thriving as a network of synergetic communities, a matrix of islands, broadcasting cultural growth and diversity.

We see a potential conduit between the established and sometimes decaying Rural Farm sector and the spry and much re-seeded Urban Farming sector that could become a symbiotic relationship where the two realities complement one another, providing tried and true protocol on one hand, and innovation and invention on the other, intuitively, and on a grassroots level.

The ability to transport populations to local and surrounding destinations catalyzes the expansions of horizons for our city’s public transit customers, obliterating a stigma of chronic poverty and providing greater public access through door-to-door transportation.

The grant that Island CultureZ received is one in which we hope to build familial bonds between not only Urban and Rural, but also between the booming Downtown Winston-Salem and East-Winston sectors. We can provide agri-tourism to serve our humanizing and publicizing goals and inform the privileged class of the hardships that run rampant through the grindhouse of Island streets.

This grant is major in setting a precedent where the buck was stopped, much like a city bus at the ringing of the bell, halting the rumination of this hungry passenger for a moment, thankful that transportation can bring us a ways closer to our purpose-filled and optimistic arrivals.

I am exceedingly glad that The Winston-Salem Foundation was all-inclusive in opening their doors to our Community by using a Participatory Grantmaking Model – setting a precedent for what philanthropy might look like in our city that is hyper-racialized along the lines of wealth distribution wherein Whites are predictably enfranchised, and Blacks are poor, under-served, under and misrepresented.

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