Diversity + Inclusion Initiatives
July 9, 2020
Recently Charleston Wine + Food issued a statement regarding the venues it will use and cease to use going forward when planning festival events. This statement, sent to the media and posted on official social media accounts, stated that Charleston Wine + Food will no longer plan festival events on plantations and would move its popular Culinary Village from Marion Square to an alternate location if the John C. Calhoun monument was not removed. The Board of Directors wholeheartedly supports this decision and an official vote of approval was recorded.
This statement spurred commentary regarding the organization, its motives, the composition of its staff and Board of Directors, past protocols and methods, and even sparked questions like, “why is the festival inserting itself into political matters?” Let us be clear, this is a matter of humanity.
One of the most fundamental human elements is the ability to connect with other humans. As a wine and food festival that is what we do; we create opportunities for others to connect over wine and food. We want to create a festival, and an organization, where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Where we produce events, how we produce events, and who has access to attend + participate is of paramount importance in making this statement a reality. There are many factors that we have to consider, reevaluate, and ultimately, change if true equity and justice are to be achieved within our organization.
On our journey to becoming an actively antiracist organization, one that is a true reflection of the culinary and hospitality community of Charleston, we recognize that we have a lot of work to do. We aim to be transparent and we want you to hold us accountable for the actions we say we will take. While the following is not a comprehensive plan, it is a list of immediate actions Charleston Wine + Food will take in the next year.
Board of Directors and Staff
The composition of our Board of Directors should represent the diverse voices of our community. Over the next two years we will make intentional efforts to diversify the membership of our Board to include a minimum of 20% racial minorities. Additionally, we plan to complete an audit of our current hiring process to ensure that the future recruitment of staff is diverse and inclusive.
As we mentioned, where we produce events is integral to the attendance and comfort level of our guests and participants. In addition to no longer producing events on plantations, we are committed to doing a full examination of all past and future venues with the help of local historians and community leaders. We want to ensure that our event programming is reflective of the spaces in which it takes place.
Over the past several years we have taken actions to diversify the talent that participates in the festival. We are committed to not only making sure that our talent and programming represents the diversity of our industry, but we will examine and put forward solutions to address the barriers of entry and true accessibility for talent to participate in the festival.
Lastly, we will leave you with a final thought. Food and wine are many things. They are inherent storytellers; telling stories of place, time, and most importantly of people. Food and wine is a mainstay in the stories of those who create, preserve, and have access to consume it. It has the ability to create connections. At its core, it brings people together in celebration and the making of memories.
At the heart of it, we are an organization that believes that human connection is the most powerful force on Earth and shared stories are the catalyst for this connection. Stories define us, connect us, and give us a sense of place + purpose in life. Let us make a reality where the stories we tell, over wine + food, are truly inclusive. Now is the time to do better. We can do better.
Charleston Wine + Food Board of Directors
Steve Palmer, Chair
David Marconi, Immediate Past Chair
Mamie Bush, Vice Chair
Andy Covode, Treasurer
Margaret Furniss, Secretary
Jacques Larson, Chef Co-Chair
Anthony DiBernardo, Chef Co-Chair
Ann Marshall, Member
Kim Unterreiner, Member
Weston Fennell, Member
Lisa Buzzelli, Member
Charles Carmody, Member
Karalee Fallert, Member