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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Honey of an idea: Urban agriculture through West End beekeeping
Initiative a homegrown redevelopment solution
Published Wednesday, February 26, 2020 11:32 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Janelle Dunlap’s fellowship with the League of Creative Interventionists led to beekeeping and honey harvesting at Johnson C. Smith University in Historic West End.

Janelle Dunlap is cultivating community through beekeeping.

Dunlap began a beehive at Johnson C. Smith University during her fellowship with the League of Creative Interventionists in 2018. On Feb. 18, she and a group of volunteers harvested what she called Golden Bull Honey at JCSU’s New Science Center. A portion of the honey and wax products will go to the school for research and some of it will be sold at their farmer’s market.

Dunlap’s initial installation of a beehive was a display of positive redevelopment in Historic West End, an area often associated with terms like food desert and gentrification.

“It was to provide one positive example of what ethical redevelopment could look like in the West corridor,” Dunlap said. “A shift from discussing residential property to thinking about how we view their agricultural space—how do we add on to things that are already in existence there, and how do we contribute to those resources, versus bringing outside resources in, and essentially starving what exists there of resources?”

Dunlap’s first year was designed to promote agriculture among people of color by contributing to the area’s existing culture.

“There have been farmers in West Charlotte for decades,” Dunlap said. “It is part of our DNA to be agriculturalists. For me, just bringing beekeeping to the mix is just diversifying what that looks like, but still having it represented by people who look like the people who live here. Representation matters.”

Last year, Dunlap worked with two JCSU work study students to teach them about beekeeping. She has since given an artist talk in Chicago about the experience called “Turn Your Pain Into Honey.” The talk is part of her six-month residency with the Sweet Water Foundation, which runs through the summer.  

“I needed to put a little bit of personal narrative behind each of my projects leading up to beekeeping, because it has all been part of my process of understanding how I wanted to cultivate community,” Dunlap said.

While she was in Chicago, the bees absconded from the hive. Yet, Dunlap’s work in Charlotte will continue with a new cohort of Smith students and new hives.

“I am getting two new hives this March, because I will be doing my installation,” she said. “When my bees left I really saw that as a blessing and an opportunity to harvest that honey, because this is the first harvest. We installed that hive in 2018, and we were finally able to harvest it.”


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