About the Ceremony

Event Details:

The 2013 Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony was held at Cooper Union in New York City on the 15th of October 2013.

Watch the 2013 Food Sovereignty Prize Ceremony.

Special Guests


Keynote Speaker: Shirley M. Sherrod

Shirley M.Sherrod

In July 2010, Mrs. Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign her position at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted video excerpts on his website of an address by Mrs. Sherrod at a NAACP event. According to Breitbart, her comments showed how a federally-funded appointed executive racially discriminated against a white farmer. The video set off a storm of controversy and criticism. However, upon review of the complete unedited video in full context, the NAACP, White House officials and Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, apologized for her firing and offered her a new position, which she declined. Mrs. Sherrod was appointed by the Obama Administration as USDA Georgia State Director for Rural Development in 2009. She was the first black person to hold that position.

Mrs. Sherrod was born in Baker County, Georgia, in November, 1947, to Hosie and Grace Miller. In 1965, when she was 17 years old, her father, a deacon at a local Baptist Church, was shot to death by a white farmer, reportedly over a dispute about livestock. No charges were returned against the shooter by an all-white grand jury. The tragic murder of her father was a turning point in her life and it led to her deciding to stay in the south to work for change. Several months after Mr. Miller’s murder, a cross was burned at night in front of the Miller’s home while Hosie Miller, her four daughters, including Shirley, and her infant son, born after her husband’s killing, were inside.

That same year, Sherrod was among the first black students to enroll in the previously all-white high school in Baker County.

Mrs. Sherrod attended Fort Valley State College and later received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at Albany State University. While in Albany, she also worked for civil rights with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), where she met her future husband, Charles Sherrod, one of the founding members of SNCC and the leader of SNCC’s work in Southwest Georgia. She later went on to Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where she earned her Master’s degree in Community Development through the Rural Development Leadership Network.

In 1969, Mrs. Sherrod and her husband helped to form New Communities, a land trust that held 6,000 acres of land in Lee County, Georgia–one of the largest tracts of black-owned land in the US. The project soon encountered difficulties in the opposition of area white farmers, who accused participants of being Communists, and from segregationist Democratic Governor Lester Maddox, who prevented development funds for the project from entering the state. A drought in the 1970s and inability to get government loans led to the project’s ultimate demise in 1985. Nonetheless, the perseverance and foresight of the New Communities group in Georgia, motivated by the right of African-American farmers to farm land and securely and affordably, initiated the community land trust movement in the US, and it has served as a laboratory and model for groups across the country. Through it all, Mrs. Sherrod has maintained her faith in Christ. She currently worships at the CK Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in Albany, Georgia. The Sherrods are the proud parents of two children, Russia and Kenyatta, and have four granddaughters.

Mrs. Sherrod is currently working with the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc. The project includes building a food hub that will have a vegetable processing center for small farmers; a school project connecting farmers and school systems in an effort to supply locally grown vegetables to local schools; and a racial healing project in Dougherty, Wilcox and Clay Counties, Georgia.

Master of Ceremony: Blain Snipstal


Blain Snipstal is a returning generation peasant-farmer, organizer, artist and seed keeper of Afro-Indigenous ancestry based in the traditional North-South of Baltimore, Maryland. He is part of the International Youth Articulation of La Via Campesina and serves as part of the regional and youth leadership of La Via Campesina North America. He serves as a board and farm member of SAAFON – South Eastern African-American Farmers Organic Network, the only African-American organic farming network in the South Eastern United States.

Musical Guests

Martha Redbone

Martha Redbone

Garden Of Love – The Songs of William Blake is not the debut album of singer/songwriter, producer Martha Redbone, yet it embodies a sonic rebirth and fuller flowering of her own rootsy ethos. Warm, woodsy melodies take flight through the fusion of largely prewar string-band instrumentation and her heart-worn mountain holler, as Sister Martha tells William Blake’s tales of eternal humanitarian values through music distilled in the Southland since before America was founded.

Miss Redbone’s music flows equally from her own unique, award-winning blend of Native American elements with soul and funk and her deep roots in Appalachian folk and Piedmont blues favored by the matriarchy that raised her on a rich sojourn from Clinch Mountain, Virginia to Harlan County, Kentucky and beyond to Brooklyn’s Dodge City-esque mean streets. Indeed, Garden Of Love seamlessly evokes the mid-20th century old timey gold rush when such artists as her fellow Kentuckians Jim Ford and Jackie DeShannon fearlessly infused their downhome blues between canyon air ballets and retronuevo cabinessence – before their followers developed newgrass and Redbone’s twangy forebears Buffy Sainte-Marie and Rita Coolidge brought Indigenous concerns to the rock & roll arena in the 1970s. Yet don’t call this project bluegrass or the purists might have a fit.

It may come as a surprise to some that Redbone, a junior Funkadelic, indie soul pioneer and a woman noted for purveying the wilder shores of rhythm & blues on prior releases Home Of the Brave and Skintalk, recorded her new album in the fabled center of country music, Nashville. Yet, proudly retracing the path of her uniquely American mixed heritage back to its earliest source, she is merely taking the inevitable next step of a maverick artist who has never been chained by borders. Americana is her natural homecoming, sonic and otherwise.

The album, produced by Grammy-winning Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder John McEuen whose recent work includes Steve Martin’s “The Crow”, drafts in a stellar supporting cast that allowed Martha to focus on vocals and deep communion with the spirits of her ancestors, composer David Amram, cult troubadour Jonathan Spottiswoode and studio veterans Byron House on upright bass and Mark Casstevens on guitar. Reverence and righteous joy from sacred music animate songs like the title track “The Garden of Love”, the glorious “I Rose Up at Dawn of Day,” and haunting “A Dream,” driven by lyrical content from the brilliant mind of Romantic visionary William Blake whose credo ‘Energy is Eternal Delight’ is fiercely reinterpreted for Appalachia. The album resonates with the influence of Redbone’s southeastern raisin’, echoing an earlier time/space through elements of folk, country gospel, stomp chants, and the high lonesome of a front porch Sunday pickin’.

The couple crafted Garden of Love between touring, producing albums at their Brooklyn studio, an ongoing foray into banjo fascination, activism, and the never-ending daily joys of raising a young son during 2011; but the album attains the heights of an imperishable artifact, due to the acute losses of her mother, aunt and other trials amidst the writing and recording process. And so, for a concept that gestated over five years, the album is still right on time – as revision of the artist’s complex American heritage, as loving messages to her child heir to these roots, and a balm for audiences hungering for truth and higher meaning in these turbulent days of 2012.

In the arc of Martha Redbone’s aesthetic journey, Garden Of Love represents the simultaneous retrenchment and innovation so respected in those seminal works of fellow Cosmic Americana pioneers The Byrds via Sweetheart of the Rodeo and The Band on their first two long-players, and it deserves to enter that oh-so hallowed high-tech holler. This here is thoroughly modern music but imbued with rural truth and a slowed roll that has provided sustenance to plainfolks since time immemorial. C’mon, brothers and sisters, and get yourselves back to some semblance of The Garden.

Jen Chapin

Jen Chapin

Jen Chapin is a singer-songwriter, educator, mother and food justice activist. She is a longtime Member of the Board of WhyHunger, founded in 1975 by her late father Harry Chapin, and has formerly served as Board Chair and Secretary of that dynamic grassroots support organization. She also serves on the Advisory Boards of KIDS Can Make a Difference, FoodTank, and Music2Life, as well as the core group of her local CSA and the wellness council of her sons’ public school. Jen’s music is urban folk soul — story songs that search for community and shared meaning, powered by the funk and improvisation of the city. Critics have hailed her work as “brilliant.. soulfully poetic” (NPR), “thoughtful.. worth-savoring” (People), “addictive” (Boston Globe), “smart, observant, lyrically deft, politically aware and emotionally intuitive” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). JazzTimes has called her “a first-rate storyteller” while Relix regards her as “one of the freshest voices singing today.” Her latest “wondrous” (popmatters) album, Reckoning, features the song “Feed Your Baby,” an intimate portrait of our broken food system. In March 2014, Jen will lead the house band for the TEDx Manhattan “Changing The Way We Eat” conference.

About the Prize

The Food Sovereignty Prize spotlights grassroots activists working for a more democratic food system. The honorees are being recognized for promoting food sovereignty by:

  • raising public awareness, organizing on-the-ground action, and/or developing and implementing programs and policies,
  • recognizing the importance of collective action in bringing about social change,
  • building global linkages into their work, and
  • prioritizing the leadership of women, indigenous peoples, people of color, migrant workers and other food providers marginalized by the global food system.

The Food Sovereignty Prize was first awarded in 2009 as an alternative to the World Food Prize founded by “the father of the Green Revolution,” the late Norman Borlaug. While the World Food Prize emphasizes increased production through technology, the Food Sovereignty Prize champions solutions coming from those most impacted by the injustices of the global food system. In honoring those who are taking back their food systems, the Food Sovereignty Prize affirms that nothing short of the true democratization of our food system will enable us to end hunger once and for all.

The Food Sovereignty Prize was developed by the International Links Committee of the Community Food Security Coalition and is awarded by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.

The 2013 Food Sovereignty Prize is brought to you by:

AWARDED By: US Food Sovereignty Alliance

HOSTED By: US Food Sovereignty Alliance


SUPPORTED By: 2013 Food Sovereignty Prize Local Host Committee

Members of the USFSA


Agricultural Missions
Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust
Applied Research Center/Colorlines.com
Casa del Llano
Community Alliance for Global Justice
Community to Community – De Comunidad a Comunidad
Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
Family Farm Defenders
Food and Water Watch
Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food First!
Food Organizing Collaborative (FORC)
Grassroots International
Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative
Indigenous Environmental Network
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
IDEX (International Development Exchange)
Live Real
Local to Global Advocates for Justice
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

National Family Farm Coalition
New Orleans Food and Farm Network
Other Worlds
Pesticide Action Network – North America (PANNA)
Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP)
Rural Coalition
South Bronx CSA
Southwest Workers Union
UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief)

© Copyright - Food Sovereignty Prize 2012