The women in Charlea Bing’s family have all fought the fight in Tampa.
Her grandmother was a scientist at the University of South Florida and the old State Board of Health Department during the 1960s when she faced racism and sexism. Bing’s older sister fought the same things when she served on the NAACP Tampa Youth Council.
Her grandmother “would tell us stories to make sure we understood racial injustices even at a young age,” Bing said.
Bing knew she would be an activist, just like them.
Then on May 25, 2020, a 46-year-old Black man died on the streets of Minneapolis, Minn., after a police officer knelt on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. George Floyd’s death mobilized the Black Lives Matter movement and launched hundreds of worldwide protests.
Bing wanted to do her part. She started by publishing the first issue of Black N Tampa magazine on June 4, 2020 — two weeks after Floyd’s death.
She calls it an “encyclopedia” of local Black organizations, restaurants, and businesses that she wanted the Tampa community to support or follow. That includes the Rainbow PUSH Coalition of Florida, a civil rights group, and Konan’s BBQ, the Carver City staple founded by educator Mike Trigg. She sold each digital copy for $1 to help raise funds to help bail out arrested protestors.
In just days, she raised over $1,000. Bing was happy with the magazine’s success, but she didn’t want to stop there.
The Fourth of July
Bing continued her activism, attending Black Lives Matter Movement protests across Tampa Bay that summer.
She marched on N Dale Mabry Highway holding a Black Lives Matter sign in one hand and a megaphone in the other.
It was July 4, 2020 when protesters marched along one of Tampa’s busiest highways as the national protests continued after Floyd’s death.
Within seconds — Bing didn’t see how it started, but she saw how it ended — there were loud cries and screams as police officers started spraying a chemical irritant, forcing demonstrators down onto the pavement and arresting them.
She immediately went back to her Seminole Heights home for safety. She stepped inside and burst out into tears.
“It was definitely the worst protest (I attended),” Bing said. “I saw and experienced something that can’t really be described with words but emotions.”
Watching what happened to her fellow protesters inspired Bing to do more. She turned Black N Tampa magazine into an advocacy and community service organization to do even more to help Black people in her hometown.
“I always believed that when you see someone that looks like you, you help them out. That’s just how I was raised,” she said. “We are still being mistreated as Black people in America, which never ceases to exist, and I wanted to change this.”
Farming, therapy, training
Her first initiative was to restore a community garden in Belmont Heights to combat food insecurity.
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She was inspired while shopping for groceries at her local Walmart and saw expired produce. This is ridiculous, she said to herself. She quickly called her mentor, longtime activist and Super Bowl champion Tyrone Keys, who told Bing about a friend who needed help maintaining a community garden.
Days later, Bing and Keys met the owner of the garden to discuss turning it around, starting with a monthly community clean-up. That August, 15 people helped with the first clean up.
She partnered with two community organizations, the HOPE center and Ubuntu LLC, to grow produce. They hope to hold their first community garden food drive later this month.
Her next initiative was to teach an interactive protesting course designed to teach demonstrators new skills, connect with other organizers and unpack “what can be done better” at future protests. The course — also in partnership with Ubuntu LLC — ran through September.
In October, Bing created “Black N Therapy,” a free program for people seeking mental health help. The program was originally targeted to help organizers and protesters. Now, with over 40 participants, the program is exclusively for Black women and men. Due to COVID-19, all sessions are held via Zoom.
And Bing didn’t stop there. She later on created free tutoring services for predominantly Black elementary schools in Hillsborough County. The hour-long tutoring sessions, also on Zoom, covered subjects like math, reading, history, and science. She also donated school supplies to Kenly, Robles and Sheehy Elementary schools.
Bing’s most recent event was a July 24 self-defense course in St. Petersburg. Her organization doesn’t have members, but it does have interested people.
“I don’t recruit people to join,” she said. “I just host events that I think are needed and people show up.”
Driven to succeed
Driving back and forth from Tampa to Tallahassee every month to keep her organization alive has been challenging for the Florida A&M student.
However, the biggest challenge Bing faced running Black N Tampa was the backlash she says she got from “white people in the city of Tampa.”
When she would have protests with her organization, she says white people would call them derogatory words or insult them.
“It’s like ‘Oh my God.’ These people are actually seeing me as a threat, and threatening me because of that,” Bing said. “I think that has been the hardest pill to swallow.”
Bing was always aware of the racism in her hometown through her grandmother’s stories and personal experiences. That never stopped her from giving back to the Tampa community, or loving it.
Her future goal is to make Black N Tampa a household name. When Tampa’s Black residents need help, she wants them to automatically think of Black N Tampa and the services the organization can provide for them.
“I could never have dreamed of this, but I knew that it was going to be something,” Bing said. “I’m very proud and happy of what it’s becoming like, I’m only 19. So for me, I’m like, the sky’s the limit.”