Reclaiming Gardening in the Black Community
When society talks about gardening and the people that do it, they ain’t talking about people that look like us. Why do y’all think that is? This violent erasure can be directly traced back to slavery. Through their forced hard labour on plantations, slaves planting, tended, and harvested crops like cotton, tobacco, sugar, rice, and many others. It was this work that built America. And by making them and their stories invisible, the lie that Black people aren’t intimately connected to this land is able to persist.
There is a revolution happening. More and more, we’re seeing Black people all over the world change that narrative, one home garden at a time. Whether it’s tending to our indoor gardens of houseplants, or growing our own food, gardening is being reclaimed in the Black community. Listen. 2020 has been a lot for us. But we understand that a year like 2020 was only the natural result of more than 400 years of systemic violence and racism. Too often our stories and names are tied to violence and death. With the rise of Black gardeners and farmers, we flippin’ the script. By reconnecting to the land, building community gardens, teaching our children how to take care of plants, and grow their own food, it is the ultimate declaration that life belongs to us, too. We are the original peoples of this earth, and because of this, our relationship with it will always be sacred and collaborative.
A lifelong lover of plants myself, I finally brought my love of gardening to Instagram earlier this summer and created BlackGirlRooted, an account where I could share my love and knowledge of houseplants. It’s through here that I’ve developed relationships and friendships with some Black folks doing incredible agriculture work solely in the name of the advancement of Black people in this industry. Jasmine Jefferson, founder of BlackGirlsWithGardens, wanted to create a space where women of colour, specifically Black women, could come together to “find support, inspiration, education, and representation in gardening.” With over 171K followers, her idea worked. The collective has grown into workshops, brand partnerships, spawned a brother account, BlackMenWithGadens (with over 123K followers there), and, ultimately, a safe space for Black women to feel seen and heard.
Black people online are taking up space and forcing the world to make room for them. Through BlackGirlRooted, I have seen firsthand the demand from Black folks for this kind of representation. It was through Instagram, that I found my first ever Black botanist, Derek Haynes (@botanical.highlander). His account reclaims the science and intimate knowledge of the earth and plants as something that has always been ours – he just happens to have a degree to back it up. Brayan Pinto (@brother.earthh) is a plant educator and a budding “CANNApreneur.” His aim is to reconnect Black and brown people to nature and make his stake in the cannabis industry, one that is plagued with structural racism and has historically kept people like us out.
So whether you’re a newbie to houseplants or you’re already growing peppers and collard greens, there is room for you in this gardening community. By taking up space, we honour the ancestors who came before us, whose relationship with the land has been marred by violence and erasure. The things we grow and cultivate now are vital to the sustaining of not only our histories, but our futures.