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Diversity in Gardening Matters, Here's What You Can Do To Help

Published on June 9th 2020

by CandideUK. All rights reserved

A close up of a flower
During the pandemic, many of us have found solace in nature but unfortunately, the reality is painfully different for some Black people and People of Colour. Whether that's indigenous communities violently having their lands and livelihoods stripped from them or birders and botanists being threatened or arrested while out enjoying nature because of the colour of their skin. At Candide, we believe the world would be far richer if we nurtured and strengthened racial diversity and biodiversity in tandem. Furthermore, it's imperative we do so if the planet and all of its inhabitants are to thrive. So to better serve and reflect our global community of gardeners, we are amplifying the work of Black and POC growers and creators.
In this article, we highlight some of the horticultural movers and shakers we should all be backing, from podcast makers and publishers to the presenters, campaigners and the charitable causes worthy of your time, money and social media love. Ultimately, we stand in solidarity with the Black community and although we acknowledge the horticultural industry has a lot of work to do, we hope the long term effects of our effort will go some way towards creating a more diverse and inclusive industry.

Read this

Claire Ratinon holding fresh beetroot
© Claire Ratinon
The Willowherb is a gutsy plant that thrives in inhospitable conditions. It's also the inspiration behind The Willowherb Review, a brilliant new digital platform where nature writers of colour take centre stage. Each issue weaves together poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Tales of deadly wildfires, magical forests and wild rivers bring themes of climate change, migration and homesickness to the fore. Crucially, its writers are paid and each issue is available to read online for free.
Some pink Chamaenerion angustifolium flowers on a plant

Rosebay Willowherb

Epilobium angustifolium

Willowherb Review founder Jessica J. Lee recommends picking up a copy of The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham or Trace by Lauret Savoy to further your understanding of how race and the environmental movement are intertwined. To that we'd add Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney.
For a deep dive into the breadth of African American poetic talent, settle down with Black Nature, a groundbreaking anthology spanning four centuries of nature-inspired poetry by African American writers. Editor Camille T. Dungy has selected 180 poems which together broaden our all too often narrow vision of who holds the pen when it comes to nature writing.
Through her Instagram page and newsletter What A Time To Have A Garden, organic grower Claire Ratinon speaks honestly and eloquently on what it's like to move through the mostly white world of horticulture as a POC grower. Come for the lyrical musings on nature, stay for an enlightened personal perspective on how one's heritage informs our experience of the outside world.

Further reading

Do this

Ron Finley, the self-proclaimed Gangster Gardener is leading a green revolution amid the grey concrete of inner-city LA. But you don't need to go all the way to America to join his growing community of urban gardeners, just sign up to his new online gardening masterclass. Or you can show your support for Finley's work by making a donation.
Dr Dani Rabaiotti If you're a scientist, check out this important list of ways you can support Black people in the realms of ecology and conservation from Dr Dani Rabaiotti.

Support this

A person holding a plant
© Mignon Hemsley, Grounded
The Earth Issue Emergency Freedom Fundraiser
Fill your walls with gorgeous prints from The Earth Issue and this eco-conscious artist collective will split 100% of the proceeds between the George Floyd Bail Funds and UK based youth charity The 4Front Project. Throughout June, photographer Naima Green is also throwing a print sale for M4BL. Her series Jewels from the Hinterland is a vibrant celebration of black bodies in nature.
Sheffield Environmental Movement According to government figures, people from BAME backgrounds are less likely to spend time at parks, beaches or visiting the countryside. The Sheffield Environmental Movement is disrupting the stats by engaging Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic & Refugee (BAMER) community groups with outings and activities in nature.
American-based start-up Grounded is a plant delivery service with a purpose (beyond making D.C's homes more plantlicious). It launched this Earth Day as a way of using plants as a form of green therapy for those stuck inside. The founders hope their project will uproot some of the stigma surrounding mental health in the African American community.
Green 2.0 This US-based organisation campaigns for more diversity in conservation organisations. By holding NGOs, foundations and government agencies to account and publicly praising the ones who engage, fund and provide access to people of colour, it hopes to smash the “green ceiling” (a term it uses to describe the lack of non-white people in the sector).
Getting hold of an allotment is no easy task and it's not just because everyone wants to live the Good Life. Recent research shows 65% of allotments have disappeared since the end of World War Two, with deprived areas up to eight times more likely to have lost growing land compared with the wealthiest. Lend and Tend is a garden sharing platform which could plug the land gap for Black and POC growers living in allotment depleted areas.
six seedings on a bench
© Seedlings For Solace
Reports of domestic violence have soared during the lockdown. Yet in the UK, funding has been slashed for many of the services that provide a lifeline to vulnerable women. One way you can help victims of domestic violence and start down the growing path is by purchasing plants from Seedlings For Solace, a London-based start-up, which donates all of its proceeds to Solace Women's Aid.
A woman surrounded by cacti
© Prick LDN
Prick LDN is an excellent place to find plants that are "hard to kill and easy to love" while supporting a Black-owned business in the process. However, in a recent Instagram repost, Prick LDN founder Gynelle Leon also stresses the need to diversify all aspects of our lives (not just our shopping baskets).

Listen to this

Educate yourself on the incredible but often-overlooked contributions of Black leaders working in the realms of ecology, conservation, outdoor-based learning and environmental justice by tuning into this vital podcast from London-based non-profit Wild in the City.
Serious question: Have you ever seen a Black garden gnome? Frustrated by the lack of representation of voices and faces like her own in the worlds of horticulture, podcasting and the garden centre, self-proclaimed plantrepreneur Colah B Tawkin created Black in the Garden. Every episode introduces her listeners (or soil cousins) to plant lovers and leaders from the Black community. Each episode is delivered with wit, warmth and originality but one particularly pertinent episode explores pandemic survival techniques via the power of plants. If you like what you hear do leave a donation.

Further Listening

The Challenge of Diversity in the Environmental Movement, an interview with Professor Dorceta Taylor of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability on Resources Mag.

Watch this

Ron Finley holding a garden fork
© Ron Finley
This moving and joyous documentary tells the story of Ron Finley and three other "unlikely gardeners" as they plant the seeds of an urban growing movement that has a transformative effect on impoverished communities in South LA.
Our screens still aren't anywhere near as diverse as they should be, but that's no excuse to not find, watch and share the brilliant work with Black people at the helm, whether that's in front of the camera or behind it.
The Instant Gardener series sees garden designer Danny Clarke repurpose, recycle and reinvigorate gardens in need. Here's to more positive role models such as Clarke.
Lace up and hike through more than 500 years of Black history during this powerful play from Eclipse Theatre which was written by rapper Testament. As well as celebrating Black culture and heritage, it champions the healing powers of walking.

Follow them

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig holding a microphone
© Mya-Rose Craig
For starters, put these hashtags and accounts on your radar.
Earlier this year, we interviewed Mya-Rose Craig, an avid twitcher and all-round boss girl who has been raising awareness of racism within the environmental movement from a young age. She has set up nature camps for children from VME backgrounds and in 2016 organised a Race Equality in Nature conference in Bristol. She continues to speak out on the rights of indigenous communities and challenges discrimination she encounters through her articles and social media.
Proving that the horticultural world is anything but pale, male and stale are these fabulous Instagram accounts putting planty people with Black heritage on the horticultural grid.
Through the Black and Green programme London born, Jamaican raised McKenzie has been instrumental in encouraging young Bristolians from multiethnic backgrounds to take up environmental leadership positions. She also recently finished up a writer's residency with the Forestry Commission. You can read the work she produced during that time here.
In one of her many must-read articles, Brooklyn-borne marine biologist Johnson, speaks lucidly about how having to fight racism is stopping her from doing the important work of saving the planet. In it, she calls on white people to "become actively anti-racist". Her words inspired this article and we're sure they'll inform and inspire you too.

Plant this

Did you know that many of our most popular house plants originate from Africa? We've included Colah B Tawkin's top five (creator of the aforementioned Black in the Garden) as well as some extras.
This is by no means an exhaustive list so if there's an individual, cause, company or campaign you'd like to shout about, please leave a comment below. .

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