For Black People, Plant Parenthood Is Deeper Than Instagram
We can commune and engage with plants in both spiritual and practical ways
I, like many others, became a plant mom during quarantine. At first, I thought my interest in plants was just a reaction to the stressors of life today. However, while researching plants I was considering buying, I reflected on my ancestral relationship with houseplants, land, and farming, realizing my interest was not simply a reaction. Plant parenthood for myself and other Black people is deeper than beautifying our spaces or having a prop for Instagram posts. Engaging with the natural world through houseplants, gardening, or growing food for ourselves is a radical act of self-sufficiency. Connecting with our ancestors by returning to African agrarian practices and bringing plants native to our ancestral homelands into our environment is healing for Black people in a world that often denies us access to greenery, frivolity, healthy food options, and full access to our history.
Founders of Grounded, a Black-owned plant shop in Washington, D.C., Danuelle Doswell and Mignon Hemsley, want to help their consumers — Black consumers especially — to disconnect and decompress while educating them not only on the mental health benefits of houseplants, but also the connections between plants and Black history. A descendant of sharecroppers on her father’s side, Doswell tells ZORA, “…if all African Americans did some sort of lineage tracing, everyone’s family has had some connection with using their hands in nature.” For Hemsley, her mother always encouraged her to have her own garden as a means for survival. At Grounded, bringing plants into the home is about preserving and protecting one’s health.
But, disconnecting and decompressing may not be so easy for Black folks, even with plants in the home. Because of redlining, white flight, and structural racism, Black people are less likely to have access to green spaces — parks, community gardens, playgrounds, woody vegetation, and so on— and supermarkets in their communities. Due to these injustices, Black people miss out on the benefits of green spaces — stress reduction, quicker healing, mitigation of ADHD in children, and decreased crime and air pollution among others. A lack of supermarkets in Black…