Black w/ Plants: Psychological Wellness Q&A with Youniversal

January 2019–January 2020, Black with Plants will publish q and a on mental health + community building with botanists, college dropouts, horticulturalists, plant care specialists, natural hair experts, social justice advocates, sound therapists, etc. across the thirteen hardiness zones in the United States and African diaspora.

What do you want readers to know about psychological wellness? Or a creative project that you are working on? and the role of community building, and its impact on mental health?
The course of my life has been marked by more than my fair share of trauma, and those events are still affecting me–in ways I’ve come to recognize and ways I’m still trying to figure out. The hardest part of dealing with that and maneuvering through the world is that your own goal posts, what you consider happiness or how you handle problems or your boundaries, will absolutely move. And you have to be flexible. You have to give yourself the benefit of the doubt and be willing to work to relearn who you are and what you want and what affects you and how you solve problems. You don’t always have to be willing to sing all your woes from the highest mountain top in the name of helping others. But the more you can be honest with your tribe about the burdens you carry, the more they understand who you are, and the stronger your bonds become because they’re based on your truth, whatever that may be.
What about the opportunity to display foliage, etc. online (specifically via IG) first interested you in committing your time and energy to plant care-taking?
I didn’t have a plan documenting my progress or showing off my space, but over time the questions started coming in, I thought ‘Hey, you could help.’ A lot of what I see and look to as inspiration are gorgeous spaces, with the perfect decor and tons of light, and flourishing plants where everything is just so. But that’s like step 4084304280, and a lot of my friends and people that engage with me aren’t even sure they can start on step 1. That’s where I want to fit in. I want to get people to take those first couple steps and feel as comfortable and natural taking care of plants as I do.
What do you think are the five key characteristics of a successful place?


  1. I’ve been watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, so I’d say the most important thing is being surrounded by things that spark joy–furniture, plants, art, figurines, whatever it may be. They doesn’t always have to match or look “put together” they just has to make you happy.
  2. Cleanliness is important–the feeling you get coming home to a clean space is unmatched, just like the habits you build to keep it that way. And here I mean a space that’s not dirty. So sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, wiping down, dusting, basic things.
  3. It may seem contradictory, but I think a little messiness is important, too, because a space should feel lived in. Have never been a fan of people that keep homes that look more like showrooms than places where you drink coffee and binge shows and cook meals you found scrolling through Tasty videos on Facebook.
  4. Scent is key. I don’t care what scent fits your fancy but I highly recommend finding one that you love and buying whatever form it comes in–candles, incense, oil diffusers, those weird gel things your aunt probably had.
  5. A space should be functional. This isn’t some lofty advice, either. One of my biggest goals getting my apartment together was making sure there was a spot for every single one of my day-to-day activities. If you work a lot at home, consider a good desk. Have a bunch of friends? Figure out how to get a nice dining situation going. Does your life revolve around your tv? Splurge on a nice couch. A space doesn’t have to have all the things and serve every purpose, just the ones most important to you.

Community engagement is a significant obligation of direct service. With that in mind, can you tell us about your experience in engaging with your contacts day-to-day? Do you notice services rendered positively affecting your contact’s psychological wellbeing?
Nobody likes killing plants. It’s a unique feeling of failure because at a high level, you know plants only really need water and sunlight and when you have one that does eventually dies, you kind of think to yourself, “Wow, really? It needed two things, just two, and you couldn’t even do that right!” So being able to help my friends and coworkers with their sad plants is really amazing. It’s great seeing them back down from the proverbial ledge as I explain the problem and give them solutions.
Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from 2018?
I felt happy, truly happy. I can’t pinpoint the specific day it happened, but at some point I realized that a lot of things had finally fallen into place that I’d manifested and wished and worked for. I thought, “You know what? Things are actually good. Like, truly good.”
Your perspective is invaluable. Thank you for distilling your talents, sharing your time, and a contributing to the local economy. Can you tell readers a little bit about your perspective on securing space for psychological healing and/or wellness?
What’s been working best for me is embracing that my healing and my peace are my top priority. I have to be selfish, I have to center myself. It’s uncomfortable sometimes, because my heart is three sizes too big and I put others before myself without second thought, but it’s a choice I’m learning to make each day.

Final thoughts from Youniversoul (@youniversoul):

Find the people and things that complement you.

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