Black w/ Plants: Black Men With Gardens Q&A with Nelson ZePequeno
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 Black Men With Gardens? Nelson? Or a creative project that you are working on? and the role of community building, and its impact on mental health?
Black Men With Gardens is about sharing a side of black men that nobody sees or believes exist, while challenging perceptions of what it is to be a man and black for that matter. This is my attempt to contribute to our positive representation while also showing my brothers you can be a straight/gay/queer/any type of man interested in gardening/nature. It’s in our blood to farm this land.
BMWG was made for them. Made for us. A judgement free place where we can see a positive reflection of ourselves or an eye opening new perspective that they’ve never experienced before. I hope they enjoy it as much as I enjoy discovering all the new people I feature.
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?
Last year while I was doing a plant study for a painting I realized the overwhelming majority of online representation for gardeners/floral design online was missing POC. All the prominent pages that feature gardeners/floral artists rarely posted black women and men.
It’s not like there aren’t great black men in the floral industry or regular gardeners out there, statistically speaking there are more POC in the world that actually grow their own food, herbs and plants with some being kidnapped from their homelands because of their strong ability to farm and they went on to bolster the cotton industry for hundreds of years.
With such a rich history and culture ingrained in agricultural why are we missing when you google image search the word ‘gardener’? Why is it more more common to see a black man be shot on Instagram than it is to see one building a raised bed in his garden?
Around that time I stumbled across @blackwomenwithgardens and really thanked Jas for just sharing positive images of black woman and the beautiful plants just top it off. I was just about to create my own page instead of waiting for someone else to start representing us, when I learned she had a side project she was working on for the guys so we decided to partner up! I’ve been running the @blackmenwithgardens page ever since and have found a great community of like minded people.
What do you think are the five key characteristics of a successful place?
The five key characteristics I would say are:
In no specific order. No matter what it is you have to be able to point to proven results as the fruits of your labor. You can be the farmer talking about how great their fruit is, how successful their farm is, what ever, what ever with no fruit to show for it, or you can be that farmer that has simply done the work, sets up a fruit stand and let’s the fruit of their labor sell itself.
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 well-being?
If community is the garden then engagement is the water and sunlight (haha), excuse all the gardening analogies. Neglect a community and watch it wither away. Keeping your community regularly engaged is critical for growth.
Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from 2018?
2018 is when I started my garden. I’ll never forget the feeling of getting on the train to Union Station with a box of plants in my hand and a huge English ivy plant sticking out of my book bag.
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?
I truly believe that spending time on personal and psychological well being can only lead to good things in one’s life. Get creative with how you do it and don’t take yourself so seriously. One of my favorite quotes is:
“The thing about repairing, maintaining and cleaning is, it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. It’s just work.” De Wong.
Final thoughts from Black Men With Gardens (@blackmenwithgardens):
If you look up the full quote and episode of Rick & Morty that quote came from you’ll get a good laugh.
Plant, plants and love yourself!!!