Black w/ Plants: Lillith Plant Shop Q&A with Starsha Valentine

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 Lillith Plant Shop? Caring for plants? Or a creative project that you are working on? and the role of community building, and its impact on mental health?
 
Lillith Plant Shop was founded as a creative outlet for me and a way to share my love of plants with the D.C. community. Plant care is apart of my daily meditation ritual; walking around the collection of plants I am able to be completely mindful as I prepare for the day ahead. I believe that nature brings us closer to the creator and for many of us city dwellers, and houseplants bring that connection to us. Regular mindful practice with plants or somehow connecting to the earth has strengthened my resilience to keep on while we battle all the things against us in this country.
 
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?
 
Although I had already been a plant momma for many years, IG has put me in touch with a community of plant lovers that share similar interests and likes. The shared enjoyment of posting a new leaf emerging and the collective elation has made IG a true community builder. Also, there aren’t many black and brown folks represented in that space so I am honored to show my presence and connect other folks together.
 
Q. What do you think are the five key characteristics of a successful place?

     

  1. Resilience – things will go awry but keep going.
  2. Adaptability – being able to think on the fly and deal with situations that pop up is a helpful skill for any business owner.
  3. Honesty – sometimes you aren’t able to deliver to a client or customer. Being honest with yourself and them has always worked out for me.
  4. Organization- as early as you can be organized about your business. Keep your paperwork together, hire an accountant, create a space to collect ideas. The more organized you can be early on the better.
  5. Grace – handle your business with grace. Give grace to others.

 
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?
 
I try to be extremely responsive to people that ask me plant questions on IG and I respond as soon as possible. I want to encourage those that say that they don’t have a green thumb, so I check on people, encourage them to keep going, share stories of the many succulents I’ve killed, and let them know they don’t have to be perfect as long as they keep trying. I think my empathy for those that are new to the plant world has in some way provided a positive affect of their well-being.
 
Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from 2018?
 
In 2018 I launched Lillith Plant Shop with my first popup at Culture Coffee Too. It is a black woman-owned coffee shop and so many people showed up. I was elated to share my vision with people and it really encouraged me to keep going.
 
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?
 
We need to create healing spaces for wellness and healthy communication. Sometimes that’s a physical space, sometimes that’s online. But making that space for ourselves and others; creating community; is what will continue to keep us steadfast when we face challenges. 

Final thoughts from Starsha Valentine about Lillith Plant Shop (@lillthplantshop):

Lillith Plant Shop is more than a retail concept. We hope to connect folks from all walks of life, making plant collecting accessible and attainable, even for those with a black thumb!

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