Black w/ Plants: Hiking Q&A with Kyla Peterson

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 hiking? caring for plants + bees? Or a creative project that you are working on? and the role of community building, and its impact on mental health?
 
Hiking can be an intimidating term for some people, but it can be as simple as taking the scenic route through the park. I grew up in a place in central Texas where hiking and being outdoors was commonplace and I loved it. But it wasn’t until I moved to the city—D.C.— that I realized how necessary nature is and how much physical and mental healing it can provide. Community engagement or being in nature with others, in particular, can provide immense gains for mental health—at least for me.
 
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?
 
To be quite honest, I was attempting to get more engaged with the black community and black businesses here in D.C. So, there was a couple days I would find pages on Instagram via searching or via mutual friends or organization pages; and I found Black w/ Plants and that really peaked my interest. Especially since I am a huge advocate for encouraging more black people and people of color to engage with nature, in all its beautiful forms. And plant care-taking was not something I really considered until moving to D.C. and was confide to the concrete walls of a ‘big city’.
 
What do you think are the five key characteristics of a successful place?
 
Awareness, that’s the first step. Both non-PoCs and PoCs need to be aware of the inequity and imbalance of privileges we have today. In addition, there needs to be community engagement, entrepreneurship opportunity, artistic expression, a space for mental health and chances to interact with nature. All those things are important to establish for place where black people, people of color, and white people to all flourish together.
 
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?
 
This semester was very trying for me. I experienced a lot of ups and downs. At my lowest points my solution to comforting myself was volunteering with one of D.C.’s local organizations, #CityBlossoms. I just spent a morning with my hands in the soil helping to plant a community garden for a local school— and that was one of the biggest boosts to my well-being this year.
 
Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from 2018?
 
I actually spent all of 2018 traveling so it was a very exciting year for me. But one of the most memorable moments had to be when I went to Honduras with my best friend to earn my scuba diving certification. One night we went diving (my first time and only time diving while the sun was down) and we sat on the ocean floor —covering our flashlights — and we could see bioluminescent creatures throughout the ocean and I could feel the ocean alive around me. That is one moment when I truly realize how interconnected we are with the earth and our surroundings.
 
Your perspective is invaluable. Thank you for distilling your talents, sharing your time, and 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 think both physical and non-physical things could make up that “space.” Meaning that for me securing a space for my wellness looks like me setting aside time to reflect or mentally release/decompress but also physically making an effort to get outside and get some sun. And it is so important that I make that time or I will notice my mental health start to suffer.
 
What does it mean to value a friend as you would value a partner (which is counter-hegemonic)? Is friendship the missing linchpin required to engender the realization of socio-cultural value?
 
I was just asking myself what is the difference between romance and true friendship. That is a distinction I am still working on, because real friendship can be just as deep and intimate as some partnerships, and that’s beautiful. But I think we as a society need to love more deeply. Love ourselves, love our friends and ultimately love our enemies.

Final thoughts from Kyla Peterson. (@kyla_pete):

I appreciate Black w/ Plants for being a force for more engagement with nature. I appreciate any opportunity to spread the love and the desire for nature, plants, green, outdoors, etc. My friends call my Camper K cause I grew up a camp counselor and I will always drive to encourage people to get outside and enjoy the earth around them. Peace, Love and Positivity my friends.

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