Black w/ Plants: Nutrition Q&A with Alexis Atkins

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 Nutrition? Washington, D.C., + its Public Health? Or a creative project that you are working on? and the role of community building, and its impact on mental health?
I want readers to know that obtaining proper nutrition education can be emotionally, mentally and physically healing. By consuming whole foods and fresh vegetables and fruits that are full of essential nutrients, you can nurture your body from the inside out. But this can’t happen unless we start educating our community about how to build those healthy habits. By fostering a strong community focused on improving health standards we can subsequently provide the strong support system needed to positively impact the stigmas surrounded around mental health.
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?
At a surface level, plants are beautiful to look at. They come in diverse styles. They come in an array of colors and sizes. But I think plant care-taking goes way beyond aesthetics.
When it comes to nursing plants, there are so many aspects that you have to monitor so that the plant will thrive. If the soil is dry, you have to water it. If the plant seems to be wilting, you may adjust the sunlight.
Plant care-taking is all about being intuitive, paying attention to what each plant needs and mastering balance. I find the symbolism to be inspirational. I am in my mid-twenties trying to master these concepts now as a part of my own self-care journey. This is why I am committed to taking care of plants to form my own perfect oasis.
What do you think are the five key characteristics of a successful place?
A successful place has a clear vision, is cared for, has a loving community, promotes collaboration and is filled with natural light and plants.
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?
Engaging with my community is an invaluable experience. In fact, I think that having the opportunity to connect with people is really the initial building block of community. It allows me to exchange stories, ideas, and goals. This interaction enables me to really pinpoint what my community needs. In turn, I am able to provide a service that directly suits my community’s needs. I have a passion for nutrition education including education on cost-efficient healthy eating and how to navigate the world of non-toxic living. I believe that by empowering the people around me with the tools to take control of their health, it will ultimately improve their psychological well-being.
Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from 2018?
Of course! I think one of the most memorable moments from 2018 was my acceptance into college to obtain my masters in nutrition. I think this moment stands out to me the most because I finally felt like I got the green light from the universe to pursue something that I am incredibly passionate about.
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?
Securing space for psychological healing and wellness is crucial to the betterment of society. But I I believe that these spaces can be accessible and cost-effective. It’s not always about having a fancy fitness center or an incredible organic smoothie bar in a space.
Sometimes it’s just about creating engaging communal spaces that encourage people to talk to one another. It’s also about giving people the necessary resources to get the tools they need to have a positive relationship with their psychological health and creating a sustainable wellness routine. This can be through educational wellness workshops, creating a network of specialists that are well-versed in mental health or even through open conversations. The more that we can create a platform and a space for psychological health initiating, the faster that we can eliminate the stigma behind what it looks person-to-person.
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?
My generation has come to create its own definition of valuable relationships whether it be through friends or chosen families. The concept of valuing partners above platonic relationships stems from heteronormative mores where intimacy and affection are only reserved for your intimate partners.
Friendships, chosen families, non-monogamous, non-binary relationships are transforming our socio-cultural values. As a generation, we have decided that we will hold friendships close to our hearts as we would a partner. Our friends are our partners. We feel fulfilled by these relationships because they provide meaningful support, love, and positivity.
It’s not necessarily that friendships have been the “missing” linchpin it’s that they were undervalued and sometimes hidden. Friendships have and always will be the crux of our growth as human beings. To make the partnership dynamic truly counter-hegemonic we must hold our partners to the same values we hold our friendships. 

Final thoughts from Alexis Atkins. (@afrotouille):

Black Health Matters. Black Wellness Matters. Black Voices Matter. Black Lives Matter.


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