Hey, black girl. It’s seriously a good idea to start a garden right now.

You may be thinking: what stops a Black person from loving nature? Black people have long been criminalized or abused for their relationship with nature. Keeping in mind that mass incarceration is just a modern day form of slavery, know that the last slaves weren’t officially free until the 1940s. I’m reminded of the traffic on the main road in my town, slowed down by four police cars searching through carts of bananas (for drugs) in the white van of two young BIPOC men.

My grandparents were both sharecroppers, among many other things. Why would a descendant of enslaved Africans be interested in working in the soil?

Firstly, train your brain to say enslaved Africans and not “slaves.”  Enslaved Africans were brought to the Americas to exploit the land like white people exploited their bodies. White people trained those they enslaved to believe they were incapable of original thoughts, that they were not individuals, that they were not human. Somehow, in the midst of kidnapping and selling millions of bodies, the threat of a collective will for freedom of the Black race was not a concern. 

They thought they’d numb us, dumb us, and use us forever.

According to the National Library of Medicine and Institutes of Health, the weathering effect confirms that Blacks in the United States experience “earlier [physical and mental] health deterioration as measured by biological indicators of repeated exposure and adaptation to stressors.”

It is important to recognize the trauma instilled in Black Americans through continued reiterations of servitude (slavery, share cropping, mass incareceration). Generational trauma, a phenomenon that affects groups like Black Americans, Native Americans, victims of sexual abuse & their children hits Black Americans especially hard. Remember, any group that is experiencing any sort of ethnic cleansing, environmental racism, or genocide, will also experience generational trauma. 

We understand that oppression is intersectional. That’s both unintentional by way of generational trauma or the Weathering Effect and intentional through careless policy resulting from the War on Crime, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror. Harmful policy that has and continues to weaken the relationship between Black people and nature include anti-marijuana legislation, redlining, and Black people being refused the same necessary resources offered to white farmers. 

The question is: why do we need to acknowledge the intentional disconnect between continental Africans and those in the diaspora from nature? It’s rare to find an abundance of fresh foods in predominantly Black communities, let alone community spaces to learn the importance and ease of healthy living. Marijuana is arguably one of our countries most profitable industries, with overwhelmingly white ownership considering the hell that the US government has put black and brown people through over the plant. 

Most importantly, 5 or the 7 illnesses that plague the Black community are connected directly to food: Heart Disease, High Blood Sugar, Type 2 Diabetes, Stroke, and Peripheral Artery Disease. 

Again, notice the Weathering Effect:  “Differences (in health conditions) were particularly pronounced among non poor Black women compared with non poor White women. […] Our findings also suggest that Blacks experience earlier deterioration of health than do Whites. In each age group, the mean score for Blacks was roughly comparable to that for Whites who were 10 years older.” 

This is seriously sickening and simultaneously something many neglect to acknowledge is happening in their own communities. Starting a garden is a spectacular way to get active and be mindful about your own body.

Girl, it’s time to start that garden!

8 mental health benefits to starting your garden

  1. Gardening can grow self esteem.
  2. Gardening is good for your heart.
  3. Gardening reduces stress.
  4. Gardening CAN make you happy; there’s bacteria in soil that increases serotonin and decreases anxiety.
  5. Gardening can improve your hand and arm strength!
  6. It’s good for the whole family.
  7. It’s a great way to get your Vitamin D in, but remember to wear your sunscreen!
  8. Growing your own food will encourage you to eat fresh.

If you have the space and the means to start your own garden, do so! If not, take a masked trip to buy some fresh produce OR donate to one of these spectacular Black farmers, community gardens, or food co-ops. Consider the various types of healing you might initiate in your community or family simply by planting seeds! While it is never a Black woman’s responsibility to heal her community, it is certainly her responsibility to attempt to heal herself.

THE GARDEN QUEEN

WEST END COMMUNITY GARDEN |

URBAN MINISTRY

EAT SOUTH

THE NASHVILLE FOOD PROJECT

GARDENMARCUS

Image credits: illustration by Reyna Noriega, @reynanoriega_ on Instagram