Bucknell researcher starts social media movement to highlight Black botanists

Tanisha Williams, a post-doctoral researcher at Bucknell University, helped start a movement to highlight Black botanists on social media

LEWISBURG — Bucknell University post-doctoral researcher Tanisha Williams has launched a global online effort to bring together Black people who love plants.

The #BlackBotanistsWeek initiative launched Monday on Twitter and Instagram and has reached nearly 3,000 people.

"We want to highlight underrepresented Black people and connect with people who love nature," Williams said of the lack of diversity she sees in her field.

The initiative stems from a similar weeklong online series, Black Birders Week, held in early June as a response to a Central Park birdwatching incident that involved a white woman calling police on a Black man who was birdwatching and had asked her to control her dog as well as other high-profile controversies involving Black men and women and law enforcement.

Every day during the week through July 11, participants are invited to share their love of plants through a story or poem, post photographs of their plants, explain why diversity in botany is needed and how they use plants in their daily lives. 

"When I saw Dr. Tanisha Williams' call on Twitter to host a Black Botanists Week after the many successful weeks highlighting Black Birders and Black Hikers, I knew I had to be a part of its creation," said Brandi Cannon, a science teacher at a New Jersey middle school and master's candidate at Columbia University. "Throughout most of my post-secondary education I had met at most two other Black botanists in 6 years and this was isolating. I was so excited to meet people who looked like me and had similar experiences as myself and folks who had a passion for plants just like I did. I love collaborative organizing so to be able to work with these people I've never met and all across the world and share our aspirations and dreams to promote growth and diversity in Botany as well as create a network of botanists who didn't know of each other's presence, research, and work is really huge."

Cannon said she would like these types of events to give people a different view of Black people in underrepresented fields.

"I hope this week will begin to change the narrative of the western approach on botany and creates a global view that includes and supports everyone," she said.

Williams said that was her intent.

"I want this to bring people joy and give them a community so they don't feel alone," she said of the "trying" few months during the COVID-19 pandemic and racist events unfolding in the country. "This has been mental therapy to see positive Black images instead of people dying on the street."

The event is also open to indigenous people and people of color and Williams said she hopes people from all areas, not just academia, join.

"We just want people who love plants to be a part of this," she said.

To learn more about the effort, visit blackbotanistsweek.weebly.com/ or follow Williams on Twitter at T_Marie_Wms

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