- Author: Marisa A Coyne
- Author: Missy Gable
- Author: Melissa Womack
In February of each year, the University of California joins organizations across the country to mark Black History Month, a celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time to recognize Black History as American history. This month invites engagement in personal and organizational reflection about the legacies of injustice and inequity in the United States, as well as histories of Black resilience and resistance.
In a recent blog post, we outlined UC Master Gardener Program priorities for the upcoming year, focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In this four-part, Celebrating California Gardens, blog series we aim to highlight plants, gardening practices, and extension education history sometimes missing from the UC Master Gardener Program curriculum. Because we, the authors of this blog, are not experts but rather learners in Black History, we would like to showcase a list of events and continuing education resources developed by our colleagues. We hope you'll join us in deepening our knowledge!
Upcoming UC ANR Events:
UC ANR Black and Allied Staff, in collaboration with UC ANR Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Alliance members are hosting online educational programs and activities to celebrate Black History Month. All events are open to all UC ANR employees and volunteers.
Registration Link: 2021 UC ANR's Black History Month Meetings Registration
- Feb. 3, 2 – 3 pm - Keynote Speaker Sonia Lewis. "The Black Lived Experience is a Matter of History" with remarks from Glenda Humiston and John Fox
Sonia Lewis, founder of ASCRIBE Educational Consulting, will speak on "The Black lived experience is a matter of history." After nearly 20 years in the traditional classroom teaching history and social studies and managing a small magnet program, Lewis founded ASCRIBE Educational Consulting. Their focus has always been geared towards educational/racial equity and resource distribution. Since 2009, ASCRIBE Educational Consulting has centered on the development of programs and the writing of curriculum for marginalized and vulnerable student populations. In addition, Lewis' work involves speaking and training around the topics of equity, race relations, and social justice.
- Feb. 10, 2 – 3 pm - "Lived Experience" with Virtual Museum Piece & Discussion Intro by UC ANR's Mary Blackburn, Health & Nutrition Advisor, National Museum of African American Culture and History
- Feb. 17, 2 – 3 pm - Chanowk Yisrael, "The Importance of Food Sovereignty" Virtual Farm Tour & Discussion Yisrael Family Farms located in Sacramento, Calif.
Yisrael Family Urban Farm, founded by Judith and Chanowk Yisrael, is an urban farm located in Sacramento's South Oak Park neighborhood. Learn more about the farm's vision and mission on the UC ANR Urban Agriculture webpage or the Yisrael Family Urban Farm website.
- Feb. 24, 2 – 3 pm - Priorities & Experiences of Black Farmers, Discussion and Q&A
The UC Master Gardener Program gives thanks to the UC ANR Black History Month planning committee members Keith Nathaniel, County Director and 4-H Youth Development Advisor, Esther Mosase, Climate Smart Community Educator, and LeChé McGill, Human Resources Specialist, for curating this important event.
Black History in the Garden
Today, we honor plants and gardening practices significant to Black and African American gardening and cuisine, and the many contributions of Black gardeners and researchers to the field of horticulture. As learners of Black History, we are consuming articles and information that grow and nurture our understanding. Two such articles are “A Garden So Brilliant with Colors, so original in its Design” by Dianne D. Glave, published in Environmental History and “Sisters of the Soil: Urban Gardening as Resistance in Detroit” by Monica White, published by Indiana University Press.
Glave, a professor of African American Studies and a historian with expertise in African American environmentalism, provides insight into the relationship between African American gardening and Progressive reform (education shared by the Cooperative Extension system) in the early 1900s. She explains that “African Americans practiced two types of gardening that conflicted with and paralleled Progressive agricultural techniques: mimicking nature and cultivating the row system.” These techniques, suggests Glave, the gardens reject some Euro-American techniques and adapt others. In this way, we witness that the garden served as a space for subsistence, beautification, spiritual connectedness, and rebellion.
Similar to the stories shared by Glave, White's article also touches on gardening as a resistance strategy. White is a scholar of environmental justice as well as a historian focusing on African American farmers in the United States. Her study is one of modern-day African American women gardeners in Detroit. These women are gardening activists whose effort to create green space on vacant land is a protest against social, economic, and gender oppression that interferes with access to healthy food for poor people and communities of color. While 100 years separates the stories in these two articles, the determination, purpose, and vision shared by African American gardeners throughout the years is a poignant lesson learned for all gardeners and garden educators.
Are you a UC Master Gardener Program volunteer with a story to contribute to the Celebrating California Gardens blog series marking Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and American Indian Heritage Month? Reach out to Marisa Coyne, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your idea! We are committed to celebrating California garden heritage and history throughout the year, so it's never too late to reach out to share a story or provide your input.
Additional readings and resources:
- CalAgRoots, a project of the California Institute for Rural Studies, and partners launched the audio series, We Are Not Strangers Here: African American Histories in Rural California in January 2021. The podcast series shines a light on African Americans in the history of California agriculture and rural communities and Black people's relationships with food, farming, and land.
- The Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food System's Racial Equity in the Food System Workgroup hosts a library of recorded webinars featuring food systems leaders in the Black community as well as academics and faculty from Historically Black Land Grant Colleges and Universities. Webinar topics include Building Partnerships to Support Food Sovereignty in African American Communities and Land-Grant Institutions and Food Systems: Acknowledging historical disparities and exploring present-day equity initiatives.