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Black Arts and Culture

She Discovers Love For Plants Amidst Pandemic

People Around Hampton Roads

By Jasmine Deloatch
Assistant Editor
New Journal and Guide

Plants have become a form of healing for many during the pandemic. Whitney Rascoe told us  about how she has been sprinkling her black girl magic over her plants as well as a few plants and planters in the community. She has inspired her students with plants, helped local planters with tips while working at her part time job at Lowe’s, and she also contributes with plant tips in several of the plant groups that she is a part of on social media.

“The notorious year 2020 made me turn to plants but it wasn’t COVID-19 that piqued my interest. We (my husband and I) had a miscarriage and my dog passed from cancer (Pancho) shortly after. Amidst the losses, my mom gifted me a Jade succulent. It was so tiny like my Pancho and my unborn child and needed me to give it my love. I did just that and was surprisingly successful.”

“I felt honored to be able to keep something alive. So, of course I bought another— a corkscrew plant to be exact. I named it after Pancho and the rest would be history. I now have 30+ plants that sprinkle my home with green delight.”

Whitney is a teacher at Norfolk Public Schools and has also shared her joy for plants with her students.

“I’m a teacher by day and have shared my love for plants with my students. While teaching from

home, they would often ask about my background that sometimes featured a new plant pick up.

“On a Zoom Parent Teacher Conference, I spoke with a parent about one of my bright, yet blue students. The parent expressed that my student wanted to stay in her pajamas, was afraid to go outside and was interested in painting her bedroom walls black. The more the parent talked about these concerns, the more I could relate. I asked her would it be okay if I gifted a plant to my student. After the cards 2020 dealt, I believed in the power of plants and life they give to any situation.”

She reaffirmed by saying the student’s therapist recommended plant therapy, but the parents hadn’t looked into it any further. Shortly after that conversation, Whitney said she  dropped a Bambino Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree on her student’s doorstep, along with personalized care instructions. She received a text that read: “I thank God for you being a blessing… You put a smile on her face.”

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Whitney said she and her student chat about the success and growth of her plant which “is now bright and green!”

“Becoming knowledgeable about plants takes trial and error. Ultimately, plants tell you what they need but it requires time and attention to detail to understand. Although they don’t speak our language, plants communicate their contentment, gratitude, happiness and even distress.

However, when I do need immediate answers, I go to my Facebook Groups that cater to plants.”

“Some days I find myself sitting and admiring each of the different plants in my home. There’s something magical in the green of leaves. When I notice there’s a new leaf or flower, my heart smiles. The simple fact that they are alive and only require what the earth provides amazes me daily.”

Whitney said sometimes she creates an atmosphere for herself and the plants by playing music while watering or repotting.

“I’d tell new planters to be patient and do research on new plants. Because plants are native to so many different areas of the world, it’s necessary to create climates that resemble their home.

“You may not get the humidity high enough for your tropical plant and you may overwater your snake plant. Remember that plants are generally forgiving so watch to learn from them and you’ll be a great plant parent.”

Whitney recently landed a  a seasonal job at Lowe’s in the Garden Center, in hopes of sharing the knowledge that she has about plants with other planters and learning more as well.

“Being new to the plant community, I’ve found that plants have been prevalent in the Black community for a very long time. There’s a community of Black

gardeners that feed their families from their backyard and even medicate using natural remedies. I hope generations to come follow this trend in becoming acquainted with plants.”

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She said she has planned a garden for her back yard to grow herbs and vegetables.

Whitney speaks about the importance of bringing attention to Black planters.

“Black women acknowledge other Black women planters, but the world doesn’t seem to give

enough recognition to us. Instead, the world knows our fatal hashtags. Many black women are coping with the heaviness of countless hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter #SayHerName by channeling that energy towards plants. We’ve created platforms to share the genuine joy and solace we’ve found in plants. Furthermore, we’ve found each other. Black women deserve all the credit for that.”

Whitney said plant communities on social media allow people to share new species, tips, plant decor and even plant humor.

“My timelines and feeds are full of green stuff so mindlessly scrolling doesn’t come with much shame anymore. Instead, I’m learning, smiling, and sharing everything I see. I’m a part of several Facebook groups centered on being Black with plants. The largest group has about 79,000 members. There are daily posts requesting help for a distressed plant, sharing successes of growing plants, plant memes and more.

“The best part,” she said, “is the camaraderie and how we run to each to help, congratulate and share jokes in our best Black fashion. I love it here!”

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