This year NYBG’s Black History Month celebration honors barrier-breaking pioneers in environmental science and agricultural education and showcases current activists and advocates who are creating communities that foster representation, identity, and diversity in the arts and sciences. Explore the botanical legacy of the African Diaspora and the influential contributions of Black Americans to contemporary society. From programs that include inspiring performances and conversations to fascinating workshops, lectures, and readings, learn about the profound connection between plants and gardening to community and culture.
Welcome Message from Councilmember Kevin Riley
Councilmember, District 12 The Bronx
Science Webinar - Human Beings, Baobabs, and Tamarinds: An Evolutionary Complex
Friday, February 18
11 a.m. – 12 p.m.; Online
Baobab (Adansonia digitata) and tamarind (Tamarindus indica) are two well-known fruit and medicinal trees of the African savanna complex that were introduced to India beginning some 5,000 years ago.
The long history of African participation in the Indian Ocean trade is documented in the earliest historical accounts of the region, and there is growing interest in the African contribution to the spread of African plants such as baobab and tamarind to territories of the Indian Ocean. Similarly, historical records and the distribution of old baobab and tamarind trees in the Americas suggest these species were earliest introduced by Africans to the historic sugar-growing regions of Brazil and the Caribbean over 400 years ago. In this talk, renowned anthropologist and ethnobotanist John Rashford, Ph.D., explains why these quite different trees share the name “tamarind” in India and the Caribbean, and the explanation suggests the possibility of an evolutionary complex involving human beings and the baobab and tamarind. Since the tamarind regenerates readily from human incidentally dispersed seeds and the baobab does not—which makes tamarind a common tree wherever it grows, and baobab a rare tree overwhelmingly dependent on human planting—tamarind is used to name baobab outside Africa wherever both trees are found growing in the same location, and where people eat the similar-tasting fruit of both trees.
Profiles in Purpose
Hear from Black pioneers in horticulture, gardening, and urban farming whose work and advocacy are making significant impacts in their communities.
An Urban Farmer Honors Her Roots: Kadeesha Williams
Listen to former NYBG Community Horticulturist/Urban Agriculturist Kadeesha Williams discuss turning her dream of honoring her heritage and family identity in urban farming into a reality by founding the Iridescent Earth Collective.
Honoring a Community Gardening Icon: Karen Washington
Learn more about NYBG Trustee Karen Washington, longtime Bronx farmer, community activist, and advocate for food justice, and her transformative work in urban farming for more than 30 years.
Plants as Liberation
In this wide-ranging series of interviews, featuring herbalists and house plant enthusiasts to farmers and gardeners, hear from Black people in the plant world and learn how they are using plants as a powerful expression of liberation and freedom.
Plants as Liberation: Kamili Bell Hill
Food for Thought
Enjoy a series of programs that examine the relationship of food to culture and identity, especially when languages or cultural traditions have been prohibited and erased.
The Food Dialogues
This popular webinar series kicked off NYBG’s Foodways Initiative in spring 2021. It brought together prominent authors, chefs, and historians for important conversations that re-examine our notions of culture and identity through food.
The moderator was Dr. Jessica B. Harris, America’s leading expert on the food traditions of the African Diaspora. The three-part series premiered with Carla Hall and Tonya Hopkins, continued with Michael Twitty and JJ Johnson, and concluded with Von Diaz and Maricel Presilla.
Afro-Indigenous Histories of Food and Gardening: Garifuna Plant Knowledge, Past and Present
Cookbook Review: Garifuna & Gullah Geechee Recipes
Post debuts by Feb. 28
LuEsther T. Mertz Library Staff review dishes from the cookbooks Bress ‘N’Nyam, and Gran Cocina Latina, both of which can be found in the Mertz Library.
The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of enslaved Africans who worked on plantations in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The Garifuna people are descendants of the Afro-Indigenous people of St. Vincent who were exiled to countries throughout Central America. There is also Garifuna presence here in the Bronx. Learn more from a webinar that NYBG hosted in 2021. The link is above.
In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Food Legacy in the Atlantic World
Performance as Expression
Watch innovative performances by contemporary Black artists in a variety of genres that celebrate art and nature as powerful sources of creative inspiration.
Dr. Carolyn Finney’s The N-Word: Nature, Revisited Rebroadcast & Conversation
Live through Feb. 28
In her performance The N Word: Nature, Revisited, writer and activist Dr. Carolyn Finney speaks about her relationship with nature and the history of Black environmentalism through the art of storytelling.
After the performance, hear Dr. Finney’s meditations on this project in a conversation with NYBG’s Arvolyn Hill. Share your Love Notes with Dr. Finney by emailing them to email@example.com.
This work was originally presented by NYBG’s Humanities Institute with generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Together with the JOTB Collective, Judith Insell performs free jazz on the picturesque veranda of the Stone Mill. Learn more about how the improvisational, radical harmonic concepts of avant-garde jazz allow her to explore her relationship with nature, art, and music.
Gather the kids for storytelling and activity time to discover the cultural influences of the African Diaspora and reinforce the importance of green space and caring for the natural world.
Storytime at Everett Children's Adventure Garden
Weekdays; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Self-guided Story walk
Saturdays & Sundays; 1:30 p.m.; Storytime at Swamp Oak Story Spot
Read Where’s Rodney by Carmen Bogan (author) and Floyd Cooper (illustrator), a fictional story about a young urban Black boy’s transformative day communing with nature during a class field trip to a national park.
Rooted in Plants
New video debuts weekly
NYBG’s Teen Explainers reveal the legacy of the African Diaspora in the plant world. Videos feature West African Indigo dyeing; enslaved African Edmond Albius’ discovery of the best way to pollinate the vanilla orchid; and enslaved African Caesar’s use of Plantain to make a poison antidote that earned his freedom. All videos include specimens from NYBG’s Steere Herbarium.
Rooted in Plants: Black History Month Dr. Caesar and Plantain Oil
Rooted in Plants: Black History Month Indigo Dyeing
Learn about the contributions of Black scientists to our understanding of the plant world, the rich legacy of plants and knowledge about their uses that enslaved Africans brought to America, and other plant stories.
Focus on Black Botanists
Follow this ongoing series that highlights Black scientists whose research and discoveries have contributed to our collective knowledge and understanding of the plant world.
Inside the Steere Herbarium – George Washington Carver and Grasses:
Carver’s achievements in agriculture are well documented. What is much less known, however, is Carver’s love of grasses. Learn More
Marie Clark Taylor – Botanist and Educator:
Find out how to grow cosmos and the other colorful garden annuals that Dr. Taylor, the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in science from Fordham University, studied to understand the impact of light on plant development. Learn More
Thomas Gaither – Activist and Biologist:
Behind each collection is the life of the collector, often lost to history. We’re excited to celebrate the contributions of Dr. Gaither, both of his fungal collections, and to advancements in the fight for civil rights. Learn More
Lafayette Frederick – Fungal Systematist:
See a type specimen of fungal species described by Lafayette Frederick, a mycologist who followed in George Washington Carver’s footsteps to understand and document all manner of plant pathogens. Learn More
Dr. James Still – “Doctor of the Pines”:
A brief account of the life and legacy of a 19th-century herbalist. – Post debuts by Feb. 24
Transatlantic Plant Journey
With illustrative images of plant specimens from the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, this Hand Lens post tells the story of how enslaved Africans brought okra to the Western Hemisphere.
Okra’s Journey to the United States, Learn More
Medicine, Knowledge, and Power in the Atlantic Slave Trade
Botanical Tour of Harlem
The New York City neighborhood of Harlem is a center for Black culture in America. Take a tour through Harlem and learn about some of the plant specimens in the NYBG Steere Herbarium that were collected from the neighborhood, from city sidewalks to northern Central Park. Learn More
Community Through Story
Peruse titles by Black authors on-site in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and discuss online with the NYBG Beyond Books Club.