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Growing a Community: The Inaugural #Blackbotanistsweek Recap and Looking Forward

For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in
a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.Nelson
Mandela (2002)
May 2020 saw the start of social media campaigns to highlight
Black people in scientific and natural spaces. Black Birders Week
was the inaugural social media effort, though not the first social media
campaign to highlight the achievements of Black people in science,
technology, engineering and math (STEM) (e.g., #BlackandSTEM
founded by Dr. Stephani Page Zax, 2014; #VanguardSTEM founded
by Dr. Jedidah Isler Montgomery, 2018). Black Birders Week was
put together by 16 members in direct response to the Central Park inci-
dent where a White woman tried to weaponize her privilege by falsely
calling the police on a Black male birder who asked her to leash her
dog, which are the park rules (National Audubon Society, 2020). This
incident, coupled with institutional racial injustices, the continued
brutal murdering of Black people by White people and the police
(Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd; #BlackLivesMatter
Movement), and the disproportionally high death tolls of Black and
Indigenous peoples due to the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic
health inequalities (Black/African American: 3.7× higher hospitaliza-
tions and 2.8× higher deaths when compared to White, Non-Hispanic
patients; American Indians/Alaska Native: 4.0× higher hospitaliza-
tions and 2.6× higher deaths; CDC, 2020; data from the United States
only) led to a movement to highlight Black people in science, math,
engineering, arts and technology (STEAM). This ongoing movement,
with weeks such as #BlackBirdersWeek, #BlackBotanistsWeek, and
#BlackinNationalParksWeek, among many others, continues to high-
light Black people in spaces that they have always been in, but are often
not recognized as much as their White peers. It is not uncommon that
Black scientists are hypervisible as representative symbols of diver-
sity, but overlooked or invisible as full professional participants in
STEAM spaces (Settles & al., 2019; Montgomery, 2020). This turbu-
lent backdrop, along with the positive interactions with members and
participants of #BlackBirdersWeek, sparked the commencement of
#BlackBotanistsWeek. Dr. Tanisha M. Williams put out the first tweet
on 8 June 2020 to gauge interest in coordinating such a week (Fig. 1).
The response was overwhelmingly positive, with over 900 likes and
400 retweets (Fig. 1). Dr. Williams and 11 committee members orga-
nized the first #BlackBotanistsWeek, 611 July 2020 (website: The committees goal was,
and still is, to promote, encourage, create a safe place for, and connect
with more Black people who love plants.
Black Botanists Week, like Black Birders Week, took their
respective weeks to highlight Black people in these spaces inside
and out of academia. This approach, along with the Black Botanists
Week committee membersbroadening the definition of who is a
botanist, to include anyone who loves plants, whether that be a plant
ecologist, house plant enthusiast, hiker, or artist, really allowed for a
diverse group of people to participate, engage, and be amplified. The
12 Black Botanists Week committee members are diverse them-
selves, ranging from graduate students to professors, from teachers
to conservationists (Fig. 2), enabling the integration of experiences
from different careers and career stages. The committee is also geo-
graphically diverse, made up of members from the U.S., the U.K.,
and South Africa. An important goal of Black Botanists Week was
to reach the global community of Black botanists. As was the orga-
nizing committee, those participating represented a diverse commu-
nity of Black botanists, much like the diversity of plants we study,
tend, and love.
Within the first weeks of organizing the committee members
received support from over 40 organizations, including the Linnean
Society, Botanical Society of America, American Society of Plant
Taxonomists, Plant Love Stories, Canadian Botanical Association,
academic institutions and botanical gardens from around the world.
There was also a lot of individual support by persons that may or
may not have been affiliated with an institution, but who were excited
to learn more about Black botanists and amplify the messaging
throughout the week. By the end of the first day, the Black Botanists
Week hashtag had been used and/or liked by over 40,000 people. At
the end of the week, the top 50 tweeters alone interacted with over
223,000 people from across the world (Fig. 3). Each day was themed
to encourage Black people to share why they love plants, their favorite
plants, what work they do surrounding plants, and to remember Black
botanists that paved the way (Fig. 4). The week saw its highest
participation during the #BlackBotanicalLegacy, #PlantInteractions,
and #BlackPlantLove days. As such, the strong engagement on the
first day of Black Botanists Week was vital in revealing the #Black-
BotanicalLegacy that has often gone unrecognized in history and that
Fig. 1. The first tweet (8 June 2020) about Black Botanists Week.
TAXON 70 (1) February 2021: 218224 Plant Systematics World
Fig. 2. The 12 Black Botanists Week committee members.
Fig. 3. Top 50 twitter accounts and their original tweets and retweets. These top 50 accounts interacted with 223,000 people. The inset table shows
the top 10 twitter accounts and their interactions (favorites), retweets and replies within the first two days of the week. These 10 accounts interacted
with over 50,000 people within those f irst days.
Plant Systematics World TAXON 70 (1) February 2021: 218224
is largely absent from classroom instruction. Research shows that
students benefit from a multicultural education (Zaldana, 2010)
and same race models (Syed, 2011). By bringing these stories to
the forefront, members highlighted numerous examples of Black
contributions to the botany field that can be incorporated in course cur-
ricula. The week also touched upon two topics that provided a safe place
for Black botanists to discuss what it is like #BotanizingWhileBlack and
share why #DiverseCommunitiesAreStrongCommunities. Black bota-
nists shared unfortunately familiar stories of being followed or harassed
while doing work with plants in the field or enjoying nature. Despite
these everyday attacks on Black peoples lives, there were also many
good stories of field work triumphs, hiking adventures, nature retreats,
and new house plant additions. The participating Black botanists ran-
ged from thevery young, including pre-school gardeners and burgeon-
ing botanists, to the mature. The week also boosted the visibility of the
12 Black Botanists Week committee members. During and following
the week, the committee members have been highlighted in many dif-
ferent ways. News sources from the U.S., Canada and South Africa
also covered this inaugural campaign. There were stories published
in USA Today (Mallenbaum, 2020), WNYC (Floyd, 2020), Cape Talk
(Wiener, 2020), eNCA (Gordon, 2020), Science Rendezvous
(Du, 2020), and Discover Magazine (Betz, 2020). The committee
members continue to uplift and highlight Black botanists through
speaking engagements, podcast interviews, and outreach.
As the committee reflects on our journey to this point, we want to
continue to help the botanical community work towards embracing
diversity, inclusion, equity, justice and becoming antiracist. To do the
work and be an antiracist, individuals and institutions must actively
choose to examine race and racism, historical disparities, personal
biases, and take actions that align with the commitment to end racial
inequalities (Kendi, 2019; Flicker & Klein, 2020; Gupta & Wallace,
2020; SABER, 2020; Smithsonian, 2020). We strongly encourage indi-
viduals and organizations to commit to the following antiracist actions:
(1) A journey of truth and unlearning the propaganda you have
been taught to keep the system of oppression in place. We are asking
everyone to dig deep and learn about the true history of your country
and the world. Examine how continued compliance (or negligence)
of citizens and the passing of laws have systematically disadvantaged
Black people around the world.
(2) Listen to Black people about their lived experiences. Exam-
ine why it is so hard to hear and empathize with someone elses truth.
(3) Identify racial inequalities and disparities. These should be
identified in every aspect of ones life (healthcare, education, income,
etc.). Examine how these inequalities and disparities harm Black people.
(4) Identify the racist and/or biased ideas (implicit or not) you,
your organization, etc. hold. Examine how these ideas came to be,
what is wrong about these ideas, and work on ways to actively change
racist views and/or biases.
(5) Support the people, organizations and legislation that are
actively doing antiracist work. There are many local, national, and
global civic organizations working towards racial equity and social
justice. There are also ways in your daily life one can actively work
towards being antiracist and counteracting persistent biases and
inequalities. This is a lifelong commitment we all must make to see
a world where there is equality for all.
Black Botanists Week will be an annual event to celebrate, uplift
and support Black botanists from around the world. In collaboration
with Holden Forest and Gardens, we are currently running a lecture
series entitled Growing Black Roots: The Black Botanical Legacyto
amplify the experiences, contributions, and innovation of Black bota-
nists. The series was co-organized by our very own committee member
Maya L. Allen from University of New Mexico in collaboration with
Dr. Juliana Medeiros from the Holden Forest and Gardens. The lecture
series is running from October 2020 to September 2021, learn
more here:
(Fig. 5). To keep up to date on what we are doing subscribe to our
newsletter (
has-a-newsletter) and follow us on twitter (@BlkBotanistsWk).
We thank Emily Rollinson from East Stroudsburg University,
and Elizabeth Munch and Daniel Chitwood of Michigan State Uni-
versity for providing assistance with procuring Twitter data using R
and Python for the #BlackBotanistsWeek hashtag. Work by Beronda
L. Montgomery on outreach, broadening participation and equitable
mentoring is supported by the National Science Foundation (grant
no. MCB-1515002) and the Michigan State University Foundation.
Keywords antiracist; Black botanists; diversity, equity, and
inclusion (DEI); social media; social justice
Fig. 4. Word cloud showing the most popular hashtags associated with
#BlackBotanistsWeek during the week of the inaugural event up until
20 September 2020. Fig. 5. Black Botanists Week is partnering with Holden Forests and
Gardens to put together 11 science lectures every second Wednesday
of the month from October 2020 to September 2021.
TAXON 70 (1) February 2021: 218224 Plant Systematics World
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Tanisha M. Williams,
Jade Bleau,
Maya L. Allen,
Georgia Silvera Seamans,
Brandi Cannon,
Natasza Fontaine,
Morgan Halane,
Rupert Koopman,
Nokwanda P. Makunga,
Itumeleng Moroenyane,
Tatyana Soto
& Beronda L.
[Black Botanists Week Committee]
1Bucknell University, Biology Department, One Dent Drive,
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania 17837, U.S.A.
2Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, School of Biological
Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Max Born Crescent, Edinburgh
EH9 3BF, U.K.
3University of New Mexico Biology, Castetter Hall 1480,
MSC03-2020, 219 Yale Blvd NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
87131-0001, U.S.A.
4Washington Square Park Eco Projects, New York, New York 10012,
U.S .A.
5Dwight Englewood School, 315 E Palisade Ave, Englewood, New
Jersey 07631, U.S.A.
6Florida State University, Department of Biological Science, 319
Stadium Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32306, U.S.A.
7National Park Service, 26 Hudson Road, Highlands, New Jersey
07732, U.S.A.
8The Botanical Society of South Africa, Private Bag X 10, Clar-
emont, 7735, South Africa
9Stellenbosch University, Department of Botany and Zoology,
Private Bag X1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa
10 Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Armand-
Frappier Santé Biotechnologie, 531 boulevard de Prairies, Laval,
Québec H7V 1B7, Canada
11 Purdue University, Department of Botany & Plant Pathology, 915
W. State Street, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, U.S.A.
12 MichiganState University, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular
Biology and Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, 612
Wilson Road, East Lansing, Michigan 48823, U.S.A.
Address for correspondence: Tanisha M. Williams,
First published as part of this issue. See online for details.
Plant Systematics World TAXON 70 (1) February 2021: 218224
Driven by the national conversation on systemic racism, ongoing inequities, appeals to decolonize science, and the many recent calls for diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, we use stories of plants to discuss the history of bias and exclusionary practices in scientific botany, particularly regarding access to scientific spaces, and the exploitation of marginalized peoples. We discuss the many opportunities and challenges presented by the age of information technology as we seek to create a more inclusive botany that recognizes and acknowledges the contributions of historically marginalized groups, including Black and Indigenous communities. We hope this article can be used as a conversation starter to raise awareness, encourage reflection, and promote action toward creating a more equitable and just scientific practice.
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There has long been a focus on building inclusion and diversity in the sciences through a range of efforts intended to increase representation and access. Despite expansive efforts supported by higher education institutions, funding agencies and others, a need persists to support broad participation and success. Digital platforms, including blogs, and social media such as Twitter™, offer emergent paths for scientists to proactively build supportive communities, even where structural diversity or numerical representation of diverse groups remains low. Use of these platforms can range from community building, to proactive mentoring, and advocacy, as well as more customary uses for supporting scholarly success of diverse individuals, including dissemination and accessible discussions of research findings. I discuss specific uses of social-media digital platforms for building and cultivating communities of underrepresented scholars and facilitating engagement around issues of broad concern to groups underrepresented in science and higher education. These uses include mentoring and support to promote equity, inclusion and diversity, promoting self-definition and personal agency, community building, and advocacy. I draw on published literature about using social media and digital platforms in higher education to build and cultivate “social networks” for connecting widely distributed individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to cultivate communities of interest, support and practice, including a focus on mentoring, sponsorship, and advocacy. I highlight the power of Twitter™ and social media platforms to build and cultivate connections of individuals underrepresented in science and the academy and to offer meaningful means for mitigating local deficits related to low structural diversity and inequity.
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In October 2002 the editor of Die Kerkbode, official newspaper of the Dutch Reformed Church (N G Kerk) paid a visit to ex-president Nelson Mandela. He talked about his life, leadership, as well as the challenges to the churches in our day. His gracious remarks on the role of the Dutch Reformed Church is of special significance, in view of the fact that during many years the church not only supported the policy of Apartheid, but provided a theological argument for doing so. During the 1990s the church, on a number of occasions, confessed guilt in this regard. Dr Frits Gaum, editor, provided a transcript of the interview to Verbum et Ecclesia for this special edition on leadership.
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A growing body of literature provides insight into the ingredients for academic success for underrepresented ethnic minority students at all points of the academic pipeline. Theory and research in developmental and social psychology, education, and sociology all point to the important role of identity for students’ academic success. The purpose of this article is to review some of the major findings across these social science disciplines to identify points of synergy that can inform effective policy recommendations. The review is structured around three points of convergence across disciplines: (1) prejudice and stereotype threat; (2) the role of social support; and (3) the availability of options for identity development. Reviewing these three topics sheds light on how the relation between identity and academic success must be understood on individual, relational, and institutional levels of analysis.
Because of their minority group status and underrepresentation, faculty of color (FOC) are tokens and as such, are highly visible within the academy. Paradoxically, token status may result in their being made to feel simultaneously invisible (e.g., accomplishments are unimportant, lack of belonging) and hypervisible (e.g., heightened scrutiny). Drawing from 118 interviews, we identified six themes related to how Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and American Indian faculty members at a single, predominantly White, research-intensive university, describe issues of (in)visibility at work. FOC experienced hypervisibility when they were treated as Tokens and used to represent diversity within the institution, and they felt invisible when they experienced Social and Professional Exclusion and Epistemic Exclusion (i.e., lack of recognition for their scholarship and achievements) from colleagues. FOC responded to tokenism and exclusion using three (in)visibility strategies: Strategic Invisibility (i.e., disengaging with colleagues while remaining engaged with their scholarly activities) to remove themselves from negative environments; Working Harder to prove themselves, counter exclusion, and create positive visibility; and Disengagement (i.e., removed effort from work). Our analysis suggests that a lack of control over one's (in)visibility is problematic for FOC. In response, FOC may attempt to increase or decrease their own visibility to counter such experiences, often with some positive effects.
The purpose of this paper was to examine multicultural education, and clarify misconceptions about it. Particularly, those misconceptions that have resulted in House Bill 2281 ( i.e. multicultural education “promotes the overthrow of the United States government”), and the misconception that multicultural education solely involves content integration. In addition, this paper examines the possible benefits of having a multicultural education. These benefits include combating the negative effects of acculturation and assimilation, reducing prejudice and the effects of stereotypes, enhancing other-group orientation, and promoting critical analysis and empowerment.
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