This week is Black Botanists Week

Black Botanists Week 2021 is being celebrated from until Saturday July 31 to raise awareness about people of colour pursuing careers in the field of Botany.

Professor Nox Makunga is one of the South African founders of the Black Botanist movement.

This week black botanists and plant lovers from all over the world are celebrating the second #BlackBotanistWeek – an online campaign to highlight the careers of successful black botanists and to promote botany as a field of study and career option.

The initiative, the brainchild of Dr Tanisha Williams from Becknell University in the United States, was established in response to the success of the #BlackBirders campaign in 2020. Sparked by a racist incident in Central Park, involving a black birder, the Black Birder Week went online to boost recognition of black people enjoying and studying the natural world.

According to Dr Williams, she enjoys birds and participated in the first Black Birders Week, but she enjoys plants much more. For her PhD research, for example, she worked in the Western Cape as part of her thesis on pelargoniums’ response to climate change. Having seen the success of Black Birders Week, she was inspired to coordinate an international north-ssuth collaboration of black botanists which now consists of 12 founding members from five different countries.

Professor Nox Makunga, one of the founding members from South Africa, says that botany is traditionally not a career that is considered by black and indigenous people of colour: “I hope to inspire those that may not see botany as a career, because they do not know that people like me are engaged in this type of science. Representation is important for growing human capital in this field.

“We are also hoping to change the present narrative that continues to exclude black, indigenous people of colour’s knowledge and contribution to this field,” she adds.

Professor Makunga is an ethno-botanist in the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University. The other two founding members from South Africa are Rupert Koopman, conservation manager at the Botanical Society of South Africa, and Dr Itumeleng Moroenyane, a plant ecologist based in Canada.

The drive for the Black Botanists movement is to find more black people, including indigenous people of colour, who love plants, to promote the study field, provide encouragement, and to create a safe space for their development.

Follow @BlkBotanistsWk on Twitter or blackbotanistsweek on Instagram