A few years ago, Debra Prinzing, Slow Flowers Society, approached me with an idea to consider. The African American voice was nonexistent in the world of floristry. Not that we were not making a difference in this space, it was simply not acknowledged. There are many books about farming as African Americans which currently dominate the book world. None of these books focused on the importance of the flower farmer or floral designer. A book, Black Flora, was born out of this conversation. I am grateful for the opportunity, and I truly consider it a gift to anyone who might read it.
This book gently captures the story of how flowers heal, create opportunities, and simply bring joy in unusual ways for each person profiled in Black Flora. With each interview, the uniqueness of each person stirred my soul. There is a familiar thread found in each journey. As my friend, Abra Lee constantly reminds the world as she speaks on the significance of African Americans in horticulture, “We are not new to this.”
In several conversations, those featured in Black Flora discussed how growing and creating beauty from flowers is a part of our genetic remembrance. It reminds us of ancestral lands or reimagining blooms we could not afford. The road to the many ways the flowers found us was not always hard. African Americans who chose to delve deeper into the world of floriculture is a story not often shared.
As an author, I realized that this book would be meaningful to anyone who might not know what their life journey would look like. If college were not a consideration, could creating beauty from nature be an option? Would it pay? Was there a way to shadow someone, would their unique perspective be appreciated? Most importantly, would they be given an opportunity to shine in their uniqueness? The subjects and their respective profiles share experiences that give the reader a glimpse into their world.
As the book became available, I was ecstatic. Capturing the journey of twenty-five African American individuals (and one young family) was relevant. These stories were long overdue. This was an opportunity to read their stories and be inspired. My vision was that someone could go to the library, or see it on a coffee table, and be empowered by reading the stories found in Black Flora. I compared it to sowing seeds of inspiration to those who might not imagine an alternative way of making a living.
PAYING IT FORWARD
One day I received a beautiful item in the mail. Each time I looked at this piece of garden art, a certain energy was felt. I felt the importance of sharing the stories of these ambitious African American flower farmers, floral designers, and florists. As I embraced the beauty and symbolism of this piece, there was a strong desire to make certain this important narrative was shared. As in many industries, we are important and deserve to be acknowledged – even in the world of floriculture. We can be successful, as we embrace the beauty that our ancestors might not have had the opportunity to enjoy on a different day, at a different time.
A note accompanying this gift encouraged me to pay it forward. Paying it forward was reinforced to me as a child. My sharecropping ancestors paid it forward as they shared their harvests with those less fortunate. From the Hydrangea and Iris found on family land, they found a way to incorporate beauty into their garden. Photos of sky-high Mammoth sunflowers grown by my Great Aunt in the heart of Washington, DC, continue to amaze me. The sunflowers were something that brought joy to my relatives and their neighbors. These blooms were shared with anyone who asked.
How could I pay it forward in a meaningful way?
This was on my mind at every speaking opportunity, and media mention. I began to hear the book had become hard to find. In some areas, the book had sold out. This was quite a surprise. The importance found in each story was evident. It was appealing to the public. I had felt compelled to pay it forward.
So, I am reaching out to young people, youth groups, mid-lifers, teachers, and librarians who might benefit from acquiring this book. This week, I will host a book giveaway. One person will receive a signed copy of Black Flora. There is a little work involved.
- Like and comment on this blog post.
- Write a 64-word or less paragraph sharing why you want this book. The most impactful short paragraph will be considered. All entries must be received by midnight, January 20th. One entry per person – to be fair. The winner will be announced on February 1, 2023. I will mail the winner a signed copy of Black Flora.
(Stay tuned, I am hearing Black Flora will be reprinted as an eBook in the Spring.)
I cannot express OUR gratitude to each person who purchased Black Flora and multiple copies of the book (shout out to the Texas ladies who attended Pam Pennick’s Garden Spark!) Thank you for recognizing the importance of the book, the portraits, and our story.
Like a perennial in the garden, this story is not over. The seeds will resprout in my voice, as well as in the voices of others as we share the beauty of being enamored with flowers and creating.
My ancestors speak to me in the most unique ways. As a seedling of a lengthy line of school builders, and educators, from slavery forward, I understand the importance of our story. I also accept the assignment that our story continues to be shared.
This giveaway is my way of giving back and sowing good seeds along the way.
Teri, Cottage in the Courtby