Meet D'Real Graham - a voice for the marginalized, avid afroecologist and a Plant Person we love.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is D’Real Graham, I will be enjoying a lap around the sun for the 33rd time beginning on the morning of February 22. I have an affinity for collaboration and hope to encourage Africans scattered across the Diaspora to reimagine their relationship with the natural world.
What is @blackwithplants? Tell us a little about the mission behind your social presence.
Black With Plants on Instagram is a feed dedicated to demonstrating intentional social practice decolonizing. The feed serves as an affirming, luminal digital space advocating for personal agency, autonomy, and sovereignty. Understanding that our liberation is tethered to each sentient beings, including plants each post brings attention to what underlies psychological health, promotes somatic wellness, and centers African agrarian traditions (e.g., afroecology). In the Fall of 2018, I worried that due to vocational stress and milieu deprivation, I’d fast tracked myself for arrested development. Sharing my journey from a person with a warped perspective of conditions of work and our role as Africans participating in commerce in America. I wonder if it was possible to counter cishetnormative neoliberal white supremacist imperialist capitalism as a collective shortly after launching the feed. Since then I’ve been aligning with folx to coordinate efforts online and offline to positively impact Black social life.
What’s your take on the agricultural industry? How does it stand for diversity?
The agricultural industry is violent and was needed to settle colonized lands. Monocrop farms both large scale and small small are located on sites that once showcased old growth. Farming or working with the land with agrarian and ecological insights allows for humans to honor lunar cycles, sun positioning season-to-season, and practice land rematriation rather than solely tending the ground to commodify produce. It is important for truth and reconciliation to take place in conversations moving forward. 1% of arable land in America is managed/owned by Black folx. Said statistic brings attention the lack of diversity in school of thought and stewardship practice. The landscape or topography despite harsh neglect and constant disruption has the potential to yield diverse crops. Let’s consider small acreage farming in urban and rural environments. We can no longer afford to rely of large scale farms or distributors for our hopes to return to homeostasis through sustenance procurement.
What do you want people to know about the agricultural industry? What needs to change and how can we shape it day-to-day?
I want people, especially Black folx to know that identifying as consumer, client, alone is toxic. Without challenging our thinking on how we interact with the marketplace for food, we dispower local economies. Neoliberal identities, e.g., producer and provider limits our ability to engage fully in society. Food Co-ops, farmer Markets, Community Supported Ag, are examples of circle economic stimulus. Commercial sites provide convenience, however, pivoting away from corporations will advantage land workers, the folx making contact with foods rich in nutrients. Habit shifting without being evangelical is possible, I’m living proof that it’s possible to abstain from processed foods, endocrine disruptive chemicals (e.g., BPA), and neurotoxicity (such as Mycotoxins), and environments that have adverse effects on human health.
Any plant tips for us?
Plants are not novelty items. The plant kingdom should be respected, revered, and studied. Plants are resilient, sentient beings that protect us from geopathic stressors. Avoid mismatching a plant with an interior space by doing research. Learn about plants, spend time in built environments before exercising biophilic design. Introduce plants to interior spaces not for their aesthetic, but for opportunity to bond with nature on an ongoing basis. You’ll care for plants effectively when you treat plants like friends rather than objects of disposability. If you live in a low light environment (common in cities), consider getting to know philodendrons, pothos, zz plants, and potted plants that dwell on the forest floor, which rarely see direct light due to canopy plants. Try not to invest in plants that wouldn’t survive in your USDA Hardiness Zone without your generosity. Identify your USDA Hardiness Zone, contact a local Black or nbpoc plant specialist and be intentional about cultivating green spaces.
What has been the biggest hurdle you have ever had to face personally or professionally?
In 2018, I struggled with a foggy brain and poor gut health. I started sharing space with plants to help me attune to ancestral knowledge on health and wellness. Indoor plants opened my eyes to herbs, which opened my heart to small acreage farming, pharmacognosy, and the potential plants have at reversing bodily ailments. Making healthy choices and forming hobbies wasn’t enough, in order for me to navigate adversity and mature I realized in 2019 that I had to quit clout chasing, I had to stop impulsive spending and decision making, I had to forgive myself for personal neglect, I had to identify my pain points, I had to live my values. In Spring 2019, I retired after twelve years of working in the education domain to focus on therapy, mind-body-spirit work, communing with nature, and disinvesting in anthropogenic secular society. It’s 2020, I’m in the Beginner Farmers Training Program (via Future Harvest; Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Ag), in the summer I’ll be taking public health classes while supporting a network of small acreage farms (Three Part Harmony Farm and We Adore Flowers). Learning not to mask pain was the hardest obstacle that I’ve had to hurdle. Acknowledging my pain is the only way for me to position myself for healing.
What is your experience with cannabis? Has it evolved or changed over time? If so, how?
Cannabis is medicine. I’ve benefited greatly from working with cannabis. In my lifetime I’ve had a traumatic knee injury, two serious car accidents, and today I experience arthritis like pain in my palms, without cannabis I’d probably rely on CBD and herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties. In Ypsilanti, MI local officials and community members are coordinating efforts to secure sites for consumption, not just purchase. If needed along the way, I’ll continue to promote cannabis. Cannabis is legal in Michigan, though decriminalizing its use will continue to be a challenge. Ypsilanti, MI has the highest recidivism rate in the continental US. Ypsilanti, MI is four square miles, with a population near twenty-thousand (twenty-seven percent are Black American; Black Americans are over represented in the Washtenaw County jail system. Without meaningful conversations about Cannabis, we will keep in our blind spots the reality that Black and Brown folx are economic drivers for the incarceration industrial complex. Cannabis as medicine can heal, stimulate local economy, and engender social enterprise for automotive alley cities like Ypsilanti, MI. Since being introduced to cannabis in my mid teen years, my respect for its medicinal properties hasn’t changed. As I engage with politics I realize more overtime that necropolitics use gifts like cannabis to perpetuate domination culture.
What do you do to improve your mentality, help with stress reduction, etc?
Honoring my personal constitution, embracing that I have anxiety and paying attention to my circadian rhythm has reduced stress in my daily walk. Being honest about my energy levels and healing process helps me not prolong mental dissonance. Outside of caring for self gently, remaining curious about life has kept me in between joyous moments of rest and enriching adventures or necessary corrections.
Talk about the importance of food in relation to your health.
Food should restore and replenish not induce unnatural hunger pangs. Food ways, add that term to your speaking points. Let’s learn about food origins and let’s build food sheds to protect future generations from government and corporate maladministration. I can no longer consume diary, gluten, soy, processed foods, and most conventional foods. I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, tho’. I’m hoping to continue maturing relationships with foods and people that see me as a gift, not a customer/client/person to take advantage of. My health was compromised during my youth due to a series of poor choices + pure ignorance. I have only experienced optimal health since November 2019. Now that I know what it feels like to eat food without feeling uncomfortable, I don’t want to relive the discomfort in my gastrointestinal tract.
Give us your #1 tip on personal/mental health.
Listen to Black women, indigenize, and transition from an individualistic approach to living to a collective approach and a local social strife in the world will be curbed.
Follow D'Real on Instagram at @blackwithplants
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