DJ Freedem’s online community for black plant lovers sows seeds for new ways to fight racism
The first time DJ Freedem went viral for his plant content was for his Instagram videos Trap Gardening, where the New York-based DJ provided plant and relationship advice in his sassy style. Heartleaf Philodendrons are heart-shaped because you’re supposed to kill them with kindness, one of his classic comments said.
“Like most content creators, sometimes we create things once as a joke, which creates a demand for more,” Freedem says now.
This is also what happened with her second plant-related viral moment. Back in June, Freedem remixed a common sentiment on Black Twitter – “Cash App a Black woman $ 50”, a joking and unpleasant version of the demand for reparations – tweeting: “If you’re white, give a person a plant. black. instant. ”He reposted the tweet on Instagram – and to his surprise, people started doing it.
“In my head, I thought at the very least it would spark a conversation in my comments, but it has evolved into a movement and a platform,” he says.
Freedem had, quite by accident, founded the Underground Plant Trade. At the beginning, the exchanges were done via an Instagram account, @ underground.planttrade, which operates under the slogan “a network of repairs disguised as a plant community”. But last October, he launched a website with a nostalgic Internet aesthetic – think neon green text and animated backgrounds a la Angelfire or Geocities sites from the late 1990s – and a forum with tables for different parts of the United States, and possibly as far away as Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and Canada.
“I think because plants are everywhere, people realized that they didn’t need a lot of brain or effort to make someone’s day, week, month or year. one, ”says Freedem. “I also think that because this started at a time when we were told to isolate ourselves, people would naturally be drawn to new, innovative ways to connect with other people, especially with other people sharing similar interests. “
But it’s not just a matter of connection. The Underground Plant Trade (UPT) is based on an idea that has been present in social justice movements for decades, if not centuries: financial compensation for blacks in redress for centuries of racial injustice. It is not a new concept. Beginning with Field Order 15, the policy behind the saying “40 acres and a mule,” which allocated land confiscated from slave owners to newly freed slaves, the United States toyed with the idea of making amends. black citizens through cash payments, grants, free tuition, and / or investments in social programs that would most benefit their communities – most recently with Bill HR 40, legislation that would create a commission to study the “lingering negative effects of slavery on living African Americans and society” and to develop reparations. On April 14, more than 30 years after its introduction by Representative John Conyers, Jr., the House Judiciary Committee voted to transfer the bill to the House for further consideration – the first time that ‘he was acting. on legislation.
UPT reframes the idea of reparations from punishment to an act of community building – and helps people understand that racial injustice continues to impact black people around the world, not just states -United. This particularly resonated with Queen Cee, a resident of Hamilton. who twice received plants from the project, including a monstera, a pothos and several baby spiders.
“People don’t really think of Canada [when they think about racism], “she said.” They don’t think about the demographics here, which is so multicultural. The black population is very large and we come from many countries. “
Béatrice Paradis-Lebel, a member of the Quebec UPT, who bought Cee an aglaonema at a factory outlet in Hamilton, says the project has helped her understand why the fight against racism must be about more than just educating herself. and educate others.
“I don’t think I understood the real beneficial impact of repairs until I saw how the underground plant trade worked,” she admits. “DJ Freedem has touched on something so universal, or at least widespread, that he makes it extremely accessible to anyone who loves plants. It made so much sense for me to have a very concrete way to offer reparations.
Other plant benefactors agree. “I wanted to participate because I have more. I’ve learned how to propagate some of my plants and I have a lot to share, ”says Julia Seymour, who recently joined the forum to share plants in Vancouver.
She and Paradis-Lebel recognize that plant donation is only a small part of the anti-racist work they are trying to do – but that doesn’t negate its impact, which Freedem says is bigger than just plants. .
“Repairs should come from the government,” he said. “However, this platform and movement shows that it is not impossible – it just takes initiation and a system.”
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