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Sow Beautiful Giveaway celebrates plants' LGBTQ+ history

The UNC LGBTQ Center partnered with Edible Campus on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, give away plants and teach people about queer history.

On Tuesday, students swiped right on the Sow Beautiful plant giveaway, which connected LGBTQ+ identities and plants, co-hosted by Edible Campus UNC and the UNC LGBTQ Center

The event, held in the garden behind Davis Library, allowed students to choose plants that have specific LGBTQ+ history and symbolism. Upon entering the event, they were given informative cards on three different plants: pansy, lavender and violet. 

The cards included information about how to care for the plants and their roots in LGBTQ+ history in order to best match them with a potential human partner. 

“It’s fun to disseminate plants out into the world, to give students that experience of taking care of a plant, learning about it, sometimes failing,” Kyle Parker, the Edible Campus coordinator, said.  “That’s totally cool. I’ve killed more plants than anybody, and that’s a great metaphor for life. You mess up, you learn, you mess up, you learn.”

The collaboration between Edible Campus and the LGBTQ Center was initiated by the center’s director, Andrew Prevatte.

It brought together Parker’s love for nature and its soul-nourishing quality, and the LGBTQ Center’s goal of educating students about LGBTQ+ identities.

“Most of the credit goes to Andrew and his crew,” Parker said. “We just grew the plants, so this was his brainchild and idea.” 

People started to enter the garden as early as 10 minutes before the event started, and by the scheduled time of 2 p.m., there was already a small crowd. 

Edible Campus also supplied guests with a small bunch of rosemary and fresh lavender or mint tea bags accompanied by steaming water. 

Students were able to learn about LGBTQ+ history and its significance with plants, receive Campus Life Experience credit and get goodies to bring back to their dorm or apartment in under 15 minutes.

Last year, Edible Campus hosted their annual plant giveaway, and there were familiar faces at Tuesday’s event excited to attend another giveaway — like sophomore Natyjua Thompson. 

“I have a couple of plants,” she said

Thompson keeps her plants in her dorm and said she chose lavender at the giveaway because of its pleasant smell.

First-year Ria Sharma had never attended an event like this before and came with her friend Martha Nugent, who volunteers with plants.

“I liked it and would definitely come back,” Sharma said

People attending the event came in with a wide variety of interests and majors, but they were all there to learn more about LGBTQ+ history and how it relates to plants.

The most popular of the plants chosen, lavender, was nicknamed “The Menace,” and is known for more than just its familiar scent. Used as slang to describe a relationship between two men in the 1920’s, the phrase “a streak of lavender” was coined by writer Carl Sandburg to describe Abraham Lincoln. 

Similar anecdotes could be found on the cards for pansy — which was also an early-20th-century derogatory term often used to describe a gay man — and violet, which was often featured in the floral poetry of ancient lesbian historical figure Sappho.  

Violet and lavender continue to be prominent queer symbols today. Violet was one of the original colors in the 1978 pride flag.

The cards also gave instructions for caring for the plants from the perspective of each one. 

Although Edible Campus and the LGBTQ Center are not planning to collaborate again soon, the garden will hold a plant giveaway in the Pit for Earth Week. 

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Parker said nature nourishes the soul and, based on the smiling faces in Davis Edible Garden on Tuesday, nature was doing its job.

@dthlifestyle |