This non-profit program is focused on improving the mental health and well-being of black men through art, nature and community.
Cover Image Source: Instagram | @blackmenflowerproject
There are many people who can look cheerful on the outside but deep down, they might be suffering from several mental health challenges. A lab scientist named Robert Washington Vaughns happened to be one of those who had it all, he had a nice job, a fancy apartment, a girlfriend and yet he was deeply unhappy. “I felt like I just wanted to end it all,” he told PEOPLE in an interview, “I didn’t think I had anybody I could reach out to. Everybody was going to tell me to toughen up.”
Vaughns checked in to undergo intensive therapy after he was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. For a long time, he worked to heal himself by spending time in nature and eventually made a lot of progress. “By having a community of people I could talk to,” said the 34-year-old Vaughns, who hails from Los Alamos, New Mexico,”I started to see the beauty of life again.”
Inspired by his own journey toward recovery, Vaughns partnered with John Pendleton from Chicago-based Planks and Pistils floring in early 2023 to create the Black Men Flower Project. According to their official website, the Black Men Flower Project is a non-profit program focused on improving the mental health and well-being of black men through art, nature and community. Black men nominate one another to receive professional floral arrangements in select cities across the U.S. Every arrangement is artistically crafted and uniquely prepared for each recipient by a curated list of florists.
The project is primarily funded by generous donations that allow the men from the black community to nominate others so they can receive a bouquet and continue the chain of love and solidarity. It has proven to be a great initiative to bust toxic masculinity myths, help express appreciation towards others and support people with mental health issues. “Black men are suffering,” Pendleton told the outlet. Working with Vaughns, the duo has worked to distribute 120 bouquets through a network of flower shops owned by people of color in four cities in the U.S.
They have further plans to expand their gratitude project throughout the nation as well. “Flowers have been a healing space for me,” Pendleton added, “I want other black men to experience that.” Factors like access to health insurance and the stigma around mental illness in the black community are fundamental barriers for men getting the care they need, one of the biggest issues is the lack of culturally competent providers. According to the American Psychiatric Association, only 2% of psychiatrists and 4% of psychologists in the United States are Black.
The idea of using flowers as a tool for healing and improving mental health is really beautiful and powerful. It’s awesome that this nonprofit is helping to combat toxic masculinity. pic.twitter.com/CrpTTKIVxS
— Joe (@JoeMaristela) October 27, 2023
This is quite beautiful
— YodaShmurda (@YodaShmurda) June 16, 2023
According to the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, the institute and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. have launched an educational outreach initiative titled Brother, You’re On My Mind (BYOMM): Changing the National Dialogue Regarding Mental Health Among African-American Men. The focus is to raise awareness about the mental health challenges associated with stress and depression that affect African-American men and their families. We hope to see these thoughtful initiatives bring positive changes to the black community.