Nonprofit gives men their flowers, targeting toxic masculinity and mental health issues
A bouquet of delicate flowers may seem out of place when given to a Black man.
The Black Men’s Flower Project wants to change that.
The nonprofit organization gives out bouquets to men of color to foster a sense of community, help them deal with mental health issues, and confront the outdated norms of Black male masculinity.
The project began in 2017 and relaunched in 2023, according to its website. Robert Washington-Vaughns founded the group in partnership with John Pendleton, the florist-owner of Chicago’s Planks and Pistils.
“Black men are suffering,” co-founder John Pendleton told People. “Flowers have been a healing space for me. I want other Black men to experience that.”
Washington-Vaughns knows firsthand about the challenges some Black men are facing. He told People he underwent extensive therapy for depression and anxiety. To help his mental health, he spent time in nature.
“I felt like I just wanted to end it all,” he told People. “I didn’t think I had anybody I could reach out to. Everybody was going to tell me to toughen up.”
The “toughen up” advice would be a hallmark of toxic masculinity, a term associated with men suppressing emotions and acting tough. Research shows that Black men become socially conditioned to be “hard,” especially in the face of the everyday slights, suspicion, and racism they face.
The project has a simple message — it’s OK for one Black man to send another flowers to show appreciation, respect, and help bring a smile to someone who needs it.
Men of color can nominate someone to receive flowers using the form on the project’s website. The group uses four Black-owned flower shops to distribute its bouquets — 120 this year, so far — hoping to eventually expand its reach nationwide.
Jonathan Isaiah Smith, an HVAC company owner in Columbus, Ohio, told People the surprising impact of receiving flowers.
“When I received the flowers, it was a warmth I never felt before,” Smiths said. “I’ve bought flowers for years, for funerals or [for] a woman, but to receive them — I felt loved. To this day, I try to make sure I keep some flowers around for myself.”
If you or someone close to you is struggling with mental health or considering self-harm, please contact the SAMHSA National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 for confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year support.
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