Black Forest is a participatory public artwork collecting the names and stories of Black lives lost to COVID-19 in the U.S. and planting trees for them. As a living monument and story archive for the over 100,000 Black lives lost, it will include plant-ins and tree giveaways, a phone hotline, a web map, sound and video artworks, and booklets on topics ranging from Black urban forestry to Black feminist ecology.
Nationwide, throughout much of the pandemic, COVID-19 disproportionately infected and killed Black people. Many Black neighborhoods have also been affected by poor air quality, fewer trees, and higher temperatures. Tree planting has long been used by Black communities to upend violent histories and uplift Black life, from Hattie Carthan and Neighborhood Tree Corps planting 1,500 trees in Brooklyn to Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement planting 30 million trees in Kenya. So in the Black tradition of storytelling and tree planting, we’re recording the name and stories of those lost via our hotline and planting trees for them in their neighborhoods. Each tree will have a QR code that links to each person’s stories on our website.
We’re organizing tree plantings in Black neighborhoods, especially those disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Starting November 5th in Detroit, where COVID-19 deaths were about 90% Black, we’ll be planting 60 trees with The Greening of Detroit in partnership with American Forests and sponsorship from Eddie Bauer and the Detroit Zoo. This will be the first of many “plant-ins” throughout Detroit and other cities across the US in the spring and fall planting seasons. As trees are gradually planted, dedications will be evenly distributed across the number of planted trees. For example, if only 4 trees can be planted for 100 people, each tree will be dedicated to 25 people.
Black Forest honors and remembers Black life through new growth and breath as future evidence of the resilience and perseverance of Black communities. We invite the public nationwide to sign up to participate at black-forest.us.