Two black floral professionals to speak on a diversity panel.
ith the creation of Flower House Detroit, 2015’s temporary collaborative floral project, pot & box owner Lisa Waud has become a leader in Detroit’s floral design industry. This month, Waud is showing off the city to floral professionals from across the country for Detroit Flower Week, a week of presentations, workshops and events for floral professionals and admirers.
For their first year, Waud is planning to tackle the challenge of showcasing a mostly white industry in a majority black city.
“I think the organizers really took a purposeful action to make it more diverse, but not artificially,” landscape designer Leslie Bennett tells BLAC. “I’m really excited about this group trying to acknowledge lack of diversity.”
Bennett, who is black, owns Pine House Edible Gardens in Oakland, California, where she creates gardens that are both aesthetically beautiful and produce fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and foliage.
Bennett will present during Detroit Flower Week on 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, October 13 at The Jam Handy. In addition to her solo presentation, Bennett as well as Los Angeles-based floral designer Maurice Harris will be participating in the event’s panel discussion on diversity in the floral industry, taking place at 2 p.m. on October 12 at The Jam Handy, which will be free and open to the public.
“[The floral industry] is very isolating,” Harris says. “I would say 99 percent of my clients do not look like me. It gets very, very tricky when you work in the service industry to not feel like a servant. It’s a very difficult space to navigate.”
Harris says he believes the lack of diversity could be a result of flowers being seen as a luxury or frivolous thing to Americans, especially people of color.
“I look at flowers like the ultimate luxury. I say that because flowers die and diamonds are forever,” Harris says. “To participate, it’s a very expensive thing that I think very few people value, and it’s usually people with means.
“It’s really awesome that there is a white woman who works in this isolated industry, who is very aware of the environment she works in,” he adds. “It’s nice to meet a woke person who works in my industry. I don’t know what all one can do to change that in a world where our political environment looks the way it does, but I appreciate that somebody cares.”
Harris’s solo presentation will take place 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, October 11 at The Jam Handy. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit detroitflowerweek.info.