Yale honors 9-year-old girl whose white neighbor called police while she caught lanternflies
Yale’s Peabody Museum will exhibit nearly 30 of the invasive lanternflies Bobbi Wilson captured to protect her neighborhood.
Yale University is showing support to a 9-year-old Black girl from New Jersey after a white neighbor called the police on her for spraying a homemade solution on local plants to protect them from the invasive insects.
Bobbi Wilson’s lanternfly-killing efforts were interrupted months into her operation when her neighbor Gordon Lawshe contacted Caldwell police on Oct. 22, 2022. He reported suspicions about a “little Black woman walking and spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees,” according to the New York Times.
Now, per the outlet, Yale’s Peabody Museum will exhibit nearly 30 of the lanternflies Bobbi captured to protect her neighborhood. The insects wreaked havoc on trees and crops in Northeast states last summer.
A ceremony was held Jan. 20 to honor Bobbi, whose name will be featured alongside the museum’s newest addition.
Bobbi told the Times that she wants to inspire other young people interested in science to not be afraid “to pursue their dreams and not be afraid to try something just because they’re little.”
“We can make a difference, too,” she said.
Bobbi’s mother, Monique Joseph, told the Times that helping address the insect infestation “empowered” her daughter, and she hopes the resulting police call can be a “teachable moment” about the dangers of racial profiling on Black children.
In a recording of the Oct. 22 police call, obtained by The Daily Beast, Lawshe, who has reportedly lived across the street from Joseph for nearly eight years, told a responding officer: “I don’t know what the hell she’s doing, scares me though,” as previously reported by theGrio. He continued on to say that the girl was “real tiny” and had a hood on.
Joseph lambasted Lawshe’s use of triggering descriptors during a Nov. 1 mayor and council meeting in Caldwell, as reported by The Progress. She later told the Times: “This same call could’ve happened in another state with another police officer, and I would be grieving.”
No action was taken from the police according to reports, but the incident caught widespread national attention and criticism, including from Ijeoma Opara, an associate professor at Yale.
Opara, whose research focuses on how racism impacts Black girls and other children of color, said the police call exemplified a phenomenon called the “adultification” of Black girls, according to the Times.
“Often our society, we don’t view Black children as children,” Opara told the Times. “We view them as much older than what they are. They end up getting less protected; they end up getting judged more. They end up not being forgiven for mistakes.”
As previously reported by theGrio, Opara, shared in a series of tweets on Nov. 17, 2022 that she reached out to Bobbi’s family and “invited them to @yale for a Black girl led Science Tour.”
Additionally, per the Times, Bobbi has been recognized by the likes of Princeton, the American Museum of Natural History and others including the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which will host Bobbi and her sister Hayden, 13, for a young scholars research program in July.
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