Yale honors Black girl, 9, wrongly reported to police over insect project | Yale University
A nine-year-old girl who had a neighbor call the police on her while she worked to eradicate invasive insects from her hometown has earned honors from one of America’s most prestigious universities.
The Yale School of Public Health held a ceremony earlier this month citing Bobbi Wilson’s efforts to rid Caldwell, New Jersey, of the spotted lanternfly, according to university officials.
The January 20 gathering also recognized Bobbi for donating her personal collection of lanternflies to Yale’s Peabody Museum, which entered the collection into its database and listed the child as the donating scientist.
An assistant professor at the school of public health, Ijeoma Opara, told those at the ceremony that she organized the event to draw attention to Bobbi’s “bravery and how inspiring she is”.
“Yale doesn’t usually do something like this,” Opara said, according to the university. “It’s something unique about Bobbi.”
Bobbi, who is Black, unwittingly touched off a national conversation about the sometimes life-threatening nature of racial profiling on Oct. 22 when a neighbor called the police on her when she used a homemade repellent spray of water, dish soap, and apple cider vinegar . dead-spotted lanternflies feeding on trees near her house.
Lantern flies are invasive pests native to Asia that damage trees in various ways, including by sucking their sap and causing holes through which harmful substances can then enter them. Scientists – whose ranks Bobbi has long dreamed of joining – advise people to kill the insects to protect the environment.
But that day, the police stopped and questioned the girl, nicknamed “Bobbi Wonder” by her loved ones, after a neighbor was called who thought the girl was a suspicious person.
“There is a small black woman walking and spraying things on the sidewalks and trees,” the caller told police, reports CNN. “I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. Scares me though.”
The caller later reportedly apologized to Bobbi’s mother, Monique Joseph. But with research showing that black and Hispanic children are significantly more likely to be shot and killed by police than their white peers, Joseph said the neighbor’s call put her daughter in mortal danger.
In an interview with CNN, the executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, Rebecca Epstein, said that the episode starkly illustrates the prejudice that black girls like Bobbi face in the US.
The center released an analysis in 2017 that showed that adults in general view Black girls as less innocent and less deserving of protection than white girls, making them in a sense “adult” and more vulnerable to harsh treatment from the police.
After Opara saw national news coverage of police being called to Bobbi, Yale officials said, she contacted Joseph and invited her to bring Bobbi as well as her older sister, 13-year-old Hayden, to meet black women who are successful careers follow. as scientists. Hayden’s appearance at a local government meeting about Bobbi’s police encounter was a big reason why the national media gave attention to the case.
Bobbi and her family accepted the invitation, and they toured Yale in November. When Bobbi returned more recently with her mother, sister and father, Dale Wilson, the Yale Peabody Museum’s entomology collection manager, Lawrence Gall, thanked the nine-year-old for the 27-specimen collection of spotted lanternflies she had collected and donated. .
“We are so grateful for all the work you have done … in New Jersey, and your interest in conservation and monitoring the lantern flies’ progress,” Gall said. “They’re just starting to come up here … So we’re very happy to have these samples.”
Opara added: “We just want to make sure [Bobbi] still feel honored and loved by the Yale community.”
Bobbi, in turn, placed a label on the collection identifying it as hers and – for future researchers – reporting where as well as when she assembled it. The public can already view the collection in the museum’s database.
Meanwhile, Joseph thanked Yale for his support and promised that her family would make sure that “Bobbi lives up to her full potential”.
“It happened because of what happened to Bobbi, but it also happened because the whole community, the scientific community, came together and said, ‘She’s one of us and we’re not going to let her lose steam, ‘ Joseph reported. noticed. “I just appreciate it. It means the world.”