"A Blessing"

Yale University honored the 9-year-old girl who had the police called on her by a White man last October with a special ceremony. Bobbi Wilson was given accolades by the Yale Peabody Museum last month.


Bobbi was spraying a tree outside of her Caldwell, New Jersey, home to protect it from invasive lanternflies when a White man by the name of Gordon Lawshe called the police to report her care for the environment as suspicious. Lawshe described Wilson as a “little Black woman” and claimed the 9-year-old scared him. Gordon eventually apologized for his actions but not before traumatizing young Bobbi.

“My neighbor’s words put my daughter in harm’s way,” Bobbi’s mom, Monique Joseph, shared during a city council meeting. “His words and actions were unconscionable, and the impact,” she declared.

“My 9-year-old daughter was afraid to go outside her front door the next day. She was afraid that her neighbor that she knows has a reason, unknown to her, to call the police on her.”

Bobbi may have been fearful to go outside immediately following Gordon calling the police on her, but she was anything but afraid during the ceremony held in her honor last month.

“Dr. Opara, you have been a blessing,” Bobbi’s mom said to Dr. Ijeoma Opara who is an assistant professor at Yale University. “You are part of our testimonial and what it means to have a community of amazing, beautiful, Black, intelligent scientists and doctors, and more important than that is your heart and your passion for the work that you do,” Monique told the educator during the event. “You helped us change the trajectory of that day,” Bobbi’s mom shared.

“We will not let this be in vain,” Monique said of Yale honoring her daughter. “You guys will forever hear Bobbi because, between her dad, myself, my family, we are going to support her and make sure that she lives up to her fullest potential.”

Yale Peabody Museum’s collection manager, Lawrence Gall, also had words. “We’re so grateful for all of the work you’ve done down in New Jersey and your interest in conservation and checking out the lanternflies’ advance,” he said to Bobbi. “We don’t have many of them in Connecticut right now. They are just starting to come up here. But I’m sure we’ll see them, so we’re very happy to have these specimens.”

Photo: Andrew Hurley/Yale



Sarie is a writer and editor for BCK's Los Angeles division. She also shares stories on Medium that are meant to encourage thought and discussion. You can catch her outside enjoying nature and classical literature. Pop culture is pretty fun, too!

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