Bobbi Wilson: Yale Honors Black Girl Reported To Police As She Sprayed Lanternflies To Save Trees



The Yale School of Public Health has honored Bobbi Wilson, the 9-year-old girl whose White neighbor called the cops on her while she sprayed lanternflies to save trees in her Caldwell neighborhood.

The prestigious university said in a news release that Wilson was honored last month for her “efforts in eradicating the invasive spotted lanternfly in her hometown of Caldwell, New Jersey.”

The 9-year-old, who came to Yale with her family and friends, was also recognized for donating her personal lanternfly collection to Yale’s Peabody Museum. The collection has since been entered into the museum’s database, according to the university, and Wilson has been officially named as the donor scientist.

“Yale doesn’t normally do anything like this … this is something unique to Bobbi,” Yale School of Public Health Assistant Professor Ijeoma Opara said. “We wanted to show her bravery and how inspiring she is, and we just want to make sure she continues to feel honored and loved by the Yale community.”

Photo Credit: Andrew Hurley/Yale

Wilson visited Yale for the second time on January 20th. After learning that her White neighbor had called the police on her, the university initially invited her for a tour. Wilson was killing lanternflies with a homemade repellent mixture of water, dish soap, and apple cider vinegar when the incident occurred in October.

Gordon Lawshe, a former Republican Party leader in Caldwell, was identified as the person who reported the minor to police. Bobbi’s grandmother planted one of the trees she was attempting to save. Monique Joseph, Wilson’s mother, spoke out about the incident at a mayor and council meeting on November 1.

“The morning of October 22, our neighbor called the police, identified himself and reported, ‘There’s a little black woman walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees. I don’t know what the hell she is doing, it scares me though,’ and included that she was wearing a hoodie,” Joseph said at the event, per The Progress.

Following the incident, Joseph stated that Lawshe refused to speak with her after she requested that they meet at the police station. According to The Guardian, Lawshe later apologized to Joseph.

The incident on October 22 drew widespread attention and reignited debate about racial profiling. “My heart is screaming, there are no words in the English dictionary that can really capture what my heart feels, what my mind feels, probably what Hayden [Wilson’s older sister] and Bobbi feel, but this day started out scary for Bobbi and my family,” Joseph said of the incident.

“The closest I can relate it to is the day we lost my mom. You know, you hear about racism; you kind of experience it in your peripheral if you’re lucky in your life. It doesn’t come knocking on your door. That morning when it happened, my world stopped.”

Per research, police are more likely to fatally shoot Black and Hispanic children during encounters. This is, however, not the case for their White peers.


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