A nine-year-old girl whose neighbor called the cops on her while she was catching lanternflies outside has earned honors from Yale University.
According to The Guardian, the Yale School of Public Health held a ceremony earlier this month in honor of Bobbi Wilson, who was trying out a lanternfly spray on the invasive pests in her hometown of Caldwell, New Jersey when she was wrongly reported to the police.
The event also recognized Bobbi for giving her collection of lanternflies to Yale’s Peabody Museum, an act that deemed the nine-year-old girl as a donating scientist.
Assistant professor Ijeoma Opara said she organized the ceremony to highlight Bobbi's “bravery and how inspiring she is”.
“Yale doesn’t normally do anything like this,” Opara said, per Yale university. “This is something unique to Bobbi.”
Bobbi initially garnered national attention in October after neighbor Gordon Lawshe, a former local councilperson, saw her walking around while she was catching lanternflies and called the police.
“There’s a little Black woman, walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees,” audio from Lawshe's 911 call reads. “I don’t know what the hell she’s doing; it scares me though.”
Lawshe also told police that the nine-year-old was wearing a "hood" and that she was a “real small woman... you can’t miss her."
“Racism, intentional or not, is still racism,” Bobbi's mother, Monique Joseph, said at the time. “To hear my neighbor using triggering words that have resulted in the deaths of too many Black and brown children and adults at the hands of the police. ‘Black,’ ‘hoodie,’ ‘I’m scared.’ Those are triggering words.”
Hayden Wilson, Bobbi's sister, previously noted that Lawshe knows their family and that the nine-year-old girl wasn't on his property when he called the cops. According to local outlets, the girl's family and Lawshe had lived across the street from each other for nearly eight years.
Opara extended an invitation to Bobbi and her family to visit Yale and meet Black women who were pursuing careers in STEM after she saw national coverage of the incident.
During another visit to the university, Bobbi gave her 27-specimen collection of lanternflies to Yale Peabody museum’s entomology collection manager, Lawrence Gall, who thanked the nine-year-old for her commitment to eradicating the pest.
“We’re so grateful for all of the work you’ve done … in New Jersey, and your interest in conservation and checking out the lanternflies’ advance,” Gall said. “They are just starting to come up here … So we’re very happy to have these specimens.”
“We just want to make sure [Bobbi] continues to feel honored and loved by the Yale community,” Opara added.
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