By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
When the COVID-19 pandemic inundated the world with uncertainty, Newark, N.J. native Marcellis Counts became a beekeeper.
A recent graduate of Seton Hall University, Counts wanted to create an enterprise that would not only support him but the community. He subsequently created Apiary in the Sky, a beekeeping and environmental company, to address neighborhood neglect and quality of life concerns for the residents of Newark.
“With Newark, it’s very strange. It’s almost like there’s a narrative inside the city for people who live here, and there’s a narrative outside the city. Similar to Baltimore, there’s a lot of negative connotations and associations with our homes, but it’s not a true reflection of the people that live in these places because you see a lot of beautiful things here,” said Counts.
“Despite what you’re told about with Newark, Baltimore, Chicago, all these places, they’re also these hubs of transportation, universities, innovation, and they’re special places that contribute a lot to society. My company, Apiary in the Sky, we’re trying to uplift that.”
As part of Apiary in the Sky, LLC’s mission, Counts wants to teach people about the country’s long history of environmental racism and discrimination and increase representation for Black beekeepers, who comprise a fractional amount of the larger beekeeping industry, according to Counts.
Aside from raising bees to harvest honey, the environmental company tidies green spaces in Newark neighborhoods and beautifies them. Then, Counts opens up the spaces to local Black businesses to host pop-up shops and local farmers to host markets and free food distributions.
“We really work together to provide real, nuanced solutions to the issues that we’re facing around food insecurity, pollution and capitalism, all these nasty things that are really tearing apart our communities and our families,” said Counts. “These things are very important to me, and I’m affected directly by these issues just the same because I’m from the same community.”
According to Counts, residents in urban areas are often undereducated about agriculture and what it takes to produce the food they eat. The beekeeper tries to mitigate this by teaching communities about bees’ instrumental role in pollination, which is integral to growing crops.
While many regard bees as a nuisance, their relationship can change with the pollinators once they understand how critical they are to the world’s nourishment.
In the future, Counts hopes Apiary in the Sky, LLC can partner with more local schools to educate youth about the importance of agriculture, farming and beekeeping.
“It’s really about starting to change people’s environments and empower folks around issues so that they understand that they are a critical part of the solution,” said Counts. “Things aren’t only happening to us, but they’re happening because of us, so we have to kind of work together to envision the life and the world that we want to see together.”
Megan Sayles is a Report for America corps member.
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