North Carolina Botanical Garden
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Hybrid Lunchbox Talk: Green Space as Cultural Space: Centering Native Leaders' Voices in Conservation Conversations

with Jesalyn Keziah, Community Engagement Program Officer, UNC American Indian Center and Joanna Massey Lelekacs, NCBG Director of Learning & Engagement

The registration period has closed for this event.

Date: Thursday, February 23, 2023

Time: 12:00 PM-1:00 PM EST

Location: Hybrid - Virtual and In-person attendance options (see below for more information)

Free; $5 suggested fee; preregistration required

This program will be delivered in a hybrid format.


In-person option: Seats are available in the Reeves Auditorium. Please register all members of your party separately to ensure we have enough seats. 


Virtual option: We will stream the lecture live via Zoom Webinar. Links for accessing the program will be emailed to registered participants in advance of the program.


The UNC American Indian Center (AIC) and the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG) each demonstrate unique leadership in conservation programming, and both aspire to deepen the focus on Indigenous-led conservation and climate strategies. The cultural and community strengths of the AIC paired with the technical and botanical strengths of NCBG have led to a partnership grounded in strong relationships and trust. We will share the many ways we are uplifting the voices and perspectives of Native conservation and climate resilience leaders and the outcomes of this work, both expected and unexpected, with our reflections on what characteristics and methods have supported, strengthened, and sustained this educational partnership.




Registration open through 2/23/2023 11:50 AM

About the Speakers

Jesalyn Keziah, MSWa member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, currently serves as the Community Engagement Program Officer at the UNC American Indian Center, supporting community engagement among UNC community and all statewide Tribal Nations and Native-led community programs, leveraging resources to support program development, and bridging UNC resources with Tribally self-determined initiatives. She also coordinates the Healthy Native North Carolinians Network and the new initiative to develop an American Indian Cultural Garden, along with other community-oriented programming.


Jesalyn is a double graduate of Carolina, graduating with a BA in 2007 as a first-generation college student, then returning after a decade of work experience to graduate in 2020 with her Master’s in Social Work. She is passionate about helping students access and navigate higher education, and serves as Resilience Coach on campus, hosted by UNC Diversity and Inclusion, Carolina Collaborative for Resilience.


Before coming to AIC, Jesalyn spent the first decade of her career serving in various statewide community food justice positions including time at Resourceful Communities, The Conservation Fund, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and a statewide range of community gardens and local food systems development projects. Jesalyn is a community-oriented gardener, artist, potter, justice advocate, and aspiring therapist interested in Indigenous mental health; she is building her approach interested in the intersections of culture, arts, food sovereignty, nature, and holistic community-based approaches to healing from historical and intergenerational trauma. She recently began caretaking a 100-year-old farm and is happiest in the sun gathering wild native foods or out kayaking on the river.

Joanna Massey Lelekacs, PLA, COI, LEED AP NP, Director of Learning & Engagement for the North Carolina Botanical Garden, provides overall leadership for NCBG’s education program as well as community engagement programs: Carolina Community Garden, Edible Campus UNC, and Therapeutic Horticulture. Joanna facilitates strategic planning for and oversees design and implementation of learning and engagement programs that support the Garden's mission. These programs provide diverse, creative learning experiences that seek to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature. Joanna has master’s degrees in both environmental sciences and landscape architecture.

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Seats are available in the Reeves Auditorium. The program will also be streamed
live on Zoom webinar. A meeting link and password will be sent a few days before the program.


For directions to the Garden, visit



Jesalyn Keziah
Joanna Massey Lelekacs