By Leonora Pepper, Forest Stewards Guild
From May 31st to June 5th, the first-ever Black Birders Week celebrates Black birders, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts while also raising recognition of the heightened obstacles Black people face to enjoying the outdoors. Organized by BlackAFinSTEM, #BlackBirdersWeek aims to "[uplift] Black birders and nature enthusiasts to show that diversity in outdoor recreation exists."
In an interview for High Country News, #BlackBirdersWeek co-founder Sheridan Alford spoke of the digital movement as an important parallel to the nationwide protests currently unfolding. "People need a break from a lot of the hurt that they’re feeling…I think providing this uplifting and celebratory week will give people that break that they need to mentally gather themselves as a lot of these racially charged and very heated discussions are being had all across the country."
Recent events make painfully clear the barriers and risks Black people face in pursuing outdoor and naturalist activities. In his short video Rules for the Black Birdwatcher, author, poet, and wildlife biologist Drew Lanham offers an eloquent account of the extra considerations Black people need to keep in mind just to get outdoors. He ends with the call to action "We have to do something to make birding, to make nature study in general, more interesting to people of color."
Birder and naturalist Jason Ward reminds us that birding can be quite fruitful even in urban landscapes, and sometimes it just takes one bird sighting to awaken a lifelong interest. For people just starting out with birding, Ward offers a basic lesson on using binoculars. For a deeper dive, his documentary series Birds of North America includes footage from the field, interviews with other bird experts, and a conversation on Birding While Brown.
For further reading on the #BlackBirdersWeek digital movement:
#BlackBirdersWeek takes on systemic racism (High Country News)