Posted by: Sandy Steinman | June 13, 2020

Reflections on Black Birders Week

reposted from the Golden Gate Birder Blog

Reflecting on #BlackBirdersWeek

  By Melissa Ramos

Have you heard of #BlackBirdersWeek? This social media event took place last week and was a response to the racist treatment Black birder Christian Cooper encountered while birding in New York City. #BlackBirdersWeek inspired an avalanche of support for birders for color across the country. This online event highlighted, and made visible, the incredible, often invisible work Black birders are doing for environmental conservation and birding.

As GGAS’s Communications Manager, it was my pleasure to highlight the events of #BlackBirdersWeek through our organization’s social media platforms. I was heartened to see the positive responses, too. I am still, however, having trouble managing my tornado of feelings on the current state of racial injustice in this country. I feel flummoxed, enraged, depressed. I know I am coming up short of the words I’d like to better express myself, but here is what I know: real, positive, lasting change can come from all of us.

I also know this: we can start this change with birding. The outdoors, nature, and birds are a respite and a safe place for many of us. Everyone should have an opportunity to participate safely in the wonder of birds. The reality is, not everyone has this opportunity. Although I am a person of color myself, I am not Black; I am not policed, followed, harassed, questioned, verbally or emotionally or physically attacked, or dehumanized because of my skin color. I certainly have never experienced these horrible things while birding or in my daily life.

The dangers Black Americans face just by virtue of existing cannot be understated. That is why I felt hope and joy at #BlackBirdersWeek for highlighting these very real dangers and the realities that Black birders experience. Seeing Black birders elevate and celebrate each other is a rare thing to behold. I encourage everyone to check out National Audubon’s archive of the #BlackBirdersWeek event if you’d like to learn more about this powerful event. Perhaps the tide is finally turning toward a new era of positivity and inclusivity.

Birding should be for everyone. But it isn’t yet. We can, however, work together to ensure birding becomes a haven for each person who wants to experience the joy of nature.

I am happy GGAS is a community that stands up for civil and social justice; a community that is actively working on acquiring funds to invite economically disadvantaged birders of color into our family; a community that is addressing and fighting against environmental racism through our Strategic Plan; a community that has, for years, put children of color at the forefront of learning with our award winning Eco-Education program, and has more recently, provided free educational activities for children at home (in both English and Spanish).

I feel very fortunate to be a member of a community making real and tangible changes to expand our birding family to include everyone. If you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to be a Black birder, as well as learn about some challenges Black birders and conservationists face, please read through the list of resources provided below.

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