BlackAFInSTEM, a community of black scientists, started the opening Black Birders Week from May 31 to June 5. What started as a group chat organized by Birder Jason Ward developed into a week-long celebration of black naturalists in just a few days. “It is a movement that was started out of pain, and its goal is not necessarily pleasure, but uplifting,” Alexander Grousis-Henderson, zoo keeper and member of BlackAFInSTEM, told Mental Floss. “We want people, especially our community, to emerge stronger and better.”
IMPORTANT MESSAGE !!!!!
Follow the whole group of us here: https://t.co/I23zoT3fFh
Check out the event schedule thread! pic.twitter.com/yDsAtwR8te
– Corina Newsome (@hood_naturalist) May 29, 2020
The movement started after a video of a white woman who harassed and threatened Christian Cooper, a black bird watcher, went viral. As part of Black Birders Week, as a professional and amateur, Black Naturalists, scientists and outdoor enthusiasts can share their expertise and experiences and celebrate the diversity outdoors. During the week, BlackAFInSTEM members enable online events and conversations such as #AskABlackBirder and #BlackWomenWhoBird.
Although Black Birders Week was created for nature lovers of black people, everyone is welcome to take part. Follow the hashtag #BlackBirdersWeek or check out the Twitter account @BlackAFInSTEM. Ask questions, review your posts, or just tweet the scientists again to amplify their voices.
Scroll through the hashtags on Twitter and Instagram and you’ll find a stream of black naturalists who appreciate their love of nature. “We want children to see our faces and bind them to nature, and we want our colleagues to recognize that we belong here,” Grousis-Henderson told Mental Floss.
One of the reasons #BlackBirdersWeek is so important is representation. See yourself in the adults who are leading the way for future generations. My son loves nature. I look forward to seeing this love blossom over the years. #BlackInNature pic.twitter.com/3Nc32rwEYS
– Jason Ward (@JasonWardNY) May 31, 2020
Black Birders Week not only offers space for Black Birders to share their passion, but also a way for the community to raise awareness of their unique experiences and systemic racism in nature and MINT (science, technology, engineering and math) to tackle. According to Grousis-Henderson, this is an opportunity to promote dialogue within the bird watching community. To stimulate conversation about diversity outdoors.
“We wanted to use what we know about the diversity of biological systems and transfer this perspective to social systems,” says Grousis-Henderson. “A diverse ecosystem can withstand many changes, but a non-diverse ecosystem that lacks biodiversity is easy to overthrow.”
The movement goes beyond bird watching. In addition to Black Birders Week, black nature lovers share their experience of what it’s like to be one Black person in nature– a place where they are too often perceived as undesirable and unsafe. Organizations such as Backyard Basecamp, Melanin Base Camp and Outdoor Afro continue to promote the Black Community’s connection to nature.
“Black Birders Week is an opportunity to highlight joy and belonging, showcase expertise and remind people that blacks have been inextricably linked to nature for generations,” said Yanira Castro, communications director for outdoor afro, in an email towards Mental Floss. “It’s a celebration of that relationship.”