Archive for May, 2022

For the third year, Black Birders Week is back! It is taking place this year from May 29th through June 4th.

In 2000, a birder approached a dog owner in Central Park, New York, NY to ask that the dog be put on a leash. At the outset, nothing seems odd about this, especially because the area these two people were in was an area where dogs were supposed to be on-leash. What happened next was absolutely insane, and you don’t have to take my word for it because the encounter was recorded and the video is available from several sources such as this one and this one.

What happened next is that the dog owner, who is a white woman, announces that she is going to call the police and tell them that she is being threatened by a black man. The birder was indeed a black man, but was doing nothing more threatening then asking the woman to obey the rules of Central Park. The woman then makes good on her threat, and calls the police. During the call, she becomes more and more strident as she repeatedly states that a black man is threatening both herself and her dog.

In response to this weaponization of race by a white woman against a black man, a group called Black AF in Stem came together with several black members of the birding community to launch the first Black Birders Week. After the success of that first event in 2000, the second Black Birders Week was held in 2021.

This year the theme for Black Birders Week will run from May 29th to June 4th, and the theme is “soaring to greater heights.” Each day of the week has a particular topic and accompanying hashtag: May 29 – #BlackInNature, May 30 – #InTheNest, May 31 – #LearningToTakeFlight, June 1 – #DayOfRoost, June 2 – #FlyingTheCoop, June 3 – #AsTheCrowFlies, and June 4 – #LifelongJourney. Other events such as bird walks, panel discussions, and more are also taking place. To learn more about the topics of each day and the other facets of the week check out the schedule website.

As a birder who is not black (I am a white guy), I get a great deal of value from attending the talks and other events of Black Birders Week. It gives me the chance to listen to people who have had very different experiences with birding and the great outdoors in general and to learn what they have seen and heard and the obstacles they have faced, and are continuing to face.

To all the birders who may read this who are black, I want you to know that your perspectives are valuable and there are many people who want to hear them. This is the type of event that gets richer and richer with each additional person who is willing to participate and share, and I hope that lots of black birders feel comfortable and encouraged to do so.

To all the birders who may read this who are not black (like me), I encourage all of you to attend at least some portion of Black Birders Week. Meet new people. Expand your circle of birding companions. Help make the birding community open, friendly, welcoming, and equitable!

And to absolutely everyone, I hope you enjoy #BlackBirdersWeek!

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