The Weekly - June 9, 2020 - Cover3

Backstory

Ben

Black Birders Week
Finding Black joy and agency in the face of racism

P E T E R F R A N K E DWA R D S

WHEN THE VIDEO OF CHRISTIAN COOPER, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN

birdwatcher who filmed a white woman in Central Park lying to the cops
about how he was threatening her life (when all he did was ask her to leash
her dog) went viral, a group of 30 Black nature enthusiasts talked about
what they could to do unite birdwatchers across the country.
Their discussions spurred Black Birders Week, a social media event
that ran from May 31 to June 5. The goal of the initiative was to boost the
visibility of Black naturalists around the country through posts, activities,
and virtual gatherings.
Black birdwatchers are often considered a rarity, and ornithologist Dr. Joseph Drew Lanham is elated the younger generation interested in avians took
to social media to spread the word about their passion for the outdoors.

"Birds mean so much to so many. Why would they think that inspiration
was absent from Black folks? There's the inspiration of freedom that birds
provide, the inspiration of free choice that birds provide ... as well as their
liberty to sing when and where they want," Lanham says.
It seems thousands of social media users share Lanham's perspective-
the hashtags associated with the movement, including #BlackinNature and
#BlackBirdersWeek, have tens of thousands of posts, retweets, and shares.
Lanham believes Black Birders Week plays an integral part in the movement toward making the outdoors a welcoming space for Black people.
"We've watched, listened to, adored, admired, sometimes feared, sometimes eaten birds for our entire existence. Black Birders Week is [other
people's] chance to see us in our light and not in theirs." -Latria Graham

OUTDOOR RETAILER SUMMER 2020 / THE WEEKLY 29



The Weekly - June 9, 2020

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