Last year, a friend began inviting me on her birding adventures. Over time, I grew to love it enough to bird on my own. To share my birding adventures, I made an Instagram account, @birdingwhileblack. I choose that name because I didn’t know any stories of racial violence against Black birders. But it was only matter of time before such a story would rise. And now, it has.
Birding While Black
While birding in Central Park, a white woman called the cops on Christian Cooper after asking he asked her to leash her dog. As a result, Christian immediately recorded his interaction with the woman using his phone and shared the video in a post on Facebook. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she threatens in the video. Then, she calls the cops and hysterically tells this tale.
There’s no mistaking the meaning and intent of her statement. She threatened Christian Cooper with the same brand of racism that resulted in the violent murder of George Floyd, which tragically happened only a few days later.
Black Birders Week
In response to the murder of George Floyd, people from all over the world came together to protest police brutality against Black people. In response to Christian Cooper’s incident, Black birders and nature lovers came together for Black Birders Week.
Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman planted the seed for the initiative in a group chat with members of the BlackAFinSTEM collective. Within days it was announced. Black Birders Week uplifted the voices of Black people that love the outdoors, countering narratives that Black people don’t belong in such spaces.
Activities and panels addressed the challenges Black people face simply for being #BlackinNature. Christian Cooper even joined one of the panels. People also made calls to increase inclusion in birding and conservation efforts.
What It Meant To Me
I’ve previously written about the importance of inclusion in Tech and sentiments remain the same whether we’re talking tech or birding. This is why Black birders are singing.
Before Black Birders Week, I only knew of one Black birder in my city and less than five online. Now, I know of over 50 Black birders and nature lovers across the US. More recommendations cross my path every day.
This initiative was a silver lining in the social media storms over the past week. For four days, my Instagram and Twitter feeds were flooded with beautiful Black people expressing their love for nature and community. The broader nature community are sharing access to resources and amplifying the voices speaking up.
Moving forward, I plan to share more of my birding journey on SheGeeks in addition to tech reviews. I promise not to overdo the birds posts. You can also follow my birding adventures on Instagram @birdingwhileblack.
Stay safe and tuned for more!