How can events — in-person and digital — be agents of social transformation?
That’s how I started a story earlier this month about the launch of Black Birders Week in response to a racially charged incident in New York City’s Central Park between a white woman and a Black birder, Christian Cooper. Intended to increase representation and recognition of Black bird watchers, the inaugural digital event — held just weeks ago — has already led to other social change initiatives.
A National Geographic newsletter reports that as a result of the weeklong event, the National Wildlife Federation is now expanding its conservation fellowships and internships to create opportunities specifically for young biologists of color (students and recent grads) to help more Black birders follow conservation careers. And several small organizations joined together to start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to buy binoculars and field guides for Black K-12 students in Athens, Georgia. The Binoculars for Young Black Birders campaign exceeded the initial goal of raising $5,000 and ended up raising more than $17,000.
Black Birders co-founder Corina Newsome inspired appreciative National Geographic reader and artist Aliisa Lee Bocarsly, who created the drawing below of Newsome.
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#Blackbirders week is forever! Much appreciation to Corina Newsome for letting me paint her likeness for this celebratory piece. She’s a wildlife conservationist, co-organizer of #blackbirdersweek, and just an incredible voice of both the work and hope ahead. ❤️ @hood__naturalist! Also check out #blackwomenwhobird for more amazing voices. To all part of #blackbirdersweek and beyond, thank you. If this gift to the world slipped you by, pop over to @blackafinstem and #birdingwhileblack. Another great place to jump in: you can also still watch the two livestream panel recordings on Audubon’s Facebook page. Listen in on Black birders geeking out over nature (Chris Cooper identifies the birdcall of another participant’s clock alarm that chimes in the background, it’s great!), and sharing experiences and emotions of birding while Black. They also generously offer ways for non-Black people (like myself) to better listen and challenge the many spaces we move through with privilege. Breathing, birding, being, Black lives matter.