To Break Stereotypes, Black Scientists and Nature Lovers Hold #BlackBirdersWeek

Photo: CNN

This week has seen many events to raise awareness about racism in America, and one of the most inspiring is #BlackBirdersWeek (May 31-June 5), the brainchild of a group of 30 scientists and outdoor enthusiasts who are working together under the handle @BlackAFinSTEM to show Black unity in “STEM” fields.  They flew into action after learning the story of Christian Cooper, the Black man who was birdwatching in New York City’s Central Park, who was thrust into the spotlight when a white woman threatened to falsify a story to the police about him because he asked her to leash her dog.  They organized a series of events happening this week to “make sure the world knows that Black birders belong here, we are thriving, and our community is growing. We want members of our community…to not be deterred by people who have attempted to make these spaces hostile to us. We are changing the face of birding,” according to birdwatchingdaily.com.

Why This Matters:  Our movement MUST be inclusive to its core.  @BlackAFinSTEM is changing the face of conservation. It’s on every one of us to make sure they know that more than being “welcome,” they ARE the movement.  

Overcoming Stereotypes

The organizers of the birding activities are an all-star line-up of experts including “Anna Opoku-Agyeman, an economist and co-founder and CEO of the Sadie CollectiveJason Ward of the “Birds of North America” YouTube series; his brother Jeffrey Ward, a science communicator; Corina Newsome, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University studying the Seaside Sparrow; Tykee James, host of the podcast OnWord4Wildlife; and herpetologist Earyn McGee, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona,” birdwatchingdaily.com reportedCNN reported on the group as well, and asked them why there is such an ingrained “stereotype that Black people aren’t interested, or are somehow alien to, nature.”   Wildlife biologist Alex Troutman told CNN that “in his experience, it’s a combination of factors: People growing up in urban areas are exposed to less nature. And the persistent idea that outdoor activities — like camping, hiking and wildlife appreciation — are white-dominated pursuits.”

@BlackAFinSTEM

There is much more to this than just breaking down stereotypes and making Black people feel welcome in parks and nature — it is also about overcoming discrimination in STEM fields.  Minorities are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences and academics and this group is determined to change that.  They aspire to lead — to have the chance to achieve top jobs in STEM businesses, in government, and in academia. Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman explained, “This is something that all of us are passionate about, because we are increasing the visibility of a group of Black and brown professionals and we’re starting a dialogue. For us, it’s quite an honor to have this pick up steam and gain national attention.”

To Go Birding “With” Them: You can get more information here.  Follow them on Twitter too!

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