Corina Newsome
Corina Newsome

Corina Newsome birding along the Savannah River in Georgia Photo: Katherine Arntzen, Georgia Southern University
Corina Newsome birding along the Savannah River in Georgia Photo: Katherine Arntzen, Georgia Southern University

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#Because of Black Birders Week

Audubon New Mexico Staff Respond

By now, we hope you are familiar with the incident in Central Park that involved NY City Audubon Society board member Christian Cooper. (Read Audubon’s statement on the incident here.) In response, Black birders, researchers, outdoor enthusiasts and others created #BlackBirdersWeek. Live-streamed discussions took place for a week in early June in which participants highlighted their joy of birding, the work they do, and the racism they have experienced. Organizers, from the group BlackAFinSTEM, have asked for responses to be shared on their social media through the hashtag #BecauseOfBlackBirdersWeek. Audubon New Mexico staff take part with the following replies.

Paul Tashjian, Director of Freshwater Conservation:
I was excited to hear Audubon being warmly regarded by participants in the Birding while Black webinars and radio interviews during the week. I’m hopeful that Audubon’s future will be strong, righteous and relevant as we embrace and learn-from our beautiful diversity of cultures.  

Katie Weeks, Director of Community Education:
I loved how much joy was shared from within the Black community. It didn’t feel like tokenism or a diversity initiative, but an authentic celebration of who is a part of the birding and nature-loving world. It was a real statement that proclaimed, “We are here and we love birds!”

Stella Reed, Office & Outreach Manager:
I was encouraged by the #BlackWomenWhoBird posts, especially ours at ANM, which featured co-worker Desiree Loggins. Desiree’s work as our Regional Network Action Manager is inspiring.  She is a fantastic activist and leader and I was happy to see her smiling face in our social media messaging along with the other women featured in a follow up article on National Audubon’s site

Quantina Martine, Water Resource Associate:
I was reminded of my childhood. Growing up on the Navajo Reservation in Ramah, New Mexico was always a great time because I got to hang out with my grandparents during the summer after the school year ended. During the time spent with them, I remember the early morning walks with my grandma. We would go birding in the early hours because it was the best time to see and hear all the wonderful sounds of the Pinyon Jay. She would talk about the importance of each bird, their Navajo name and how they could also be used as medicine to heal in traditional ceremonies. These early morning walks have shaped who I am today as an Environmentalist. I loved seeing all the BIPOC during this week talking about their journeys and all the wonderful things they are doing outside. Thank you for sharing your stories, and giving everyone that needed a reminder that birding is not and should not be exclusive. Birding is for everyone!

Mario Garcia, Facilities Assistant:
Birding is often viewed as a primarily white hobby, but it is enjoyed by so many different people of many cultures all over the world. The #BlackBirdersWeek was a great way to give voices to and hear stories from those who are not commonly associated with this exciting activity. I really enjoyed hearing the engaging discussions and reflecting on them, knowing People of Color had an opportunity to freely express their passions for birding, personal connections to nature and work in conservation.

Jon Hayes, Executive Director:
Black Birders Week made me more aware of the variety of challenges that racism and bigotry create for POC in outdoor spaces. Time spent outdoors is incredibly important to me and has been one of the most formative and influential forces in my life. To think that others are deprived of that simply because of the color of their skin, the gender with which they identify, or the way they look, is truly heartbreaking to me and has compelled me to spend some of the privilege afforded to me on fixing it.

Sally Maxwell, Education Specialist:
#BecauseofBlackBirdersWeek I saw my friends and colleagues represented and celebrated in the birding community! I loved following the different virtual conversations and social media posts throughout the week because I was introduced to so many amazing Black scientists and birders doing interesting and challenging work. I appreciated hearing diverse perspectives about lived experiences of racism and injustice outdoors and learning about ways to better be an ally in this field.

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