For #BlackHistoryMonth we wanted to remind everyone that the equal rights movement is still going on, and is still part of our ongoing history. 

Just in 2020, there was a need for #BlackBirdersWeek to raise awareness about being Black while birding. Birding should be a hobby that anyone can enjoy, however since racism is still present in our society, people of color cannot enjoy this hobby as comfortably without concern. 

We’re thankful for issues coming to light, and for those willing to have the uncomfortable conversations so changes can be made. 

As an organization committed to being inclusive, we’re also thankful to our supporters who are listening to the stories we’re sharing this month. We’re ready for the uncomfortable conversations about the changes that need to be made and we’re hopeful that movements such as Black Birders Week, Black Botanist Week, and many more can highlight the opportunities available for people of color to to be #BlackInNature

More information on Black Birders Week

Historically speaking, those involved in environmentalism have always been white, but there are some influential people working to include black voices and make room at the table for all people of color. 

This #BlackHistoryMonth feature includes a few of those individuals and the work they are doing to make sure the environmental movement has equal representation and involvement. Oftentimes, that starts with getting underserved youth outside! 

Here at World Bird Sanctuary we have been working with the Missouri Department of Conservation to reach students in urban areas to help inspire kids of all races to get into environmentalism! Together, we’re hoping to give kids an opportunity which may have not been available to them otherwise, and spark a love of nature that can grow into more passionate people of color in the environmental movement.

More information on People of Color in Conservation

Did you know the #GreatBackyardBirdCount is in the middle of #BlackHistoryMonth? In this article Deja Perkins talks about the #TriangleBirdCount #CitizenScience project that focuses on collecting data from urban areas to encourage the #BlackInNature movement.

“What Perkins found is that some popular citizen science projects let participants choose where they observe birds, which can bias the outcome. That’s because hardcore birders often prioritize finding as many different species as possible each trip. 

Birders are also often white, and they tend to observe in white communities, while avoiding communities of color. “It leads to blind spots where we have more data being submitted in more affluent neighborhoods,” Perkins says. 

Understanding bird diversity across a city gets even more complicated because richer, white communities tend to have more urban wildlife, increasing the draw toward those areas. 

Researchers call it the biological “luxury effect.” More affluent neighborhoods have more parks and green space, so they also have greater plant and animal biodiversity. 

By implementing a citizen science project called the Triangle Bird Count and curating a more random sampling of the area, Perkins and her team were able to overcome those biases in the data.”

More information on the Triangle Bird Count

This #BlackHistoryMonth highlight is an article about an annual event hosted by the Audubon Naturalist Society called #TakingNatureBlack which features black panelists and keynote speakers talking about environmentalism.
 
These experts discuss the difficulties facing the environmental movement and people of color involved, and offer solutions and inspiration for inclusion as well!
 
More information on Taking Nature Black.
In her book, Birders of Africa: History of a Network, Nancy J. Jacobs takes a look at various types of bird knowledge held by a variety of different people and how a network of birding was created for this #BlackHistoryMonth feature.
She shares “a guide to the birders of Africa, Jacobs lays out three kinds of birders and bird knowledge (vernacular, ornithological, and recreational) and three nodes of interaction among them (talking and writing, finding and collecting birds, and preserving the bodies of birds as specimens.) The majority of the book focuses on vernacular birders, and Jacobs devotes much of her introduction to explaining her rationale for using the term vernacular, rather than “local” or “indigenous,” neither of which leave enough room for the geographic or ethnographic breadth of this type of birder. Like other forms of vernacular science across the globe, vernacular birding knowledge in Africa tended to stem from practical concerns, usually related to farming, hunting, or medicine, as well as cultural and religious traditions. Such knowledge was rarely considered legitimate by imperial authorities or European/American scientific audiences, or even fully appreciated by ornithological birders in Africa. Yet the forms of knowledge produced and preserved by vernacular birders were and are essential to the ways we understand the world of birds.”
 
We wanted to share information about the inspirational founder of Outdoor Afro, Rue Mapp! Her mission is “helping to get people’s nature know-how and swagger back to share that with others in their sphere of influence”
 
More information on Outdoor Afro.
Another local feature for #BlackHistoryMonth
 
“The Civilian Conservation Corps Company 1743 was an African American company of the CCC, a program of the U.S. Army and the National Park Service which developed state and national parks nationwide. On June 4, 1934, the men and officers of the 1743rd set up camp and began a 5 year project to develop in Washington State Park. To this day, their craftsmanship can still be seen throughout the park.”
 
More information on Black Stewardship in St. Louis.
This #BlackHistoryMonth feature is one from our own backyard!
 
In 2019, Forest Park Forever wrote about two leaders in the St. Louis Chapter of the Outdoor Afro organization. Duane Williams and Anthony Beasley have been creating events for members to come to Forest Park and enjoy bike rides, birding, walking and ice skating!
 
More information on Outdoor Afro in St. Louis.

To kick off #BlackHistoryMonth we wanted to talk about someone who is making a difference close to home – Charles Nilon, Professor of Urban Wildlife Management, University of Missouri (Mizzou) has been studying nature in North City St. Louis. 

As part of the African American Experience in Missouri Lecture Series, the State Historical Society of Missouri presents: 

Nearby Nature in North City St. Louis:  Black Residents, Nature, and Contested Green Space

“The predominantly black residents of North City St. Louis live in neighborhoods where green spaces have been shaped by two legacies: formal green spaces associated with parks, cemeteries, and private streets that reflect the goals of pre-World War II city leaders, business people, planners, and residents; and informal green spaces created by urban renewal, population declines, and home abandonment since the 1950s.

Dr. Nilon looks at how the North Riverfront Trail and the Green City Coalition have sought to engage North City residents in conservation projects focused on green spaces.”

More information on Dr. Charles Nilon

This #BlackHistoryMonth feature is about a local St. Louis photo & videographer who has been very important in documenting the history of World Bird Sanctuary and St. Louis! Tony West grew up in University City and has lived and worked in St. Louis most of his life, outside of attending Park University in Kansas City, MO

He graduated from Park with a BA in Television and has worked on an array of TV productions, from covering 3 Presidents of the United States, to  Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, National Football League and the 1996 Olympics.

In 2015 Tony completed a documentary entitled “The Safe Side of the Fence”, that tells the story of nuclear workers who became ill from their work during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.

Tony enjoys giving back to the community and he mostly does that by visiting schools and speaking with students about the field of television, or working non-profits here in St. Louis, like The World Bird Sanctuary, and WearBravely.

To summarize #BlackHistoryMonth we wanted to share this article featuring 28 Black Environmentalists, some from the history of our country, and some currently making history.

Although this is the last day of the only month highlighting people of color, we strive to be an organization that continues to celebrate black stories and does our part to encourage and help people of color feel comfortable being outside and enjoying nature. 

Thank you to everyone who continues to support our mission of inclusion in the conservation and rehabilitation of birds and environmental education.

More information on Black Environmentalists

For this #BlackHistoryMonth featured story we have a familiar face known for helping slaves find freedom. To do so, Harriet Tubman had to have been an expert on the environment. Lurcero Serna, an Environmental Educator, describes Harriet Tubman from a different perspective:

“We remember Harriet Tubman as an abolitionist and a Conductor of the Underground Railroad. Rarely we do think of her as an environmentalist, but who understood the woods better than her, and other Conductors like her, who saw nature as a road to freedom?

Harriet Tubman led runaway slaves through the Appalachian Mountains. Knowing the woods so well, she knew the streams they would cross, the birds they would hear, and the plants that would provide food to fill their bellies and remedies for ailments and injuries. She knew the woods so well, she never lost a single person on the many trips she made traversing the Underground Railroad. This journey was more than following the North Star; it was an outdoor journey that could only be accomplished with the guidance of a skilled outdoor survivalist. Today, Harriet Tubman would be considered a naturalist able to identify the herbaceous plants, trees, and birds of the Eastern United States.

During this Black History Month, let us find the time to honor the Black ecologists whose names were forgotten or whose ecological knowledge is rarely recognized but played a vital role in forming our U.S. history.”

More information on Harriet Tubman

Dudley Edmondson was briefly featured in the podcast episode we shared, so for this #BlackHistoryMonth featured story, we’d like to showcase him individually as well!

Dudley is a talented photographer and videographer who enjoys being in nature, but has had seen the struggles of being #BlackInNature and wants to change the conservation community to include more people of color. 

In this article from The Nature Conservancy, Dudley explains how we can all help implement those changes! 

More information on Dudley Edmondson

Scott Edwards is an ornithology professor at Harvard University who had been planning a cross-country bike trip for quite some time. However, last year after his trip began his biking took on a ‘larger purpose’ he says.
2020 had major movements that contributed to #BlackHistory so we thought Scott’s journey was definitely one to include in our #BlackHistoryMonth features.
 
More information on Scott Edwards
#BlackHistoryMonth is about celebrating black history, stories and art that has shaped our world today. Yesterday we shared a lovely poem from J. Drew Lanham, a black bird enthusiast and wildlife professor at Clemson University. Today, we thought we’d share more of Lanham’s stories of growing up in South Carolina wishing he was a bird, playing dead to attract vultures, and how the refreshing sound of prairie warblers singing about the return of Spring inspired him to seek an ornithology degree.
 
Also joining this episode is Dudley Edmondson, a black conservationist and photographer, who discusses what it’s like to be #BlackInNature
 
Definitely worth the listen!
This #BlackHistoryMonth feature is one of the most influential black birders, John C. Robinson, who is dedicated to getting everyone into birding, and more people of color into conservation
“It’s not enough, though, to get kids into nature, Robinson argues. It’s essential to recruit people of color into conservation-oriented jobs at government agencies and nonprofits. To that end, he’s partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service to attract more people of color into their ranks”
 
More information on John C. Robinson

Tiffany Adams shares her stories of bird watching, and building birds out of pipe cleaners, and what it’s like to be black in the birding world in this #BlackHistoryMonth feature from Yes Magazine.

More information on Tiffany Adams.

Dave Magpiong has been a leader in diversifying birding for almost a decade now. He founded the Fledging Birders Institute to encourage kids to explore birding and partnered with other organizations to host the Focus on Diversity, Changing the FACE of American Birding conferences that helped create diversity within the hobby.
 
#BlackHistoryMonth
 
More information on Dave Magpiong

From the New York Association of Zookeepers: “

Today is the first day of Black History Month, and we as NYC keepers want to celebrate diversity and black conservationists, and highlight individualists who exemplify #blackexcellence
We’re proud to start off our month with Mary Wilson, the first African American senior zookeeper at the The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Her thirty-eight year career at the zoo include the care and husbandry of a wide variety of mammals including big cats, elephants, and gorillas.
Her outstanding career at the zoo is even more impressive when people of color represent only 9% of the STEM field. Mary died this past year due to Covid-19 at age 83.
 
More information on Mary Wilson.
Joey Mason is currently the only black director in all 40+ Audubon Centers across America. He loves connecting people with nature, especially birds.
 
“’Making sure that people feel safe, welcome, and not overwhelmed with the experience of birding — that’s really just been kind of the goal,’ he said. ‘And having folks out there talking about birding and having people out there sharing that experience,’ he added. ‘Fortunately, that helps the birds out.'”
 
#BlackHistoryMonth #BlackBirders #BlackInNature
 
More information on Joey Mason.
We shared the story of Shelton Johnson, a current National Park Ranger who was inspired by the Buffalo Soldiers, so for today’s #BlackHistoryMonth feature we wanted to share the story of one of the original black stewards of our national parks, Charles Young.
“As a soldier, diplomat, and civil rights leader, Charles Young overcame stifling inequality to become a leading figure in the years after the Civil War when the United States emerged as a world power. His work ethic, academic leadership, and devotion to duty provided a strong base for his achievements in the face of racism and oppression. His long and distinguished career as a commissioned officer in the United States Army made him a popular figure of his time and a role model for generations of new leaders.”
 
More information on Charles Young.

Since #InternationalWomenAndGirlsInScience Day occurs in #BlackHistoryMonth we thought it would be fitting to feature Wangari Muta Maathai because wow, what a woman!!

Wangari was an astonishing environmentalist that accomplished so many amazing thing in her lifetime. She was the first woman in East & Central Africa to obtain a doctorate degree. The first woman to become the chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor at the University of Nairobi. She has assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds, and worked with the Jubilee 2000 Coalition to prevent land seizures and unpayable debts of landowners. Her admirable work was recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as many prestigious awards throughout her lifetime.
 
More information on Wangari Muta Maathai.
This tale of stewardship is a bit further than Missouri, but is very important to the history of our land and why we wanted to include it in our #BlackHistoryMonth posts.
 
When Shelton Johnson became a National Park Ranger and travelled to Yosemite National Park, he was amazed to learn that the stewardship of the land had a colorful history. The Buffalo Soldiers were an African American troop who were also the original stewards of national parks like Yosemite and Sequoia. As an interpreter for the park, Johnson keeps the history of the Buffalo Soldiers alive by reenacting what a day in the life must have like and teaching people the beauty of national parks belonging to all people.
 
“You can walk through a meadow, you can walk through a forest, and just sit there, and take in everything around you that reminds you of where we as a people began, and where we have our roots. I was never taught, I was never told, when I was a child, that I had roots in the national parks. I was never told that these celebrated places belonged to me. I would have looked for a bill of sale. I would have looked in my wallet where it says ‘I own Yosemite. Hmm that’s interesting. I own the Grand Canyon. And I looked believe me for such a receipt, and I never found it.’ Shelton Johnson.
 
Videos featuring Shelton Johnson:
 
 
Since #PresidentsDay occurs during #BlackHistoryMonth we thought we’d share a piece of bird history that relates to both since this bird was named after Barak Obama, the first black president in the history of the United States.
 
In 2013, the Nystalus obamai, aka the Western Striolated-Puffbird was recognized as its own species by the American Ornithological Society’s South American Classification Committee.
 
More information on the Obama bird

Here’s a piece of history that you may not be familiar with for #BlackHistoryMonth  The song “Blackbird” by The Beatles is actually about the civil rights movement. Here’s an article by Paul McGuinness that gives more insight. 

“It was written on Paul’s Scottish farm: “I was in Scotland playing my guitar and I remembered this whole idea of ‘you were only waiting for this moment to arise’ was about, you know, the black people’s struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know. It’s a bit more symbolic!”

‘Blackbird’, like John Lennon’s ‘Revolution’ and George’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, was written in response to the seeming chaos of what would come to be remembered as a year of demonstration, death and despair. “Those were the days of the civil-rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about,” Paul said, “so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.’ As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place so, rather than say, ‘Black woman living in Little Rock,’ and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.'”

Source: udiscovermusic

Love for a Song by J. Drew Lanham
Love is barter—bits of affection traded for pieces of adoration.
It is desire doled out on the whippoorwill’s summer wanting. It
is our craving for the meadowlark’s ringing song—our longing
for Spring’s greening from our sun-starved spirits down to our
bare-toed roots. We seek the winding path and wander until
we find the sweet spots—blackwater cypress swamp, tallgrass
prairie sweep—the place where moonlight glancing off of tide-
slicked stones makes us weep.
We want the wild soul and a shadow-dwelling wood thrush
heaps it on us in self-harmonizing sonata—We revel in wild-
flower bloom—marvel in the migratory sojourns of birds
dodging falling stars. Sink yourself deep in the dizzying dance
of pollen-drunk bees. Find hope in the re-leaved canopies of
the tallest trees. Wind and water—storm and surf—they can
move us to other ends. Therein is the turn on. It’s the honey
sweet seduction. Nature asks only that we notice—a sunrise
here—a sunset there. The surge, that overwhelming inexplicable
thing in a swallow’s joyous flight or the dawning of
new light that melds heart and head into sensual soul in that
moment of truly seeing—that is love.
World Bird Sanctuary: Protect. Preserve. Inspire. This is our mission and we believe “Earthrise” by Amanda Gorman aligns perfectly with this.
 
Millions of Americans watched Amanda Gorman’s moving recitation of her poem “The Hill We Climb” on Inauguration Day, but for today’s #BlackHistoryMonth feature we’d like to share another poem and performance by her.
 
Amanda is certainly making history with her poetry, that is making the call to action for environmentalism sound so elegant.
 

Our Purpose in Poetry:
Or, Earthrise
Dedicated to Al Gore and The Climate Reality Project

On Christmas Eve, 1968, astronaut Bill Anders
Snapped a photo of the earth
As Apollo 8 orbited the moon.

Those three guys
Were surprised
To see from their eyes
Our planet looked like an earthrise
A blue orb hovering over the moon’s gray horizon,
with deep oceans and silver skies.

It was our world’s first glance at itself
Our first chance to see a shared reality,
A declared stance and a commonality;

A glimpse into our planet’s mirror,
And as threats drew nearer,
Our own urgency became clearer,
As we realize that we hold nothing dearer
than this floating body we all call home.

We’ve known
That we’re caught in the throes
Of climactic changes some say
Will just go away,
While some simply pray
To survive another day;
For it is the obscure, the oppressed, the poor,
Who when the disaster
Is declared done,
Still suffer more than anyone.

Climate change is the single greatest challenge of our time,

Of this, you’re certainly aware.
It’s saddening, but I cannot spare you
From knowing an inconvenient fact, because
It’s getting the facts straight that gets us to act and not to wait.

So I tell you this not to scare you,
But to prepare you, to dare you
To dream a different reality,

Where despite disparities
We all care to protect this world,
This riddled blue marble, this little true marvel
To muster the verve and the nerve
To see how we can serve
Our planet. You don’t need to be a politician
To make it your mission to conserve, to protect,
To preserve that one and only home
That is ours,
To use your unique power
To give next generations the planet they deserve.

We are demonstrating, creating, advocating

We heed this inconvenient truth, because we need to be anything but lenient
With the future of our youth.

And while this is a training,
in sustaining the future of our planet,
There is no rehearsal. The time is
Now
Now
Now,
Because the reversal of harm,
And protection of a future so universal
Should be anything but controversial.

So, earth, pale blue dot
We will fail you not.

Just as we chose to go to the moon
We know it’s never too soon
To choose hope.
We choose to do more than cope
With climate change
We choose to end it—
We refuse to lose.
Together we do this and more
Not because it’s very easy or nice
But because it is necessary,
Because with every dawn we carry
the weight of the fate of this celestial body orbiting a star.
And as heavy as that weight sounded, it doesn’t hold us down,
But it keeps us grounded, steady, ready,
Because an environmental movement of this size
Is simply another form of an earthrise.

To see it, close your eyes.
Visualize that all of us leaders in this room
and outside of these walls or in the halls, all
of us changemakers are in a spacecraft,
Floating like a silver raft
in space, and we see the face of our planet anew.
We relish the view;
We witness its round green and brilliant blue,
Which inspires us to ask deeply, wholly:
What can we do?
Open your eyes.
Know that the future of
this wise planet
Lies right in sight:
Right in all of us. Trust
this earth uprising.
All of us bring light to exciting solutions never tried before
For it is our hope that implores us, at our uncompromising core,
To keep rising up for an earth more than worth fighting for.