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Jason Ward birding. Photo: Mike Fernandez/National Audubon Society

A weeklong campaign is highlighting the work of birders, conservationists and scientists who are black — and raising awareness about racism in the outdoors.

Why it matters: “Birding and having a relationship with the outdoors is something that every one should be a part of it. But when it comes to black people in America our relationship with the outdoors is complicated, it just is,” says Jason Ward, a co-founder of Black Birders Week.

Background: Last month, Christian Cooper, a birdwatcher who is black, asked a white woman in Central Park to put her dog on a leash. She responded by calling the police and saying an African American man was threatening her life.

  • After the incident, members of the BlackAFInSTEM group chat rallied around the birders in the group, says Ward.
  • What quickly emerged was Black Birders Week — a series of Q&As, livestream discussions and other events taking place online this week to celebrate and encourage scientists and naturalists who are black and to call attention to the challenges they face.

Black birdwatchers say they're often threatened or intimidated in the outdoors and face prejudice and racism while doing field research.

There is omission: Advertising for outdoor clothes and off-road vehicles rarely features black people, says Ward.

  • “We’re not seeing ourselves in these spaces so we then think we aren’t welcome in these spaces.”

There is suspicion: Ward, who hosts the video series "Birds of North America," recalls being followed by a police officer from one area to another in a favorite birding spot and says while birding he makes gestures with his binoculars “to make clear what I am doing.”

  • "When we do decide to explore or venture into these spaces, people question what we’re up to."

What's next: Against the backdrop of a broader national conversation about racism, Black Birders Week is also a protest "for the existence of black people in the natural space, in the birder space, in the explorer space," Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, who helped to organize Black Birders Week, tells the Verge.

The bottom line: Altogether, the result is an underrepresentation of people who are black in birding.

  • Ward says diversity in the birding community can be better supported by consistent educational outreach to communities and having representation within organizations and professional science societies.

Go deeper: What you should know about black birders (Jacqueline Scott — The Conversation)

Go deeper

Aug 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Wisconsin on the brink after cop shoots Black man

Protesters confront Kenosha County deputies last night. Photo: Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Reuters

The next name you'll hear: Jacob Blake, 29, who is in serious condition after being shot seven times in the back by police officers while reaching into his car in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Why it matters: Black men are shot by white police officers at a disproportionate rate, and justice for these shootings is often scarce — or only initiated after mass protests and unrest.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

Conspiracy theories blow back on Trump's White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: It's not worth voting because the Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.