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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.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
19 mins ago - Science

A new NASA astronaut corps for the next era in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA's next crewed missions to the Moon will need a larger, differently-trained and multi-skilled astronaut corps to deliver on the agency's ambitions.

Why it matters: NASA has plans to fly astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2025 and ultimately establish a long-term presence there. That goal requires a robust corps with new, specialized training in what it takes to live and work on the Moon — and NASA needs to start planning now.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.