Celebrating Black Birders Week: A Conversation

For immediate release ‐ June 02, 2022

Contact: Micah Beasley, 919.707.9970. Images available upon request

Deja Perkins leading a birdwatching tour. Photo: Justin Cook.Deja Perkins leading a birdwatching tour. Photo: Justin Cook.

By Micah Beasley, PR & Marketing Coordinator

To celebrate Black Birders Week (May 29–June 4, 2022) the Museum was happy to partner with urban ecologist and movement co-organizer Deja Perkins for bird walks at our Prairie Ridge location in Raleigh and this Saturday, June 4 at Jones Lake State Park in Elizabethtown, NC.

After Deja’s bird walk at Prairie Ridge on Sunday, May 29, the Museum’s PR & Marketing Coordinator Micah Beasley sat down with her to have a conversation about the importance of this social justice movement. Some parts of the conversation have been edited for brevity.

MICAH BEASLEY: What inspired you to help establish Black Birders Week?

DEJA PERKINS: Black Birders Week was a last-minute initiative that sprung up in response to Christian Cooper’s incident in the Ramble at New York’s Central Park. A group of Black naturalists came together to share in the trauma of Cooper’s experience, because we all had similar experiences in the outdoors — instances where we weren’t believed, we weren’t taken seriously as an expert, had police called on us while we were doing field work or simply experienced some form of harassment while we were trying to enjoy the outdoor space. The first year we had about 30 individuals who were helping turn this event around in 48 hours to create this safe space online, where people could connect at a time where people could not connect in person due to the pandemic.

Black Birders Week program group shot at Prairie Ridge. Photo: Micah Beasley.Black Birders Week program group photo at Prairie Ridge. Photo: Micah Beasley/NCMNS.

MICAH BEASLEY: What is the primary mission of Black Birders Week?

DEJA PERKINS: Visibility, learning and connection. Initially, this event was birthed out of a place of trauma, but the second year really transformed into a place of joy. We focused on Black joy in the outdoors, how you can get into birding, what are the tools you can use, how to be safe in the outdoors, and who are the people you can engage with. In 2022, we are focusing on “Soaring to Greater Heights,” and we are focusing on highlighting the mental health benefits of birding, networking, intergenerational learning and social connection.

So, Black joy in the outdoors is about eliminating fear, reconnecting with the land, and most importantly showcasing the peace and joy we find in the outdoors. I believe Black joy in the outdoors is also a form of environmental justice. For instance, when we think about environmental justice projects, we often think about air and water pollution, right? But being able to have access to a natural space, to enjoy that space, and be allowed to find fun and joy in outdoor recreation — that is also a form of justice. That is something that we have been denied and historically excluded from because we either haven’t had access to a lot of natural spaces (beyond grass football fields) or we haven’t had equal access to quality natural spaces. Why are the parks in minority communities mostly grass fields for football/soccer? We should have the opportunity to be exposed to other forms of recreation in our communities because we enjoy bird watching, hiking, biking, kayaking etc. too!

MICAH BEASLEY: What about birds can unite humans?

DEJA PERKINS: The fact that birds are everywhere. I think everybody loves birds to some extent because they’re so beautiful and easy to observe. You can see them anywhere, and because they migrate, a lot of times you can see the same birds as someone else even though you may live in a different state. It’s not like you’re going to see these huge charismatic species like bears and lions everywhere, but birds? You can always see birds anywhere you go.

MICAH BEASLEY: Anything else you’d like to share?

DEJA PERKINS: I would encourage everyone to just try birdwatching. Take ten minutes, sit outside, whether that’s in your yard or a natural space where you feel safe. Be still and quiet, notice what’s going on around you. Be a little more observant of the natural world.

Hear more from Deja! Perkins was a guest on the Museum’s Love Nature podcast during season one. Listen to Deja Perkins’ episode now.

You can also follow Deja Perkins on Twitter @naturallywild__.

For more information about our upcoming activities, conservation news and ground-breaking research, follow @NaturalSciences onInstagram,TwitterandFacebook.Join the conversation with #visitNCMNS.

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