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Celebrating Diversity and Nature: Conner Prairie to host Indiana’s first-ever Black Birders Week

Flying into Indiana’s first Black Birders week

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Black Birders Week, a dedicated program to uplift Black nature enthusiasts and enhance Black birders’ visibility, is set to debut at Conner Prairie.

This week-long celebration will run from May 26 to June 1, marking the first time such events will be hosted in central Indiana.

Hosts Zoë Morgan and Michelle Morton stopped by WISH-TV Daybreak on Tuesday to chat with News 8’s Jeremy Jenkins about the event.

Origins and Purpose

Black Birders Week was established in 2020 in response to a racially charged incident involving Christian Cooper, a Black birder in Central Park, New York. Cooper was falsely accused of threatening a woman, and the incident went viral simultaneously with news of George Floyd’s murder. This catalyzed a broader discussion about the safety and inclusion of Black individuals in public and STEM fields. Organized by BlackAFinSTEM, a group of Black professionals and students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, Black Birders Week has since become an annual event featuring virtual and in-person activities to foster community and appreciation for nature.

Conner Prairie’s Involvement

Conner Prairie, a museum that emphasizes historical and natural learning, will host Black Birders Week events for the first time. This initiative aligns with Conner Prairie’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as articulated by Zoë Morgan, Curriculum Specialist, and Michelle Morton, Nature Engagement Specialist.

Morton says a number of discussions took place before deciding how Connor Prairie would take on the initiative. She explains “We just opened a new trail system at Conner Prairie. It’s a two-mile trail, and we really want to emphasize inclusive programming and highlight the visibility of all of our guests at Conner Prairie and in Indiana.”

Historical Context

The integration of Black Birders Week into Conner Prairie’s programming addresses a historical lack of diversity in both the birding community and the museum’s interpretative history. The institution aims to provide a welcoming environment for Black guests and allies to engage with nature through experiences that honor diverse perspectives.

Morgan says the issue came to the forefront around the same time as the 2020 racial unrest was brewing around the country. She explained “Back in 2020, Black birder Christian Cooper was birding in Central Park and was the target of racism and falsely accused of harassing a woman and her dog. This event happened on the same day as the murder of George Floyd.”

Morgan says this sparked a larger conversation about the safety of Black and Brown bodies in and out of the STEM field.

2024 Theme: Wings of Justice: Soaring for Change

The 2024 theme, “Wings of Justice: Soaring for Change,” will be celebrated through a variety of events, both virtual and in-person, designed to engage diverse audiences.

Event Highlights

  • Sunday, May 26: Bird walks along the Trails at Conner Prairie, focusing on identification strategies and Mindful Birding approaches.
  • Monday, May 27: Owl pellet dissection at Treetop Outpost.
  • Tuesday, May 28: Free virtual events accessible via Conner Prairie’s website.
  • Wednesday, May 29: Ticketed Sunset Stroll event featuring a make-your-own Trail Mix bar, a cash bar, and a guided dusk trail walk.
  • Thursday, May 30: Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators will participate in the Homeschool Day program at Treetop Outpost.
  • Friday, May 31: A community book discussion of J. Drew Lanham’s “Sparrow Envy,” in collaboration with Indiana Humanities.
  • Saturday, June 1: A Pride Hike celebrating the first day of Pride Month.

As Conner Prairie joins the Black Birders Week movement, it hopes to inspire ongoing engagement and appreciation for natural spaces among diverse communities, ensuring that all visitors feel seen and welcomed.

“We welcome nature enthusiasts, birders, anyone who identifies as BIPOC, allies, and just anyone who enjoys an inclusive outdoor experience.” Morton said.

For more details on the events, click here.