Editor, The Messenger;

On May 25, in Central Park, NYC, Christian Cooper, an African American birder, was threatened with police violence by a white woman he’d simply asked to leash her dog. Thankfully, this episode did not end in tragedy but it nonetheless illustrates the systemic racism and white supremacy facing people of color everyday, even while engaged in an activity as innocuous as watching birds.

In his essays, ‘Birding While Black’, and ‘9 Rules for the Black Bird Watcher’, J. Drew Lanham (Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University), is able to bring a semblance of humor to a topic that is sadly littered with examples of privilege and racism.

Athens Area Birders would like to take this opportunity to emphatically and unequivocally condemn all forms of racism, bigotry, bias, prejudice, and injustice. Attitudes and opinions that seek to needlessly create division and cynically build barriers between people not only have no place in our club but are also completely antithetical to the hobby we all love, which is about the pursuit and appreciation of diversity. Any breaches of this commitment will be addressed immediately by our group.

Athens Area Birders would like to emphasize the value our members place in the virtues of inclusion, justice, and tolerance. As a group we will strive to let those virtues guide us as we develop and promote all future programming efforts: speaking events, workshops, bird walks, on-line learning opportunities, and various citizen science projects. Our goal is to make sure that we can offer accessible programming that all people feel welcome to participate in.

We will continue our efforts to establish bird watching as the celebration of diversity that it truly is. We will endeavor to create and maintain a bird-centric forum where people feel valued and included regardless of their race, religion, experience, age, gender, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

We intend to listen more closely to the voices of those who are too often unheard in the U.S. as we work to create pathways that will allow those voices a chance to be heard. Athens Area Birders stand in solidarity with those across the country courageously calling attention to injustice and systemic racism.

To contact the Athens Area Birders, please send an email to athensareabirders@gmail.com.

Black Lives Matter.

Athens Area Birders Steering Committee

Melissa Wales

Kelly Williams

Julie Gee

Karen Mammone

Stefan Gleissberg

Bob Scott Placier

Dave Waters

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