Sep 29 2009
Last June I was privileged to go birding with John C. Robinson as he taught five children about birds. The occasion for our outing was an OnQ segment about his book Birding For Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers.
Some of you may know John – he grew up in Pittsburgh. He’s an excellent birder, has a natural ear for bird song and can identify all our birds by sound. He’s also a great teacher and it shows when he’s with kids.
John stands out in the birding community for another reason and it began to trouble him. John is African-American and is usually the only person of color he encounters while birding. Why are there so few minorities involved in birding? Why hasn’t this changed in the last 40 years when African-American and Hispanic involvement in other areas has increased? Even more troubling, in a few decades this gap will affect U.S. attitudes toward the environment. Minorities are a growing percentage of the U.S. population and the greater the percentage of people who know nothing about birds, the less care will be shown to them.
A few years ago John decided to do something about this. More people needed to understand this gap as a problem, more people needed to encourage minorities to go birding, and young birders, no matter what their background, needed mentors. And so John wrote Birding For Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers to urge us all to get involved.
(cover of Birding For Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers, courtesy, John C. Robinson)