Black Excellence in Local Birding Communities Is Creating Change at the Academy 

From regional STEM-focused education to our Women In Natural Sciences program to Philadelphia’s local community garden scene, the Academy continues to find ways to be involved in unique, diverse communities who are as passionate about the natural world as we are.  

So, we are beyond excited to be in partnership with many local and phenomenal Black Birders who are creating communities around the city and region to support an incredibly important mission — getting everyone out and exploring the natural world, safely and together.  

One of these particularly dazzling collaborations took root last year with our sold-out event, Black Excellence in Birding. Panel discussions — which included Tykee James, Corina Newsome, Jason Hall and Anwar Abdul-Qawi — provided opportunities to hear firsthand their real-life stories and successes of birding. 

Panel discussion featuring Corina Newsome, Tykee James, Anwar Abdul-Qawi and Jason Hall

Created in partnership with the African American Museum in Philadelphia with support from BlackAFInSTEM Collective, this event kicked-off Black Birders Week, a national series in June that highlights Black nature enthusiasts and aims to increase the visibility of Black birders who face unique challenges and dangers when engaging in outdoor activities.  

It was an ornithological night to remember and the first — but certainly not the last — in the Academy’s long history. Preparations are now underway for this year’s upcoming Black Birders events, which promise to be even bigger and brighter. 

“That night set a standard and example for our city and our country,” reflects Hall, founder of In Color Birding, a local inclusive birding club that invites underserved and diverse nature enthusiasts from all over the region to join in their outings. His group is also partnering with the Academy for our current Conversations With Birds exhibit and its related programming. “At least three generations of nature and bird enthusiasts collectively filling up each other’s cups within walls that have inspired so many Philadelphians.” 

“When it comes to getting out in nature, everyone is welcome,” says prominent wildlife photographer Abdul-Qawi, who’s own inspirational journey as a local Black Birder recently made headlines in The Philadelphia Inquirertwice. His stunning photography is now also featured in Conversations With Birds.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a hobbyist, there is something for everyone.” He hopes his story sparks a love for birds and natural exploration in every city kid who was told they couldn’t do science. 

The idea for the Academy’s Black Excellence in Birding event was sparked by Sean Stallworth, right, who now leads the charge for this year’s upcoming events.

Sean Stallworth of the Academy’s Community Learning Division is now leading the charge for this year’s upcoming Black Birders Week that will include another stylish celebration of Black Excellence in Birding, activities at the Academy and more bird outings with Hall and Abdul-Qawi. “We wanted to create something meaningful, impactful, something so much bigger than we could imagine,” he reflects on last year’s success and how it can help shape future work and collaboration with Philly’s Black birding communities.  

“We’ve got a vision here at the Academy that is more inclusive, active and supportive. But it all comes down to change. There’s 200 years of amazing history here, and now we — the Black community — are really part of that story.” 

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