Birding While Black: Christian Cooper on NYC Audubon Society's New Name & Racist Central Park Incident

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New York City’s chapter of the Audubon Society has officially changed its name to the New York City Bird Alliance as part of an effort to distance itself from its former namesake John James Audubon, the so-called founding father of American birding. The 19th century naturalist enslaved at least nine people and espoused racist views. Christian Cooper is a Black birder and a longtime board member of the newly minted New York City Bird Alliance. In 2020, he made headlines after a white woman in Central Park called 911 and falsely claimed Cooper was threatening her life. He joins Democracy Now! to discuss Audubon’s legacy, which “put North American birds on the map” yet “was funded by the trafficking [of] other human beings,” and the significance of the birdwatching community’s efforts to detach Audubon’s association with the pastime. “We’re trying to diversify birding, which traditionally has been a very, very white activity,” says Cooper, who also discusses the 2020 park incident, which occurred on the same day that George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis.

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