Representation matters. And when it comes to seeing themselves represented in books about exploring nature and the outdoors, black children are not being represented.
The 2019 Atlantic article Where is the Black Blueberries for Sal? by Ashley Fetters highlights the dearth of black protagonists in books where the main characters are exploring in nature or going on a wilderness adventure for fun. In a follow-up article, Where are the Books about Black Kids in Nature? Andrea Breau of Diverse Book Finder wrote about DBF’s comprehensive search of their collection of picture books with Black and Indigenous people and People of Color as protagonists. The search turned up just 16 books that met this criteria. Notably, only four of the sixteen were written by authors from that same diverse group (learn about the #ownvoices movement here).
The reasons for this lack of representation are complex, but, unsurprisingly, many of them are rooted in systemic racism and historical injustices toward black people.
Now, more than ever, as our country reels from the horrific and racist treatment of black people by police officers, dog walkers, and self-appointed vigilantes, we must do more to rebrand nature as a place for all people, including black children.
Here’s a place to start: #BlackBirdersWeek, inspired by Christian Cooper’s recent experience in New York’s Central Park, aims to raise awareness of and increase representation of the many black naturalists, birders, hikers, gardeners, and people who otherwise enjoy spending time in nature.
Fellow white folks, join me in shining a spotlight on our #BlackinNature allies. Lift their voices in whatever way you can. Representation matters.