Dr. Jeff Galligan, the co-founder of the BIPOC Birding Club, said access to knowledge about the environment, especially for systematically disadvantaged people, is a “necessity.”
“I believe we need to have representation at the table for things like conservation, stewardship, environmentalism, all those kinds of things,” Galligan said.
Galligan further noted that environmental programming is often not not easily accesible or not available to people of color and as such, he is “really trying to change that.”
“BIPOC are told their whole lives just based on who they were [and] what they look like, what they can and cannot do,” Galligan continued. “I want to hopefully provide opportunities for younger children to engage in this kind of thing and maybe have that ‘aha’ moment like ‘man, I could be a scientist or I could be this or that or whatever’ to combat all the other stuff that they see and hear.”
That being said, the BIPOC Birding Club is an inclusive space for BIPOC and allies alike, no matter your age or ouutdoor experience. “Anyone who shares and supports our values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access for all are welcome to join this group”, according to the organization’s mission statement.
Photos by Jeff Galligan.
Although the club is in its infancy, being founded at Juneteeth of this year, the BIPOC Birding Club is already in partnership with the Audubon Society, of which Galligan is a board member, and has received a warm welcome from the Madison chapter of the Feminist Birding Club.
Galligan noted that more partnerships are in the works with entities such as the Birding Collective.
The organization has already had two events, the first of which was held at Lewis Nine Springs E-way, where Gilligan met with his co-founder Dexter Patterson nearly three months ago, to discuss what is now the BIPOC Birding club.
The club has two upcoming events: A Swift Night out, hosted by Cherokee Heights Middle
School and Birds, Bikes, and Brews, hosted by the Audubon Society.
Looking ahead, the BIPOC Birding Club is hoping to gain 501(c)3 status, host more events, finish their website, and hopefully continue to work with the Audubon Society to create programming for Madison’s youth.
Galligan noted that the club has already begun engaging with community members, making reference to an interaction he had with a family who attend the clubs, adding the family had a “great experience.”
“[The daughter] was so shy at first and at the end, she was all smiles and excited too and it was like, okay, she’s got a positive experience with the outdoors, with nature, with birding.” But for those who have had unfortunate encounters with birds, they can get in touch with professionals like Bird Proofing South Auckland.
“Knowledge is power, and if you have knowledge of birding, of life cycles … you’re going to be connected to it,” Galligan added. “So the experience, the immersion will connect you to that whole process and then it becomes more than going out and watching birds, [it becomes] understanding your place in the earth, and the cycle, and needs of everything that inhabits there.”
Not only is expereicing the outdoors good for understanding one’s “place in the earth”, Galligan added, but engaging with outdoors can “have [a] real impact on your well-being, mental health, and physical health.”
For more information and updates on the BIPOC Birding Club, visit their Facebook or Instagram. The club’s most recent newsletter can be found here and features information about their upcoming events.