Just 3 months after #BlackBirdersWeek generated headlines and enthusiasm around diversity in the outdoors, a park educator launches another initiative to celebrate Black people in national parks.
Being outdoors is something millions of people enjoy and explore. But the outdoors hasn’t always been (and still isn’t) inclusive to everyone. During the first week in June, the hashtags #BlackInNature and #BlackBirdersWeek exploded on Twitter. The tags were trending on social media for more than a week, intending to amplify Black voices, celebrate the outdoors, and promote inclusivity everywhere.
But the movement was bigger than just birding. And it inspired environmental educator Nicole Jackson to create a similar initiative: #BlackinNationalParksWeek.
#BlackinNationalParksWeek: What Is It?
As a member of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Jackson wanted to find a way to encourage Black people to get out and explore national parks.
“Since becoming a member of the NPCA in 2018, I’ve been trying to figure out what I can contribute, and then Black Birders Week happened,” Jackson (who’s a birder) told us. “I really wanted to keep that motivation going.”
The event is going to focus on Black history, heritage, and legacy within the National Park Service. “I didn’t want to start with what’s happening now in national parks,” she said. “It was more, what have Black leaders already contributed to parks, and how can we celebrate that?”
The initiative aptly begins on Monday, August 24 — during the week of the 104th anniversary of the National Park Service (on the 25th) — and runs through August 29. Black recreators (and those new to the outdoors) are encouraged to join the movement anytime throughout the week.
How to Join
First, visit @BlackInNPsWeek on Twitter or Instagram. Then, simply engage on social media. You can gather knowledge on a national park near your community or learn about conservation. But primarily, the movement encourages the Black community to simply get outside, make memories, and celebrate.
Jackson also wants people to explore the full range of NPS sites — not just parks, but national monuments and heritage sites too. “Because there’s a lot of untold stories there that relate to African American history in those spaces,” she explained.
“This is an opportunity now more than ever to show up for our national parks. I want [Black] people to feel like they can contribute to the preservation of our national parks with this movement.”
Throughout the week, the #BlackinNationalParksWeek platform will share those narratives.
There are more than 20,000 employees in the NPS, but Black employees constitute only a slim percentage of that. And only 2% of visitors are African American — another statistic that reflects the current lack of diversity in parks. “So individuals sharing their stories of how they connect to these spaces is important,” Jackson said.
While Jackson spearheaded the project, she said it’s not about her. “I want to highlight Black individuals in our park spaces, and I want to encourage Black youth to get involved. It’s just another opportunity to get this conversation out there so we can have a more inclusive park service in the future.”
Nicole Jackson, 32, is a program coordinator for the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist program at The Ohio State University and a member of the Next Generation Advisory Council of the National Parks Conservation Association. She’s also an avid public lands advocate, environmental educator, naturalist, urban gardener, and birder.