At Austin Youth River Watch, we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and we are grieving with the community over the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Mike Ramos, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and sadly, way too many other names to list. We recognize that this injustice has continued to occur even while we are in a pandemic – a pandemic that has so starkly revealed the inequities in our system that cause black and brown communities to suffer at disproportionate rates, and again we grieve.
All of this news underscores our commitment to equity and the importance of our solidarity that much more.
The vast majority of the youth we serve are from black and brown communities, and they face barriers in the world everyday just because of the color of their skin. When black and brown people are hurting, and especially when intense things like recent events happen, we can’t help but think of our students. Nature, the outdoors, environmental programming, and STEM careers have been historically inaccessible to black and brown youth. Take the story of Christian Cooper birdwatching in Central Park into consideration. These are not places where black and brown people typically see themselves welcomed. Our youth experience systemic racism and systemic inequities, and this is why our educational programs are designed and implemented through an equity lens. In addition to empowering nature-based environmental service learning and youth development content, we provide River Watchers with meals, transportation, and stipends. Even now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our staff are delivering meals to River Watch students and their families through our partnership with Keep Austin Together. In addition, we continue to monitor their health and well-being, share resources, and keep them engaged virtually. We are committed to making nature, the outdoors, environmental programming, and STEM careers a welcoming place for black and brown youth, even in these uncertain times.
We are committed to doing the work necessary to help create a more equitable world, and this includes our programming and our organizational practices at all levels. We ask that you join us in this work. Black Lives Matter here at Austin Youth River Watch, and black lives should matter everywhere River Watchers go in the world.
Here is a list of just a few things from which we are learning, and supporting:
- Anti-racism Resources, compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein
- Six Steps to Speak Up, from Teaching Tolerance
- Austin Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter, and Black Lives Matter Austin.
- Black Birders Week
- Other local organizations working on equity: YWCA Austin, Community Advocacy & Healing Project, Undoing Racism Austin, and Measure.
- Other local nonprofit organizations promoting racial equality, compiled by Austin Monthly
- National organizations promoting equity outdoors, in nature, and in environmental programming: Greening Youth Foundation, ReThink Outside, Color Outside, Latino Outdoors, and Outdoor Afro.
- List of resources on equity and environment, from River Network
- City of Austin’s Equity Office
- City of Austin, 2020 budget survey and town hall info
- Local black-owned businesses: list from Austin Monthly, list from KVUE, and list from do512.
- Voting, https://www.vote411.org/. Notes: In Texas, the deadline to register for July 14, 2020 primary runoffs is June 15, 2020. The deadline to register for November 3, 2020 presidential election is October 5, 2020. Registration info for Austin or Travis County.
Melinda Chow, Executive Director, email@example.com