Celebrating Diversity While Seeking Justice

Carolina Raptor Center exists, in part, to create wonder and imagination. We do that by engaging the community in the wonders of nature, specifically through the exploration and appreciation of birds of prey.

Our organizational culture is built on our core values of integrity, collaboration, and innovation. All three of those values have been mightily tested in the last few weeks as we struggle to create a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now a not-so-new threat has re-emerged to challenge our community, and it demands our attention. That threat is the systemic racism that has crippled our country since its founding. It has become clear that the words and actions of the past have been insufficient to bring meaningful change and our physical, societal, and cultural well-being is dependent on finally facing and eliminating the inequities forced on Americans whose only barrier has been being born not white.

We planned to feature Clemson ornithologist Dr. J. Andrew Lanham as the speaker for this year's Talon to Table fundraiser to talk about the viewpoints of a Black birdwatcher, and the challenges he faces while birding and in the field of science. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 outbreak necessitated the cancellation of Talon to Table. Nevertheless, we felt kinship with Christian Cooper when he was assaulted while birding by a woman in Central Park. Like everyone else, we had no idea that on that very same day another Black man needlessly lost his life at the hands of a corrupt police officer in Minneapolis. Nine minutes of violence that further divided our country, making life more violent and dangerous for both people of color, and decent police officers who love and protect all the people in their communities.

We now face a perfect storm of pandemic-fueled rage combined with these incidents of abject racism that have fanned the fires of the racial divide in our country. We are compelled to speak – not as victims – but as allies of our brothers and sisters, black and brown, who rage against the bonds of this long-held captivity.

Our senior leadership, staff members, and board have participated in programs like the Arts & Science Council's Catalyst for Cultural Equity, EarthShare NC's Racial Equity Workshops and the Mecklenburg Executive Collaborative (Non-profits) Improving Racial Equity in an effort to create a more welcoming, inviting, and inclusive organization by doing the personal work of unpacking our own biases and untangling the inequities in our community. Even though we serve the entire community, we know our organization’s staff and Board do not match this diversity. We continue to work to meet this challenge of hiring staff, recruiting volunteers and appointing members to our board who reflect the greater community, but addressing our organizational composition is only the beginning of the work we need to do. We understand our need to be an organization that is committed to creating an environment where all people are welcomed and celebrated.

Carolina Raptor Center believes that all nature inspires. That our many colored world embraces all creatures. As we celebrate the benefits that the diversity of wildlife, and flora, and fauna brings to our world, so do we celebrate the value that the rich diversity of humanity brings to our society.

At Carolina Raptor Center, we believe that Black Lives Matter. Even now as we seek justice for our black and brown brothers and sisters, we understand that justice is not enough. Systemic change must happen to make this world we live in safe for every member of our community.

We are ready to stand up and do our part. We invite you to join us in this important work

Jim Warren

Dr. Jeff Thomas

Executive Director Chairman of the Board
Carolina Raptor Center Carolina Raptor Center