Log In

Reset Password

Charity ‘very open’ to name change, says president

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
The Bermuda Audubon Society says it is very open to a name change

A birdwatching charity is to look at renaming itself to move past the name’s racist origins.

Discussions for the Bermuda Audubon Society to rebrand itself will be at the head of the organisation’s upcoming strategic plan.

Janice Hetzel, the president of the society, said its Committee of Management was “very open” to changing the name – but would have to go through the proper process.

Janice Hetzel, the president of the Bermuda Audubon Society (File photograph)

She reminded the public that “this takes time” and added: “We are a fully volunteer membership organisation with no paid staff and limited resources.

“Currently, our attention is focused on pressing environmental issues, such as the Fairmont Southampton SDO, development proposals at Southlands Park, and the dissolution of the Parks Commission by Minister [Lieutenant-Colonel David] Burch.

“When these immediate issues are more settled, we hope to be in a better position to move forward on this very important deliberative process.”

“Audubon” comes from John James Audubon, a 19th-century French-American naturalist and enslaver best known for his colour-plate book The Birds of America.

Debate over the name was sparked last year after several birdwatching groups within the US removed “Audubon” from their names to cut ties with its racist connotations.

The National Audubon Society, the US umbrella group, last month decided to keep the name despite the changes from its chapters.

When questioned last August, the Bermuda Audubon Society said it would seek input from its membership and the wider public on their views regarding the subject.

Ms Hetzel said that, since then, the committee had participated in truth and reconciliation conversations with Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda, an anti-racism organisation, to discuss how to best approach the issue.

She added: “We want to ensure that we do this right and that we follow the appropriate process.

“It will require that we consult our membership and that we carry out a full assessment of the implications of such a decision.

“We also hope to use these deliberations as an opportunity for increased understanding and reflection.”

Christian Cooper, a Black birdwatcher who went viral in 2020 when he was harassed by a White woman in Central Park, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post earlier this month about the US National Audubon Society deciding to keep its name.

He argued that the name did not reflect the diversity within the birdwatching community and refusal to adapt would cause birdwatching numbers to shrink.

He wrote in his op-ed: “If we fail to engage new audiences with the natural world – if concern for the welfare of our wild birds is perceived as something for ‘Whites only’ – then only a dwindling group of Americans will fight for the birds.”

Mr Cooper added: “Simply put, no matter what your racial or ethnic background, if we as advocates for the wild want to guarantee a future with a healthy diversity of birds, then we must foster a healthy diversity of people who value them.

“It is essential to the core mission. The name ‘Audubon’ is becoming an impediment to achieving it.”

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published May 01, 2023 at 7:53 am (Updated May 01, 2023 at 7:53 am)

Charity ‘very open’ to name change, says president

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon