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Christian Cooper
The Walt Disney Company

Christian Cooper

Christian Cooper

Meet one of the artists, disruptors, educators, groundbreakers, innovators, and storytellers who all helped make the world a better place for LGBTQ+ people.

What bird-watcher Christian Cooper endured in Central Park in May 2020 — a white woman calling the police to falsely report that an “African-American man is threatening my life” — was horrible. But if any good came out of it, it was that more white Americans woke up to the everyday racism wielded against people of color. Another positive — more Americans became aware of Christian Cooper.

Raised by two veterans of the civil rights movement, Cooper has long been an advocate for equality. Those parents took Cooper and his sister camping across the U.S. and Canada in their youth, instilling a love of the great outdoors and the planet’s diverse collections of birds.

After the Central Park incident became international news, the onetime comic book writer decided he wanted to take advantage of his fledgling fame by promoting nature’s wonders, especially to people of color. He signed on to host the National Geographic TV show Extraordinary Birder With Christian Cooper, where the self-described “gay Black nerd with binoculars” checks in on feathered friends around the country. He also wrote a memoir, Better Living Through Birding: Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World, which made the New York Times best seller list.

“Suddenly getting thrust into the spotlight was overwhelming, and a big part of me wanted to hide until the media storm passed,” he says. “But I focused on the opportunity and responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless — George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Amadou Diallo, too many others, not to mention the natural world itself — and tried to say what I felt needed to be said as clearly as possible. I’m still trying.”

It’s not hard to see a connection between Cooper’s love for manifold bird breeds and his devotion to humanity. “Through Extraordinary Birder and my writing, I try to inspire folks to see their world anew — a world full of a diversity of birds and a diversity of people, all of whom have a right to thrive.” @christiancooperbirder

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Neal Broverman