Black History Month

View L.A. Zoo CEO and Director Denise M. Verret in conversation with author Tommy Morrow, discussing the inspiration behind his book Just Take a Walk in the Zoo and the value of equal and inclusive access to nature. Featuring a special appearance by Kimberly Morrow, who sings the song that accompanies the book.

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Message from CEO & Zoo Director Denise M. Verret

February 1 marked the beginning of Black History Month. This year’s theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” intersects with questions we at the L.A. Zoo have received in the past couple of years about why we have begun more actively and intentionally including social justice in our work. The Zoo’s vision is a world where people and wildlife thrive, together. This effort requires that everyone has equitable access to the natural world and the mental, emotional, and physical benefits that it brings.

An avalanche of research shows that spending time outdoors and in nature improves our emotional and mental health, in addition to our physical wellbeing, and the Zoo is a place that can and does offer that benefit. This month and throughout the year, we join together to ensure that the Zoo and all outdoor spaces are open and accessible to Black communities and to all. That’s work worth celebrating.

“Just Take a Walk in the Zoo” Tour

In his book Just Take a Walk in the Zoo, author Tommy Morrow (along with illustrator Demar Douglas) show the wonder and magic of connecting with wildlife. “They tell the story of two African American children who go on an adventure through their local zoo,” says CEO and Zoo Director Denise M. Verret in her foreword to the book. “As they greet each animal, their joy at discovery and innate inquisitive nature leads them on an imagination-filled journey.” Now through the end of March, we invite Zoo guests on a similar journey of discovery. During your walk in the Zoo, look for book-inspired signs and let your imaginations run wild.

To get inspired, check out the “Just Take a Walk in the Zoo” music video filmed at the L.A. Zoo below!

Staff Spotlight: Dr. Jordan Davis-Powell

Associate Veterinarian Dr. Jordan Davis-Powell remembers her experience at HBCU Tuskegee University as “a whole new world, rich in support, and a lot of fun.” At Tuskegee’s College of Veterinary Medicine, which has educated over 70 percent the nation’s African American vets, Davis-Powell sensed “a different support system being there versus being at another place. It just felt right.”

Staff Spotlight: James Moore

Custodian Supervisor James Moore is a lifelong Angeleno and Zoo fan. “In elementary school, we had field trips here, and my parents would bring me here.” Over time, he changed, just like the Zoo he loves. He credits his growth to coaches and teachers who told him he had potential, and now he tries to pass on that type of encouragement.

Partner Profile: AMZAP

Not only does Curator of Equity Programs Rachel Helfing help guide diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility efforts at the L.A. Zoo, she’s also supporting nation-wide efforts as a member of the communications team for the Association of Minority Zoo & Aquarium Professionals (AMZAP). Rachel shares about the organization, its mission, and the Zoo’s proud partnership, as well as her own career journey.

Black History Month Retail Collection

This month at the L.A. Zoo online shop, we’re proud to highlight works by African American authors and illustrators and businesses that support equality, inclusion, and justice. Young readers will delight at imagination-sparking wildlife encounters in Tommy Morrow’s Just Take a Walk in the Zoo and Vernon Hamilton’s Isn’t It Scary, while adults can take meaningful steps toward a more just and equitable world with Socks that Fight for Equality. Proceeds from the purchase of each pair of socks go to the National Urban League and their work to provide economic empowerment, educational opportunities, and the guarantee of civil rights for African Americans and other historically underserved communities.