Kemba Shakur – Executive Director
Fondly referred to as the “Tree Lady”, Kemba is the Founder and Director of Urban Releaf, an urban forestry nonprofit responsible for the planting and caring of an estimated 16,000 trees in low-income East Bay communities. Kemba has always loved trees, and cherishes childhood memories of outings with her parents to places like Big Basin. A pivotal moment in her life came in the 1990s, when Kemba moved to West Oakland and was struck by the lack of greenery. Instead of packing up and moving on, Kemba started planting trees. She founded Urban Releaf 14 years ago, guiding it to success by abiding by two key principles – creating a more beautiful community where residents take pride in where they live and offering opportunities for at-risk youth and unemployed adults to gain marketable skills.
Kemba continues to advocate for the importance of trees on a local as well as national level. Currently, she is engaged in the 31 Green Street Research & Demonstration Project, an integration of tree planting, community outreach and the scientific benefits of trees as they relate to air, water, and energy. In addition, she is working on her autobiography as well as a children’s book titled, “A Tree Grows in Oakland.”
EDUCATION & OPERATIONS
Gregory Tarver, Jr. – Director of Education
Gregory is an arborist, urban forester, educator, and doctoral graduate in the Nature & Society Geography Program at University of California, Davis. He received a B.S. degree in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of Montana in 1998 and a M.S. in Urban Forestry from Southern University and A & M College in Louisiana in 2005. Most of his research and work focuses on involving youth and young adults in nature based activities and natural sciences. He does this by engaging at-risk populations in urban forestry and arboricultural project-based activities utilizing an urban environmental educational approach. Through this work he hopes to build community based capacity for civic-oriented environmental stewardship in under-served communities.
OFFICE & COMMUNICATIONS
Eric Arnold – Communication Specialist
A longtime journalist and photojournalist, Eric is known for his reportage of the Bay Area hip-hop scene, investigative pieces on media policy, and cultural and community coverage. In recent years, Eric has branched out into communications and PR, with a focus on community, social justice, environmental justice, and activist issues. As Urban Releaf’s Communications Specialist, he brings to the table extensive knowledge of the East Bay community, excellent analytical skills, and a working knowledge of media policy, outreach, and communication strategies on a local and national level.
Jamila assists with administering the daily operations of Urban Releaf’s programs and projects. She had received her certification as an Emergency Medical Technician. Jamila is an avid reader, swimmer (she’s a certified lifeguard) and enjoys mentoring youth. Her favorite tree is a Coastal Redwood.
Tara has always been passionate about the environment. In school, she coordinated river/beach clean ups, recycling & compost programs, and was president of the Outing Club. In her career, Tara has organized and trained volunteers to install solar for low-income families and coordinated community service for university students. Now she’s helping to cultivate reforestation projects in Oakland.
MENTORS & YOUTH STAFF
Jamal has been working with Urban Releaf for the past 12 years. He is currently employed as both Urban Forest Mentor and Tree Planting Manager. These roles allow him to educate his fellow staff and community members in proper tree planting procedures and the benefits of trees. He enjoys planting trees because of the immediate impact that it has on a street. His career goals include eventually be able to start his own business.
Akeem is a native of North Oakland, and has been working with Urban Releaf since it first started in 1998. He is passionate about planting trees and working with kids from the community to instill a sense of pride in where they live. His career goals include joining the Oakland Police Department and opening his own nightclub.
Kwame has always been fascinated by trees, and began working at Urban Releaf during his early teens. He is working towards obtaining his ISA Certification. Kwame aims to pursue studies in marine biology and explore career opportunities at the San Francisco Aquarium.
Romello Sheppard – Youth Intern
As a Youth Intern, Romello learns about proper tree planting and care through hands-on experience in the field. He takes pride in planting and caring for trees all over Oakland. He enjoys working with and learning skills from the Urban Forest Mentors.