History & Mission
Urban Releaf is an urban forestry non-profit 501(c)3 organization established in Oakland, California to address the needs of communities that have little to no greenery or tree canopy. We focus our efforts in under-served neighborhoods that suffer from disproportionate environmental quality of life and economic depravity.
Urban Releaf is committed to the revitalization of our communities through:
After noticing the lack of trees in her neighborhood and determined to improve the quality of life for urban communities, Kemba Shakur founded Urban Releaf in 1998. She focused the organization’s work around serving economically-disadvantaged and ecologically underserved neighborhoods which suffered from numerous environmental health hazards, such as poor air quality. Another key area of focus was on providing employment, education, and stewardship for at-risk youth and employment-challenged young adults.
Over the years, the organization has provided free trees to thousands of East Bay Area community members, conducted weekly tree-planting events, organized tree care and maintenance workshops, made presentations in schools, created volunteer and internship opportunities, and coordinated experiential and educational activities for young people.
Urban Releaf has been involved with several long-term Urban Forestry Research case studies, which have assessed the ecological and social impacts of tree planting in urban communities, as well as watershed restoration and climate protection. These programs have not only advanced the field of urban forestry by widening the amount of quantifiable data available, but also helped to revitalize neighborhoods and make inner-city communities more livable. UC Davis and the Center for Urban Forestry Research have been major partners on several research projects. The organization has received major funding from CAL-FIRE, the California Department of Water Resources, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Bay Area Air Quality Management, California Releaf, and the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service. In the spirit of bridging the gaps between communities and their local governments, Urban Releaf works regularly with local authorities and state agencies on initiatives, planning, and research-driven projects, and staff members are frequently asked to present at conferences, forums, and panel discussions.
Furthermore, Shakur has become one of the most recognizable faces of the urban forestry movement, garnering both local and national media attention for her tree-planting efforts and dedication to her cause. She has graced the pages of People magazine, been featured on the NBC Nightly News, spoken at the Green Festival, and been acknowledged with more than 30 awards and recognitions.