Our inspirational Executive Director, Kemba Shakur, was recently feted by the Arbor Day Foundation, winning the organization’s highest honor, the Morton Award – joining an elite group of arborists which includes Nobel Prize Winner Wangari Maathai. The Arbor Day Foundation was kind enough to host Shakur, Program Manager Kevin Jefferson, and Communications Manager Eric Arnold at the awards ceremony, which took place April 27-28 at the Lied Lounge hotel on the Arbor Day Ranch in Nebraska City, Nebraska.
Urban Releaf took America’s heartland by storm. Well, not really. But we had fun watching the Warriors beat the Nuggets Friday evening at the Lied Lounge bar. Seriously, it seemed like we made a good impression on the Foundation folks, our fellow award winners, and a guy we met from the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service division. Everyone we met was actually really, really super-nice. Our ride from the airport, for example, was a kindly white-haired gent who phoned ahead to get the hotel staff to make up some sandwiches after he learned the kitchen would be closed by the time we arrived. I don’t know if that’s a Midwest thing or just a Nebraska thing, but we certainly appreciated being welcomed with open arms.
On Saturday, after a tour of the Arbor Day Farm—which sells trees, as well as jam and cider grown on the premises– and their “Tree Adventure” nature walk, it was time to move on to the main event: the awards ceremony.
The Arbor Day folks put together a moving video testimonial to Shakur and UR’s work, which was fabulous to watch. There was just one problem: the voice-over covered much of the material Shakur had planned to talk about in her speech. So, an admittedly-nervous Kemba ad-libbed. That turned out to be a good move, because the audience seemed to connect with her on both an emotional and humanistic level, especially when she ended by reading her poem, “A Tree Grows in Oakland.” When she finished reading the poem, she received a standing ovation!
The ceremony was followed by the awards dinner, where we chatted with the President of the Board of Directors at the Arbor Day Foundation, and enjoyed some of that famous Nebraska steak.
The next day, Sunday, we walked through the Arbor Day Farm grounds, hoping to find some Mother’s Day gifts at the Farm store. Unfortunately, we were there a bit early, so the apple butter will have to wait for next time! It was great to be surrounded by trees and nature, something we don’t always have the luxury of having, living in an urban city like Oakland. And it was great to receive national recognition for Urban Releaf’s efforts over the past 15 years.
Big thanks to everyone at the Arbor Day Foundation for making it all possible, and a shout-out to all the new friends and connections we made during our time in Nebraska. We’ll be back for the apple butter!