65-year-old Oakland tradition continues with the recognition of Kemba Shakur, executive director of the nonprofit Oakland Urban Releaf, an organization dedicated to planting and maintaining trees in the East Bay.
Shakur is the founder of this group and has overseen the planting and caring of an estimated 20,000 trees in low-income communities. Moving to West Oakland in the 1990s, Shakur noticed the lack of trees and other greenery in that district: She saw a need and formed the group.
Shakur believes in residents taking pride in where they live and offering opportunities for at-risk youth and unemployed adults to gain marketable job skills.
Currently, her organization plants 600 trees a year in Oakland, and sponsors projects in several other Bay Area cities as well.
Urban Releaf has trained 4,000 young people in tree-planting and maintenance. Over 12,000 fruit trees have also been donated to Oakland elementary schools.
Shakur was nominated for the 2019 Oakland Mother of the Year award by the Mayor’s Office.
The winner’s love of trees and nature comes from her childhood experiences when her mother took the family to Yosemite and other national and state parks on back packing trips, away from their Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco.
Previous “mothers” hosted a luncheon at the Lakeside Garden Center recently to honor and welcome Shakur. The annual event is a way for the “mothers” to gather, get acquainted with their newest member, and exchange about all their previous contributions to the community.
A plaque for each mother and the year she was selected is located on a “walk of fame” pathway at the Morcom Rose Garden. Since 1954, the pathway and honoree ceremony has been maintained by the Department of Parks Recreation and Youth Development.
“We are already looking for candidates for next year’s honoree,” says Zermaine Thomas, Parks staffer. “Details regarding criteria for the 2020 nomination is available on our website (www.oaklandca.gov).”