Category Archives: Heartwood

Thomas Rashad Easley, the Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES), hosts the Heartwood podcast recorded on the FES campus in New Haven, Connecticut. Thomas meets with guests spanning the environmental spectrum, in pursuit of one goal: understanding how the heart impacts the woods, and the woods impact the heart.

“Playing by the Rules” (or not) as a Black Man in Academia and Society: Dr. Robert K. Perkins, PhD in Sociology at Norfolk State University



Dr. Robert K. Perkins holds a PhD in Sociology at Norfolk State University. His areas of specialization include Urban Studies, Inequality, Social Organizations, and Socio-Cybersecurity. On this episode, Dr. Perkins and Dr. Easley draw links with one another about being Black in Academia, about navigating a society dominated by capitalistic principles and inequitable resource allocation, and managing the emotions of being Black. Dr. Perkins asks why people who play by the “rules” to achieve in society are left behind and forgotten in a culture in which they’re told they can achieve.


Chris Webby: Connecticut’s homegrown star isn’t afraid to lean into environmental activism



Chris Webby is an American rapper from Norwalk, Connecticut. Chris Webby has released many mixtapes such as the DJ Drama-hosted Bars On Me (2012) and his EP There Goes the Neighborhood (2011), which peaked at number 101 on the Billboard 200. He has worked with various artists such as Freeway, Mac Miller, Joell Ortiz, Big K.R.I.T., Method Man, Prodigy, Gatzby, Bun B, Tech N9ne, and Kid Ink. In 2013 he and his label, Homegrown Music, signed a deal with E1 Music. He then released Homegrown, another EP, in November 2012. Webster released his debut studio album Chemically Imbalanced on October 27, 2014. Most recently, Webby has released the compilation album, Next Wednesday, that features some of the many tracks he released throughout 2018 as part of his Webby Wednesday series.[1] In 2019, Webby released the third entry of his Wednesday mixtape series, Wednesday After Next.


Dr. John Francis, “The Planetwalker,” on how we treat one another is how we treat the environment:



John Francis was in his twenties when a 1971 oil spill in San Francisco Bay jarred his comfortable life. Even as he joined the volunteers who scrubbed the beaches and fought to save birds and sea creatures poisoned by petroleum, he felt the need to make a deeper, more personal commitment. As an affirmation of his responsibility to our planet, he chose to stop using motorized vehicles and began walking wherever he went.
Several months later, on his 27th birthday, fed up with the arguments his decision to walk seemed to create with friends, John took a vow of silence lasting for 17 years.
During that time, he founded Planetwalk, a non-profit environmental awareness organization, received a B.S. degree from Southern Oregon State College, a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana-Missoula, and a PhD in Land Resources from the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ending his silence, John served as project manager for the United States Coast Guard Oil Pollution Act Staff of 1990, in Washington, DC, where he assisted in writing oil spill regulations. For this work, he received the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Public Service Commendation.
Over the years, John Francis has walked across the US, walked and sailed through the Caribbean, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. He recently began a walk studying organic agriculture and sustainable development in Cuba, and is developing Planetlines, an environmental education curriculum based on the walking pilgrimage for high school, college and civic organizations. In 2005, he published Planetwalker: How to Change Your World One Step at a Time. The National Geographic Society will republish Planetwalker, April 2008.
Since John Francis began using motorized vehicles to return to and from his walking pilgrimage he speaks and consult with a variety of audiences around the world, including redefining environment for the travel and tourism industry, introducing the role of ethical advisor for civilian/military humanitarian operations, and encouraging diversity and inclusiveness within traditional conservation and environmental organizations.
On Earth Day 2005, he began a walk retracing his route back across the United States, looking for differences in the landscape and the conversations. His goal is to redefine the environmental problems we face into an inclusive concept, and to form partnerships among Native and non-Native people, cultures, businesses and organizations across America that might traditionally feel they do not share the objectives and values of environment and conservation. His thesis is that if we as human beings are an integral part of the environment, then how we treat each other and ourselves directly and indirectly effect the physical environment.
Today, Dr. Francis is visiting associate professor at the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is teaching both graduated and undergraduate seminars in environmental studies. He is also the first education fellow at the National Geographic Society where he has published two books, Planetwalker: 17 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking, and The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World. They are partners in developing the Planetlines curriculum based on John’s walking experience that lasted over two decades.


Return of Dr. Verdolin: An Animal Biologist on how Animal Behaviors and Social Distancing are Interconnected



On this episode, Dr. Jennifer L. Verdolin returns to Heartwood, this time in the era of COVID-19. Dr. Verdolin is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona and an expert in animal behavior. The author of two books, including Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship and Mating Tell Us About Human Relationships and Raised by Animals: The Surprising New Science of Animal Family Dynamics, she draws on animal behavior to reveal how much we can learn from other species to improve our relationships, families, and lives. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, NPR, Slate, The Washington Post, and National Geographic. Jennifer was a featured guest on the D.L. Hughley Show from 2014-2018 and is a frequent media guest on other radio and podcast shows. She enjoys engaging the public and speaks at places like the 92nd St Y and universities around the country. She also consults for television production companies in the US and abroad.


The Convergence of the Built Environment, Racial Equity, and Public Health: A Conservation with Dr. Allison Mathews



Allison Mathews is Associate Director of Integrating Special Populations at Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity. Her research interests include community engagement, the sociology of race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, religion, HIV/AIDS, and social psychology. Her current research examines the use of crowdsourcing theory to implement community engagement activities aimed at facilitating discussion about the social and ethical aspects of curing HIV (searcHIV).

Allison Mathews’ postdoctoral work has developed the 2BeatHIV project, which is a research project focused on empowering local and global communities to shape the future of HIV cure research. The project hosts a series of crowdsourcing contests that encourage community members to use art, technology, and music to develop HIV cure marketing campaigns (see 2BeatHIV.org for more info). The project has reached over 1000 people at in-person events and over 350K unique users online. 2BeatHIV has also received local and national media attention, including volunteer interviews with Viola Davis, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Bun B from UGK, Shirley Ceasar, David and Tamela Mann, Johnny Gill, and a host of Radio One Raleigh radio personalities.

She was a Humphreys Fellow and earned her PhD in Sociology in 2015 at UNC Chapel Hill. Her dissertation research focused on the role that stigma attached to being Black and gay played in Black gay men’s strategies to manage identity conflict while maintaining connections to churches. Allison was inducted into the Frank Porter Graham Graduate and Professional Honor Sociology in 2013 for her service to the local community and university and received the Everett K. Wilson Graduate Student Teaching Award in 2014 for her excellence in teaching.


“We can’t protect the environment until we get DEI right.” – Marcelo Bonta of J.E.D.I. Heart



Marcelo Bonta was originally trained as a conservation biologist, and ended up shifting his career focus from biodiversity to people diversity after finding himself as the sole programmatic person of color at a national conservation organization. That experience was so bad that he didn’t want anything to do with the environmental movement ever again. However, he realized he could not abandon what he loved—those cute little puffy baby piping plovers and all my brothers and sisters having oppressive experiences with environmental organizations. Since the environmental movement could not be successful and sustainable until it got this J.E.D.I. thing right, he went all in. His experiences led him to co-create the Center for Diversity & the Environment, which he ran for a decade, providing transformational trainings for thousands of leaders and organizational change processes for dozens of institutions. He also co-founded the Environmental Professionals of Color, a network for leaders of color to survive, thrive, lead, and innovate.


When Black Folks live in, persist through, and thrive in nature— Outdoor Afro Founder Rue Mapp



Rue Mapp is the Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit organization with offices in Oakland, CA, and Washington, D.C. Rue oversees a carefully selected and trained national volunteer leadership team of nearly 90 men and women who represent 30 states around the US, and shares opportunities to build a broader community and leadership in nature. Her important work has generated widespread national recognition and support. Since Outdoor Afro’s inception in 2009 as a blog, Rue has captured the attention and support of millions through a multimedia approach that is grounded in personal connections and community organizing. From its grassroots beginning, Outdoor Afro now enjoys national sponsorship and is recognized by major organizations for its role in addressing the ongoing need for greater diversity in the outdoors. In 2010, Mapp was invited to the Obama White House to participate in the America’s Great Outdoors Conference, and subsequently to take part in a think-tank to inform the launch of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. She was appointed program officer for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment to oversee its grant-making program from 2010-2012. Since that time, Mapp’s work and op-eds have been featured in publications including The Wall Street Journal, Backpacker Magazine, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times, Ebony Magazine, Outside Magazine, Sunset Magazine, NPR, and many others. Rue’s work has also been recognized with numerous awards and distinctions, including: The Root 100 as one of the most influential African Americans in the country (2012 and 2016), Outdoor Industry Inspiration Award, National Wildlife Federation Communication award (received alongside President Bill Clinton) and Family Circle Magazine selected Rue as one of America’s 20 Most Influential Moms. Mapp remains in high demand to speak around the country and in Canada about her innovative approach that has successfully connected thousands, especially from the Black American community, to nature and the benefits of spending more time outdoors. She is proud to serve on the Outdoor Industry Association and The Wilderness Society boards. In 2014, Rue was appointed to the California State Parks Commission by Governor Jerry Brown. She was named a National Geographic fellow, and a lifetime member of Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated. In 2020, Outdoor Afro was chosen to be highlighted and visited by Oprah on her 2020 Vision Tour. Check out details here. A graduate of UC Berkeley (with a Degree in Art History), Rue’s skills and background make her a unique voice via the leadership and programs she has instituted through her career, enlightening a diverse community to the wonders and benefits of the outdoors. Rue resides in Vallejo, CA and is the proud mother of three young adults. Want more insight on Rue? Visit www.ruemapp.com.


5. Hip Hop Kings and Environmental Professionals: Miles Braxton on Entrepreneurship and Sustainability



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First there was one hip hop professional on the Heartwood podcast, then there were two. Miles Braxton is a Business Development Analyst for Sol Customer Solutions, an energy solutions firm in Washington DC. In his work, Miles helps to investigate and engage potential clients in emerging solar markets, in addition to creating preliminary solar array designs for proposals. Miles graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Environmental Science. At U.Va., he founded and led an organization, Black Leaders for Environmental Sustainability (BLES), that works to install interactive solar charging stations around campus grounds and encourages minority students to increase their sustainability awareness and efforts. Miles came to FES this fall with a presentation called “Young, Gifted and Black” where he talked about building inspiration by combining entrepreneurship and sustainability. He talks in this episode about his own origin story in the energy space, future directions in the field, and drops some bars to wrap it all together.


4. Live at Yale-Myers: Finding the Heart in Forestry with Rachel Reyna



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Recorded live on site at Yale-Myers Forest in northeastern Connecticut, Thomas Easley sits down with Rachel Reyna, chief of Rural and Community Forestry at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, and recent recipient of the Mira Lloyd Dock Outstanding Woman Conservationist Award. Rachel discusses adaptive management and the necessity for awareness of the different constraints and histories among certain stakeholder groups in her work. As a forestry professional, Reyna works to create a vision of forestry that connects and appeals to a broad constituency.


3. Breaking Open Our Seeds of Growth: CJ Goulding on the Necessity of Discomfort



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CJ Goulding, Partner at the Avarna Group and JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) professional, joins Heartwood to share reflections on his work spent fostering discomfort for personal and community growth in both traditional and outdoor-oriented communities. In his work with the Children & Nature Network and Fresh Tracks, CJ trains, mentors and supports a national network of over 330 leaders who are changing systems and creating equitable access to nature in their communities. This work draws from experience leading outdoor trips, conservation crews, and youth internship programs for the National Park Service. CJ has a deep reservoir of self-awareness and shares insights on opportunities and barriers to understanding when it comes to inclusion work, and is committed to helping his clients and community break through their own perceptions in order to grow.