Thomas Rashad Easley’s grandparents taught him to love the earth, and hip hop taught him how to love people and share his truth.
Easley, assistant dean of community and inclusion at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, will share the journey that led him to turn his two passions and background in forestry into teachable lessons on life, diversity, inclusion and the environment as speaker for Auburn University at Montgomery’s (AUM) 2020 Spring Lecture Series. His talk, “Relationships, History, Hip-Hop, and Forestry: Thinking about Diversity and Inclusion in the Environmental Sciences,” is set for Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. in Goodwyn Hall 109.
The AUM Lecture Series brings speakers to campus with diverse backgrounds, distinctive scholarship and accomplishments to engage with students, faculty, staff and the general public on topics that would be of interest to the university and greater Montgomery community. Lectures are free and open to the public.
As AUM expands its environmental science program, the university as a whole will benefit from Easley’s talk, said AUM biology lecturer Michelle Taliaferro, who recommended Easley as a speaker.
“Dr. Easley’s mission is to use nature-themed hip-hop music to attract an underrepresented audience to the environmental sciences,” she said. “We hope that Dr. Easley's lecture will attract diverse students to consider environmental studies for a major, or, at least make them think about spending more time outdoors, appreciating Alabama's rich diversity of natural resources.”
In 2018, Easley was named the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ first assistant dean of community and inclusion, a highlight in his career as a diversity professional. In this role, he works to enhance diversity and promote access to education for all people. He also collaborates with students, faculty and staff to develop scholarly and relevant programming around diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Leveraging his background in forestry, genetics and education, Easley has spent his career teaching community workshops and course lectures on diversity issues and providing diversity facilitation to his places of employment, as well as to others that he mentors.
Easley grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and is a forester and former Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. He attributes his vocational and scientific success to his experiences as an Eagle Scout and work in academia. He also is a musician and is known as RaShad Eas, “hip-hop forester,” in the world of music. His art — called “Save Your Life Music” — centers on a message of love, embracing self, and helping others in his music.
“What is hip hop forestry? It’s when two communities come together in one,” Easley shares in the video series “Stories Happen in Forests” by the Dogwood Alliance. “Everyone is an intersectional being. I’m not just one thing. I’m multiple things. My grandparents taught me through gardens how to love the earth. Hip hop taught me through music how to love people and share their truth. Forestry taught me how to respect the earth. So hip-hop forestry to me — the way it all comes together — is we’re bringing people who unnaturally are kept away from something that naturally they should be engaging with and we’re bringing it together.”
Easley earned his undergraduate degree in forest science from Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical (A&M) University. He also holds a master’s degree in forest genetics from Iowa State University and a doctorate in adult education from North Carolina State University.
Easley’s lecture is presented by the AUM Department of Biology and Environmental Science. The event is sponsored by the AUM Lecture Series Committee and Warhawk Audubon through student activity fees.
Meet Thomas Rashad Easley, assistant dean of community and inclusion at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. The video is the first in the series “Stories Happen in Forests,” created by the Dogwood Alliance.