Talking Parks With Aisha Tyler

You know Aisha Tyler from her long list of acting credits, including extended stints on E! Entertainment’s Talk Soup, CSI, 24, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Reno 911, Friends, and most recently, the animated hit, Archer. What you may not know is that she’s also an avid supporter of The Trust for Public Land. In the April issue of JET magazine, Aisha Tyler was named one of the “top celebs who are saving the world” for her work with The Trust for Public Land.

We caught up with Aisha in between takes to talk about her dedication to conservation, creating parks for people—and her childhood passion for tree-climbing.

TPL: Congratulations on your JET magazine mention, and thank you for your continued support! You’re probably used to being recognized for your comedic acting skills, but did you ever expect to be called out for saving the world?

Aisha: The benefit of my job is that I’m able to give back and call attention to things. It’s the best side effect of celebrity, to be able to spread the word about something you consider important. I’m just happy to help when I can.

TPL: You work with several other charities—what makes The Trust for Public Land special?

Aisha: I have a long history with The Trust for Public Land. I actually used to work there; it was my first job out of college. I’ve always been an environmentalist, but I was attracted to the mission of The Trust for Public Land because it’s so specific. I always believed in larger, idealistic environmental notions, but I like the practicality and pragmatism of the tangible work at The Trust for Public Land—and that it affects the people who need it most. African Americans tend to be focused on jobs and safe housing, and there’s a nexus there with parks. They make a real difference in people’s lives.

TPL: Can you tell me more about your work as part of The Trust for Public Land family?

Aisha: I actually hadn’t heard of The Trust for Public Land before working there, but got the job through a nonprofit placement service because my minor was environmental policy. I was there for a couple of years at least, doing public affairs and marketing, and helping publish Land&People magazine. I remember learning so much back then and being energized by the mission. I enjoyed the work, but I started doing live performances at night and then got an offer for a traveling stand-up tour I couldn’t refuse.

TPL: We were lucky to have you here. And we appreciate your continued dedication to The Trust for Public Land.

Aisha: I really care about the mission of The Trust for Public Land and I don’t want to lose sight of it.

TPL: You’re originally from San Francisco. Did you spend a lot of time outdoors in the Bay Area’s wonderful parks as a child?

Aisha: My family moved back and forth between San Francisco and the East Bay, but I definitely consider San Francisco home. My family was old-school and progressive. I joke that we were green but only because we were poor. It was cheaper to reuse and recycle things than buy new.

I remember going to camp in Tilden Park, and playing in the creek at Berkeley. I had a rich fantasy life fueled by tree-climbing. I didn’t play in the street—I played in the trees. I remember all these fruit trees in the neighborhood we used to climb up and pick fruit from. It was a huge part of my life and it’s real for me. Some of my fondest memories are playing in creeks, climbing trees, and gorging on sticky handfuls of berries.

TPL: That sounds lovely. Now that you live in Los Angeles, what do you think is the most pressing parks issue there?

Aisha: L.A. has one of the largest urban parks in the country at Griffith Park. It’s heavily used and extraordinary. Many people drive to it and bring their kids. But there are a lot of families living close to the poverty line here that can’t afford to drive. And we don’t have a good public transportation system like San Francisco does, where you can just hop on the BART or the MUNI and head to Golden Gate Park or Ocean Beach. That kind of thing is much more difficult to do here.

Whole areas of Los Angeles County are miles from a state park or a park of any kind for that matter. Part of that is lack of access—and it’s a cultural shift. Without looking at statistics, I’d have to say we’re one of the cities worse off in that way of lower-income kids not having access to green parks and safe places to play. That, and people don’t feel comfortable letting their kids play outside.

TPL: Well, as you know, that’s our mission at The Trust for Public Land: to make sure every child lives within a ten-minute walk of a park so they have a safe, green place to play.

Aisha: Yes, it’s so important. Every child deserves the ability to look back on their childhood and consider it dreamlike. I remember so many dreamy days as a kid when I’d come home sleepy and sticky after eating fruit all day, covered in sap and sugar. I believe all kids, regardless of income, should have days when they come home just bone-tired from being outside or up in a tree all day.

TPL: We couldn’t agree more, Aisha. Thank you for your time today and your support of The Trust for Public Land.

Aisha: My pleasure. Thank you!