My Geographical Journey


As I prepare for the first week of classes at CUNY Medgar Evers College where I teach Physical Geography, I’m looking to tryout more technical tools that promote better in class and online engagement. This semester, student’s will learn about geographical tools such as GIS and remote sensing, earth systems and processes related to climate, etc., landscapes and biomes and a little environmental justice.

As an introduction of myself, rather than stand up in class and just talk about my history and journey to the field of geography, I want to show it through maps and pictures…and not use PowerPoint. The ESRI arcgis storymap tool allows me to do this easily. Here is my first attempt at sharing my geographical journey.





Why Change OUR World?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I can take on the small task of  “saving the world” through social entrepreneurship and advocacy.


But why “save” or “change” the world? Is it broken? Does it need fixing? Or does it just need a nip and a tuck – here and there?

One thing I know – through reading this morning’s tweets, comments, posts and news – this world…my world…OUR world…needs changing. But what a humongous undertaking… seriously. How can we change an entire world filled with so much cultural, political, economic and environmental diversity? Diversity that is supposed to be beautiful, yet linked to competition, fear and annomosity.

The answer is…wait for it….one person at a time. And that one person is… me… and that other person is…you (the person reading this text right now).

So let’s ask ourselves an important question. How have I/we been treated by others lately? How did it feel?

Ok, now how have I treated others lately?

Have I thrown people into a categorical box of labels? Black, white, liberal, conservative, communist, capitalist, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim and so forth? At the end of the day, if a massive asteroid hit Earth or an international pandemic attacked OUR world would any of these labels even matter?

Before we look for a cure for Our World, let’s check ourselves. Let’s be responsible and act right…do right…treat each other right. Seriously, I’m so done with all the divisiveness driven by fear, material greed and power. Individually and collectively we as the human race can make monumental changes in and to OUR world.

Let’s treat the little time we have living in OUR world like it’s our most precious, valuable resource. It’s time to make everyday special. Let’s be kind to ourselves and everyone we share OUR World with.

Peace and love,


#togetherwecan #changeourworld


Launch Party

On Friday, June 9th, World Rhythm Academy threw a launch party at 3 Black Cats Cafe in Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY. It was well attended by our musician friends who brought their instruments and jammed with us. The goal was to let the community know that we are here and eager to provide opportunities to enjoy great live music and soulful experiences. 

We also set out to raise funds for the GeoArts Summer Program that begins soon. Check out the photos from our party.

Ride to Entoto: Women & Fuelwood

Women hauling fuelwood near Addis Ababa

Women hauling fuelwood near Addis Ababa

I recently stumbled upon an article from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, written by one of my most idolized, favorite policy-focused scholars, Calestous Juma.

In this article, Juma touches on the fact that in Uganda, women are doing all the work. According to a study on Africa,

“Women hauled more than 80 tons of fuel, water and agricultural produce for a distance of 1 km a year.  Men, on the other hand, carried only 10 tons a year. The political impetus for such inequities is often driven by the low level of access to agricultural technology and skills.”

It is also well known that women are hauling all the wood in the Horn of Africa too. I saw this first hand during my field work experience in Ethiopia. During my drive up to high altitude Entoto – right outside of Addis Ababa, I saw women walking back down with loads of tree branches on their shoulders and back. On that same day, I saw young men that appeared to be in their twenties on motorcycles with a similar sized pile of wood on the backs of their vehicles. Yes, the men were working too – carrying fuel woood – but they had technical assistance.

According to Guerrilla Aid,

“The women living near Addis Ababa, hike roughly 18 miles a day collecting wood to be sold in the market carrying packs of wood that weigh up to 70 Ibs.”

“They begin their hike at 3 am, collecting fuelwood in the forests, loading their backs for a long day’s trek along a trail that is usually thick with mud, dung, and rocks.”

“They travel very quickly, sometimes racing against the clock, assuring their day’s journey will be met with a receptive marketplace.  If for some reason the area is stocked, they continue onward until they can sell their wood for only about $2 – the amount they need to feed their family that day.”

So what’s a sustainable alternative for these women?

Volunteers from Guerilla Aid decided to purchase the wood packs from some of the Ethiopian women in order to experience the back-breaking job of carrying the wood themselves. After carrying the wood they realized a few things:

1. They can’t change the economic situation in Ethiopia, and the fact that these women have to carry wood.

2.  Carrying the wood isn’t the worst thing about the situation, but the fact that it keeps the women from an education is a real unfortunate situation.

So what is their solution?

The Guerilla Aid volunteers would like to develop a pack that the women can use to strap the wood to – one with a heavy-duty pad to protect their back, padded straps to protect their shoulders, and a pocket for a Walkman or an MP3 Player.

The volunteers will coordinate with a group in Addis, the Former Women Fuelwood Carriers, so that the women can go and get their packs and update their walkman or ipod with educational materials… i.e, books on tape, English lessons, music – anything to make their experience a bit more tolerable, and to give them a basic education.  They are looking for a group to help them develop and make this pack, as well as a lead with Apple, Sony, or a group like Berlitz to help with the education portion of it.

Women – The frontline innovators

In such a resilient environment as East Africa where women have historically (mostly silently) incorporated mechanisms for surviving droughts, conflicts and changing marketsI – I wonder what types of innovations women have developed for themselves with regards to fuelwood, labor and energy. I hope to spend more time looking into how women have empowered themselves with solutions that eliminate these back-breaking activities and thereby enhance their ability to provide for their homes. I welcome your ideas any solutions you come across.

A Graveyard Meditation Moment

Cemetery in Bellefonte

Yesterday, I woke up early to take a morning walk. Purely for exercise. My plan was to walk every morning while listening to inspirational music or NPR’s Morning Edition from my phone. My intensions were laid to rest, however, as something very mysterious happened along the way a few blocks from my home.

So I’m strolling along getting into a nice pace and grooving to this new urban gospel jam when all of a sudden the volume on my phone goes low. I could barely hear anything. I’m thinking that the phone’s volume button rubbed up against my sweater so I naturally pull the phone out and turn the volume back up. About a minute later the volume drops very low again. I couldn’t hear anything. I again turn the volume back up and the same thing happens shortly afterward. At that point, I finally ask “God is the you?”

Well of course it’s God.

As I walk further, there is a cemetery nearby, which I feel a compelling desire to walk through. My sister, whom I just lost, and my mother, whom I lost in 2011, were all up in my head. I felt a closeness to them as I walked through that peaceful, solitary graveyard. I “talk” to them for a while and then I finally have a chat with my creator, thanking Him for a lot of things and asking Him for forgiveness for some things. I ask for joy and peace at home as Ronnie and I balance obtaining our PhD’s, MFA’s, nonprofit statuses and business ventures. But more importantly, I want to hear His voice.

I really wanted to hear His voice. I tried to quiet my mind. I had so much on my mind. I decided to go ahead and just tell Him everything. So I go on and on about the things I desire for myself, my husband and my family. In that cemetery, my mind is finally at peace. At that very moment, I feel like God is saying “Chanda, everything you desire is settled. You just need to put Me first. I want to spend time with  you. I need to be your guide in your walk ahead”.  He says, “walk”…get it? Not just my physical walk around the neighborhood but my day to day WALK IN LIFE.

So, on this day I proclaim that I am devoting my morning walks to meditation and prayer.

After my walk, I return home. Get dressed. Cook breakfast for my hubby and son. We’re off to church. Ronnie and I do not fuss about anything (not to put our business out on the streets but show me a couple that doesn’t occasionally gripe over silly stuff on a Sunday morning). We enjoy the service. We enjoy a great hour of live music at Ronnie’s Sunday Jazz Production at a nearby venue.

We later attend our friend’s 50th Wedding Anniversary Party which was amazingly the funnest party I had attended in a while. We are reacquainted with so many good friends… and that small glass of pink bubbly gets me loose enough to enjoy dancing with my hubby on an empty dance floor. However, as is usually the case, once The Burrages get on the floor everyone follows. We love getting the party going. But more importantly, Ronnie and I are having fun together…loving each other…making magic together…not worrying about what anyone else thinks of us.

I believe that all of yesterday’s events were an expression of God in Action. He honored the time I spent with Him in prayer as my first fruit offering of the day. He honored my desires for my personal life. God’s loving embrace was felt all day long.

As I proclaimed earlier, I am continuing my daily prayer walks. No music. Just me and my omnipresent Walking Buddy.

Photo Credit: Chanda Burrage

What in the world is Yik Yak?

Last week at Penn State University, numerous black student groups came together to organize a week of “die in” peaceful protests to make a statement about the Michael Brown non-indictment decision and later the Eric Garner non-indictment decision. The first day of protests took place in the HUB-Robeson center. The passionate students dropped down in the middle of the bustling student center and lied there for forty-five minutes to symbolize the 4.5 minutes that Mike Brown bleed dead in the Ferguson street.


This silent exercise infuriated many of the Penn State Students and led to appalling tweets as these:


After a week of tears, anger resulting in emotional exhaustion, my pastor gathered a few of us together, including several Police Chiefs in the area to discuss the racist responses to the protesters and the perceived community ‘silence’ and apathy towards the #blacklivesmatter movement in State College.

One Penn State professor mentioned that she hears from her students that a lot of this contentious behavior is stemming from Yik Yak.

I was like, “what in the world is Yik Yak?”.

She explained that it is a social media tool that allows users to remain anonymous as they can vote positively or negatively on their friends comments. From media reports, the Yik Yak app is spreading like wildfire across college campuses and is quickly gaining investors.

Here at Penn State, the issue I find with Yik Yak, sadly, is that the negative, racist statements against the “die in” protests have been winning by a landslide. I will not resort to completely knocking Yik Yak as I have never used the app and still know very little about it. However, I do take serious issue with any tool that allows people to say hateful things against their fellow sisters and brothers of the human race while they “lie” in secret like big cowards and trolls who consistently hide behind their fake social media account names spewing venomous comments on posts they do not agree with.

Dear negative, malicious secret social media users, if you can’t say it to my face then you are representing a lily-livered, spineless, chicken-hearted and pusillanimous behavior.

Thesauruses are AWESOME!

Let’s walk in love, peace and unity – in our classrooms, on our jobs, in our churches and on social media.

…even if you disagree with the #blacklivesmatter movement.

CarbonEARTH Goes International

I am the program manager for the CarbonEARTH program places graduate fellows (scientists) in K-12 classrooms to enhance science communication. This program, funded by NSF, benefits the graduate student, the classroom teacher, the students and the general public as a whole as it aims to break down complex carbon-related themes into easy to understand inquiry-based concepts.

This year we were able to send several graduate fellows abroad to establish international research collaborations. The poster (below) very briefly summarizes some of the experiences.

Mashavu Telemedicine in Kenya

This is the very first video I created back in 2009 for a telemedicine project I worked on at Penn State. Yes, I know…it’s pretty cheezy with the Dougie Houser MD music and flying text and so forth.

Nevertheless, I was the “health policy expert”.  It’s good to know that the Mashavu venture is still going strong – aiming to reach millions of people in rural areas who need pre-primary medical care.


My son in East Africa. What an Experience!!!

I was fortunate to have my 11 year old son, Farris, tag along with me during the first phase of my dissertation research in Ethiopia and Djibouti. The experience was amazing for both of us. We bonded and Farris amazed his teachers this past year with his ability to tie classroom topics to broader global issues of poverty, inequality, environmental change, etc.

My son traveled with me to Ethiopia and Djibouti. Life changing experience!

My son traveled with me to Ethiopia and Djibouti. Life changing experience!