Addressing racial wealth gaps

Our Commitment

Report date
January 2021
Learning Log

It is with great honor to explore possibilities as a Bush Fellow. I was most excited to apply and I wondered if my plan was going to be good enough to be considered. I understood the chances were slim to none. I was forced to really be concise on what I put down in the application because of the limitation on characters. I thought I knew what I wanted to say but I wondered if I was saying it. I was fortunate and thankful when I made through each round. Throughout the process, I kept trying to strengthen my plan. I wanted to do a self-directed learning journey over a two year period. I felt this was going to be the best way for me to gain the knowledge and skills to be the most effective leader in my community. My plan was to travel, meet experts, attend conferences, seminars, and workshops on the areas I wanted to strengthen. Please keep in mind that when I was writing my journey, it was before the pandemic and as the fellows were going to be announced, the pandemic hit and the world was closing down. As I watched New York City first experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak, I was unsure of what was to come with the program. I also got news that the Bush Foundation leadership was postponing programs and redirecting resources to help with the pandemic. I was sure the Bush Fellowship program was going to send a notice that this year was going to be put on hold. But they did the opposite and assured us all that the program will move forward. We will adjust to the new norm. Early on, I was not sure about the process and I wanted someone to tell me what to do. I had a plan and because of the pandemic, I knew it was not going happen the way I envisioned. Instead of meeting other fellows in person, we meet over zoom. It is an ever-evolving norm of today. I wanted to physically be present and seek out that one person to tell me what to do. The zoom meeting was extremely helpful and when I heard from former fellows, I realized that I can still move forward. I am thankful for the opportunity to have a leadership coach. My leadership coach offers me ideas and assurances. She helps me realize that I am not crazy but that I am on the right path. The thing is, our learning journey is an evolution. It is not always set-in stone and adjustments can be made. It is not about seeking approval or getting a grade. It is about how this learning experience will help you grow. Evolve with whatever norm is on the table and find a way to make yourself whole. The leader within will surface.

The pandemic was not the only event taking place. George Floyd was murdered by the law enforcement. The movements for change became more amplified. In 2016, as a former Tribal Chairman, I was at the center of a movement. And as I look back at my experiences, I now have a new perspective. A movement happens because of inequities and the need for change. I see two roles that are key in making that change happen. One role is an activist who at a macro level builds awareness about the desired change. The other is an advocate who at a micro level is working towards change. Activists and advocates are on two different paths that often cross. An activist will protest to build awareness and usually they will protest to a politician who has evolved from an advocate. There is a natural conflict between both the activist and the advocate. The activist wants to change the law as the advocate tries to build a law. They are like oil and water, the two do not mix. Throughout history, there have been several movements and change has happened which created equity. But in my perspective, I believe significant change happens when the activist and the advocate are not at odds but agree. In that moment, the opportunity for change is elevated. And when you look back in history, the greatest changes happened when the two mixed. When they do mix or see eye-to-eye, or agree, it is a short window. That moment doesn’t last long and then they separate once again. To get to a place where the protestor and the politician can see eye-to-eye, the wrong must be amplified via a demonstration or movement. But the demonstration must be peaceful to pull the politician in. Violence seems to create more division. When Jacob Blake was shot by law enforcement, the activists began to amplify another wrong. Some of the activists had a platform or a stage to do so. The NBA team Milwaukee Bucks protested the wrong. But they did it the most peaceful way and refused not to play in a playoff game. They could have been violent and destroyed the arena, but they simply decided not to play. And soon other professional athletes and teams did the same. And then you saw the Mayor (a politician or an advocate) come out with a statement that systemic changes need to happen. Unity with peaceful awareness building. Also, just because one is an activist doesn’t mean they will never be an advocate. And just because one is an advocate doesn’t mean they will never become an activist. It is the path that an individual will take for change to happen. For example, before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a member of the US House of Representatives (politician or an advocate) she was first an activist. She traveled to Flint, Michigan and to Standing Rock protesting the wrongs of this nation and the world.

To reflect on what happened in my past and try to bring some understanding only helps me with what is happening with the current events. I don’t think I have the solutions, but a better understanding and I am thankful for the Bush Fellowship for the opportunity.