The past 24 months have gone by swiftly, that I can hardly believe that my time is up as a Bush Fellow. Thinking back over these past 2 years, I have recognized the growth and development through this experience of being a Bush Fellow. This has been one of the best things that I have been blessed and favored to experience in my 42 years of life outside the birth of my children and marrying my wife. I had no idea what to expect on this journey of self-discovery. As with anything, we ask ourselves the critical question of, what do I wish I had known prior to starting this journey now that it is concluding? What I hope and what I have learned is that life doesn’t always move in a linear fashion. Two years go by so fast it almost feels like a complete blur, but all the learning that occurred throughout that time will stay with me for years and years to come.
Its only now at the completion of the journey that I have the opportunity to be still and look back on the two years. I wish I would’ve known the process, and what I mean by the process is not the process of what the Bush Foundation expected but the process of what I expected, the process of how I was going to reach the goals I set, the process of not knowing but wanting to know. I had to realize that there’s really no direct flights in self-discovery. Every single day, we must continue to learn how we can impact those that we come in contact with, how we can impact those in which we serve within our organizations, and how we can impact our families on a daily basis for the better. Also I never truly understood what it meant to focus on self-care. I don’t know if we have been taught or if it’s been explained in detail on how to care for yourself. What I have found out is that practices I thought was self-care was actually about the care of others. I think this is a struggle that I will continue to have throughout my life. I see so much value in serving others and most times I forget about myself. What was said to me but I wasn’t able to hear it clearly was that in order to best serve others, we ourselves have to be cared for, to refresh and replenish so that we can continue doing the work that we so much love to do for others. Realizing this has been a hard pill to swallow. Moving forward, I will continue to get better at this and not apologize or feel bad when I stop and take time to recharge, as a Black man I have to be mindful of my health and well-being to ensure that I am here for the long haul for my immediate family and to continue the work that I have been fortunate enough to have been chosen to be part of.
Throughout these two years, there has been many things that have stood out to me over the course of this journey. None more important than discovering and utilizing my voice. Not to mean that it was lost, but being intentional finding opportunities and moments when my voice needs to be louder for sharing thoughts and perspectives that may not be of the mainstream dominant cultures perspective. In the past I thought I was already performing at a high level but as these past two years went by, I recognized that there were many times where I was silent, many times where I could have said more and I didn’t. I have made a commitment moving forward that I will no longer be silent I will no longer allow things to be said in the spaces where I reside that are promoting a narrative that is not conducive for the betterment of black males that I serve. I am also pleasantly surprise that with my laser focus on the supports and being an unapologetic advocate for black males, I have also become more vocal for other marginalized groups. As I continued to learn and grow around the plight of black males, I had no choice but to apply this learning to others. Once you learn about others plights and how they themselves are marginalized it’s nearly impossible to sit there and not speak up in those spaces where their voices are absent. I will be the first to admit that while I’m not an expert on every marginalized group, I do find it very important that we speak up when they are not there to speak for themselves. Although speaking up is a very important component, there is a much broader concern, which is are we advocating for them to have their own seat at the table? I view this as a critical component.
In conclusion, the experiences and opportunities that have been afforded to me through being a Bush Fellow is unmatched by anything I have ever been part of. As I continue on my journey through the PhD process and life itself, I am reminded that I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams. I know that Michael V. Walker will always be true to himself and the community from which he was raised.