To the future Bush Fellowship Cohorts, I share this words with you as a 2022 Fellow as this is something that you earned and deserve....
I was reflecting and thinking back on the process it took to become a Bush Fellow. I had known about the Bush Fellowship for some years but since the application was only open once in a year, I always missed the timing for even considering submitting the initial application. In hind sight, one learning lesson I have from this journey is that timing is everything. Like I said, I had known about the Fellowship for several years and had repeatedly missed the application deadline because my "timing was off". There were some years my timing was off by a few weeks and there were others years my timing was off by a few months. Yet when I finally applied, the timing was perfect. To my 2023 cohort of Fellows, you have to know that the timing for this fellowship and your life is perfect. What I learned about timing is that somethings we want in life may not be tangible in this current season of life, and that's okay. We've learned that we must be patient and don't grow weary in doing the best for our people because in due season we will reap the rewards of the hours that we have poured out in labor and love for our communities.
To my future Bush Fellow cohorts of brothers and sisters, I have learned along this journey that there is a divine power to social wealth that we gain from expanding our network of relationships. I started focusing my studying on looking at abolishing the wealth gap in the Black families in the Twin Cities and now Im seeing how "social wealth" can improve conditions of family and community. I've been in my fellowship for less than a year and because of my fellowship I have added at least 12 new people in my relationship circle. All 12 of these individuals have households that are earning at least $100k a year which means these 12 new relationships have put in connection with a group of people earning $1.2M a year and over a 20-year relationship this group of 12 people will have earned at least $25M. As yo go through your fellowship, I would encourage you to add at least one influential person to your relationship network each month. I would also encourage you to add at least 3 people to your inner relationship every year. Over this past year I have added four people to my inner relationship. It just so happens that all four are formerly elected officials whom, separately, have been telling me that I need to run for an elected position in which I could impact policy change.
To be completely honest, I never seen myself running for an elected position because despite having a BA and Masters of Public Administration, I have a mental mode that people would attack my incarceration at the age of 21 and I dont want to have to defend that. On today, April 24, 2023 I was cleaning out a old tote that i had in my storage and I found my release papers from prison. I haven't seen these papers in about 15 years and in these papers is the original application that I sent to Twin Cities RISE (TCR) to join there job training program. It has my original signature with a date of July 29, 2005 a few months before my release date of Dec. 29, 2005 when I got out early on work-release. They accepted my application and I started the TCR training program in January 2006, just 2 weeks after I got out of prison. I finished their program in 4 months and then they offered me a job as Re-Entry Housing and Employment Specialist. Back in October 2022 TCR honored me at their annual gala and being a Bush Fellow helped sway the decision to honor me at their gala. In these papers was also the letter of recommendation the my trial judge, The Honorable Pamela Alexander, sent me 6 months before I got out. Earlier I mentioned "the power and value of relationships".... While I was in prison I would write Judge Alexander at least once a year to let her about what I was working on. These papers have my official prison work record and behavior history from 2004 and at the this time I was in prison my full-time job at Moose Lake prison was going to college. I earned my first 32-college credits from Sept 2003 - May 2004 in prison while they paid me 50 cent a hour. It also shows that my full-time job at Rush City prison from May 2003 - Sept 2003 was an Education Tutor in the GED classes at the age of 22, while serving a sentence. For two years I had sent Judge Alexander letters about what I was doing and never received a reply back. However, I did send her an update letter a few months before I was applying for early release through the work release program and I asked her if she would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for work release application. This was a bold ask on my behalf considering that Judge Alexander was my trial judge so I was surprised when I got piece mail while I was in Faribault prison and it was a letter from Judge Alexander with her recommendation. This is a letter that I still have on her Fourth District Court letterhead, dated March 24, 2005. My case manger made copies of the letter for me and I included a copy of this letter to my application to TCR. This is another demonstration of how social wealth can capital can be a benefit because I doubt I would have gotten 7 of the 8 months of early prison release had Judge Alexander never sent me that letter.
But while I was going through these papers, I had a thought, "Would they allow a Black man who has been to prison serve in an elected position in MN?" But I've learned that its not about what "they" think and its more about what "i" want to set out and achieve. So to my future Fellows, there are some of you who are "the first" and you are the first because you decided to challenge your own self and the odds that were stacked against you. I'm the first college graduate in family with a BA and Masters. Years ago I never imagined that people would seriously encourage me to run for an elected office. Im sure that years ago some of you would never thought that you have accomplished the things you've been able to. There is nothing wrong with being the first and a trend setter. A wise man once said "One who stands along the path and points the way is merely a pointer and a block of wood could do that. The true leader is the one who goes along the path, cutting down the brush and weeds, clearing a path for other to follow".
One activity I completed last week as part of my Fellowship was a trip to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama to visit the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Justice and Peace as well as the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University. It was a deep and moving experience that allowed me to reflect on my responsibility to advocate for the political, social, and financial levers of investment that is need in the Black community of American Decedents of Slavery (ADOS). During this journey I have re-learned the value and impact of looking back at our history to reflect on the lessons, spirits, and energies that our ancestors left behind. For future fellows, it is ok for you to take to time to visit and tour museums and historical sites that is connected to your ancestors past. Spending those days last week in Alabama and seeing the sights and places where historical Civil Rights actions took place will have an ever lasting impact on me. I've heard and watched scenes of the Montgomery bus boycott, but to be in the actual city and take walking tours was an entirely different experience.