Jazz Justice and Leadership with Kelvin Walker

/ creatives / leaders / protestors / influencers /


To have a conversation with, with your generation is thrilling to me because it gives me hope. I know this conversation is going to outlive me, but it gives me hope that not only will the con conversation continue, but there are those who are saying we've got to progress beyond where we are right now. I'm very, very thankful for that.

Kelvin Walker joins the show to contribute wisdom and perspective on racial justice in America. Kelvin is an artist, educator, and leader of leaders. Kelvin has helped so many in becoming who they are that I couldn’t think of anyone better to guide us through these important matters.


Transcript

Kelvin Walker
To have a conversation with, with your generation is, is, is, is thrilling to me because it does give me hope that I know this conversation is going to outlive me, but it gives me hope that not only will the con conversation continue, but there are those who are saying we've got to, we've got to progress beyond where we are right now. So I'm very, very thankful for that.

Simon Yost
Well, welcome everybody to a very special episode of the catch fire show. I knew a couple of months ago that I wanted to do something to talk about the justice aspects that are going on in our society right now, after much reflection, I invited a good friend Kelvin Walker to join us today. And you heard Kelvin at the top kind of rewinding a little bit in 2014, Mike Brown was shot in st. Louis, where I live and just Northern Ferguson. My wife and I had already had a trip planned when when that happened to go to the Dominican Republic. And so we took a much needed a vacation to just kind of think about our next phase of life. And I remember arriving at a resort that we were staying at. And in the first five minutes we were there the locals were talking to us about what was happening in Ferguson.

Simon Yost
And I just, it was good that I couldn't get away from it, but it, it gives, gave me a lot to think about I'm a mini and a lot in between. But a few months later I think it was in September. I came home from work about seven, seven o'clock at night, and two blocks, a two block radius around my house in st. Louis was taped off with a police line. I parked my car. I walked up to the officer, showed him my ID. They allowed me to walk home, but I learned that a young man was gunned down about four houses down from me by a off duty police officer. And there's kind of, you know, conflicting stories about what happened. But the, the gentleman wasn't armed, the young man wasn't armed. And so the protest that followed, they started, I have a block from my house and I watched for months as, as protests started from this corner store in my neighborhood and proceeded down main streets in st.

Simon Yost
Louis. That's kind of, you know, people refer to that as this Ferguson time period. And, and then recently starting with the murder of George, George Floyd. It's not even fair to say starting with, but that was one of the inflection points, right? That happened recently as George Floyd was murdered. And while it didn't happen in our backyard this time it definitely fell like we should be further in this conversation. We, the, the George Floyd should still be alive and that we should do better. So I knew I wanted to somehow bring these themes, the catch fire show, and I invited Kelvin on today to do that. Kevin has known me since I was in middle school. So it's kind of an interesting turn of events that now I'm not this kid anymore. And and I am able to learn from him in such a new way.

Simon Yost
So this is a longer episode, but I hope you'll stay with us and or, or, you know, pause and continue listening later. But I think it's, as you heard in the intro, Cohen has so much wisdom to offer. And he's a very gentle kind but bold man that we can learn a lot from. So here's Calvin. Well, we have here today with us, the man, the myth, the legend at Calvin and Calvin. I just feel a lot of grace in this interview because you've known me since I was a kid. And, and I'm not trying to make light of your age. I'm trying to make light of this idea that like this kind of grace and becoming, I don't know if that makes sense, but it's just like, it's so cool when people will continue to know you throughout your life. And you're not just like stuck in this, all the youngest, youngest siblings at this point are probably like turning off the podcast.

Kelvin Walker
Yeah.

Simon Yost
But so you're in the New York area now. Yeah. And is that the first time in your life you've lived in the Bronx recently? Or is this somewhere you're coming home to? Yeah, I mean, I grew up on long Island, so I

Kelvin Walker
I'm from New York originally. And we lived away from New York for 18 years coming back after living in, you know a couple of other counties. When I, you know, when I landed in this new position, one of the things I wanted to do was live in the city and at least the boroughs. And so we found a great place in the Bronx and I'm loving it, loving it.

Simon Yost
Cool. I, you know, it's until you live in a city with neighborhoods and I mean, st Louis neighborhoods are so small compared to what you all referred to as neighborhoods, but it's just like you I didn't appreciate until I came to st. Louis, this kind of charm or personality that some of these neighborhoods carry with the architecture and stuff. What's your favorite either where you live or around where you live, what's your favorite neighborhood?

Kelvin Walker
Yeah. so, so I love I love the neighborhoods that have like, like the old school row houses or connected in some way. We lived in Pittsburgh for, for 12 years on the North side of Pittsburgh. And we lived in rural houses it's so right now the same kind of the more duplexes or triplexes, but they're connected. I like neighborhoods that that feel connected. There is a sense of an eclectic culture about it. And so that's why, and that's what we love, you know, we love where we live. It's, you know, you know, and I know some cities like different groups, ethnic groups, or things like that are connected in, in, in neighborhoods. But what I love about ours is that it's very eclectic, you know, but but the rural houses have a sense of, has a sense of a sense of sameness, but then the individuality of them also that's, that's what drives that. That's what attracts me.

Simon Yost
So, yeah. And is the, like, is the size overwhelming of just New York and the Metro area? Is that kind of feel home and familiar to you?

Kelvin Walker
Yeah. Yeah. I don't, I'm not overwhelmed by it. I, to me, the busier the better. And so, you know, I, I like the city, but the bigger the city, the better, the more that's going on, you know, so it's been good.

Simon Yost
Cool. And in your current role, you lead leaders from all over, not only the New York Metro area, but you mentioned New Jersey and even Philly, you said,

Kelvin Walker
Yeah. We have some places in Philly that we, that we touch into that we reach into. So yeah. Wide variety, wide, a wide variety of cultures, age groups. It's interesting. I like it though.

Simon Yost
That's great. Well, tell us a little bit, I mean, you, your journey has taken you from musician, educator now, leader of leaders. How does this all work together? Like how'd you get from one to the other? I think it's just, I guess part of it is calling it

Kelvin Walker
A sense of feet feeling called to the transitions from, from being a, you know, a musician. And, and, and, and here's the other thing, though, in all of these things, there is still this common theme of working with leaders of leaders, you know when music was my primary thing that I focused on it was usually the, the, the lead musicians that I worked with, who then helped others. When I went into education working at, at, at the college, I still, I still adjunct a bit. But being, but when that was my primary focus the students I worked with were the, the leaders on campus who then I help them learn how to help others grow into leadership, you know? And so I think this transition into the capacity, the capacity I'm in now, the position I'm in now, I look back and I can see even then, you know, when I first started and was involved with the music, primarily this theme of working with leaders of leaders was just being developed in my life. So, so, you know, and I'm still, I still involved in music a bit, so cool. You know,

Simon Yost
Nords and stuff are now small enough. He can almost like carry one in your back pocket,

Kelvin Walker
So you don't have to pull my iPhone and make it. Oh my gosh. Yeah. It's pretty cool.

Simon Yost
I remember. Yeah. Well, anyway, that's those keyboards. She used to be so heavy. I mean, this is like, you're going to like break your back if you if you played any kind of keyboard. So I, I remember, I think just the the style of music, like you, you play a lot of gospel music and stuff like that. And I just, again, how long we've known each other, I remember you being one of the first players that I really heard in this style and just, you know, we met at, at a church camp and stuff like that. And I just remember kind of falling in love with some of this music through you playing it for the first time. And that is really good memories for me that that style wasn't necessarily the predominant style of, of music that in those circles, did that feel like, did you feel like a fish out of water bringing that to those folks? Or how did that, how did that play out?

Kelvin Walker
I did because there was a sense of having to figure out in the, you know, how's it going to be received and a lot, depending on how it was introduced, it was a different context. So, you know, there's always in the back of my mind, can it even be reproduced here? You know there were, there were just a number of factors, but I'm a person who enjoys challenge. So if I'm, if I'm honest, it really, I found I took it on as a challenge and it was a, you know, we, if we can't do it this way, we're gonna, we're gonna do it this way, but we're gonna get it done. So, and, and usually it turned out well. Yeah. So, so yeah, but, but yeah, a fish out of water, I don't, yeah. I don't know if I ever felt that way, but there were definitely awkward moments,

Simon Yost
So. Okay. And again, I think I was so I wasn't even tuned into some of the stuff at a time. I, I hope because of my age, but I mean, I, one thing that struck me and I wanted to get your thoughts on is, you know, recently with, with events that are happening nationally and internationally, you know, this idea of racial reconciliation, majority culture, minority culture, specifically, there's some folks that hear this, this idea of majority and minority culture. And they're like, what are you, what are you talking about? And I watched my parents grew up with friends that, you know, we're predominantly in majority culture, but, but also minority culture. I grew up my uncle is African American and native, native American, American Indian. And so I kind of grew up around these things, but I didn't get the tension. And now the tensions kind of exploding all over the place.

Simon Yost
And you know, I know it's different in all the areas, but in st. Louis, it's, it's just like a, a firecracker waiting to happen, you know? And the, the city is so geographically split to along those lines and stuff like that. And, and so you know, I know some people are seeing stuff all over Facebook and it's politicized and polarized, but, but as you're walking with people through this and, and all your leaders of leaders, and you're trying to help people through this, what, what are some of the things you're walking them through? Where do you start in this conversation?

Kelvin Walker
I always find myself starting with the, the idea of being able to see people from the lens of being the only way I can say it is people who you look at them and you see, you see God's image in them, and you see it from that, that because of that, when you see things that are unjust and when you see things that are clearly headed down the racial divide, you always call yourself what should call yourself to say, wait a minute, that person has the same image of God and them that I do. And if I see that image being marred, objectified, marginalized, discriminated against in any way, it's my job and my responsibility to speak up against that. And so, you know right now what we're seeing is, you know, the racial tensions that are happening.

Kelvin Walker
And so as I'm, as I'm working with with leaders it's also reminded to myself I need to call, call, call racism out in whatever form I see it, you know, because that's someone who's, who's, who's been looked at through a lens of of being devalued. And in that lens of them being the valued, that's also a morphing of the image that I share with them because of the image of that. So I don't know if I've answered your question, but you know, that's, that's, that's sort of the theme that I've been going on with peers, you know? Yeah. So,

Simon Yost
And then as this is this is not easy stuff to, I mean, these are hard conversations. And so we're talking about this at a pivotal point, at least in our century with the COVID, you know, the novel virus, because not only are we having hard conversations that might emotionally stretch us and, and push us emotionally, you know, hopefully not apart, but I mean, it's, it's, it's tense, but then we're also dealing with the virus causing physical distance. So you're not able to meet in buildings, you know, schools, movie, theaters, churches. Right. And so, as you are, are working with folks that are, are trying to bring people together and, and trying to keep a sense of community in these, in these groups that you're leading and your leaders are leading. How do you talk about that? This idea of gathering in the midst of this tension? Yeah.

Kelvin Walker
Before I answer that, if I could just jump back on and, you know, on something that you said, you know, here we are in the midst of this virus, so, you know, we've got distance. That is the problem. But I also say that in that there's an opportunity because there's no other time in history where we've been in a position where we can't run away from the topic. You know, the fact that we are home, the fact that every really, you know, everyone's glued to either news or social media or whatever, it might be tracing what's going on with the virus, the fact that we're here, we can't get away from it. So it forces us to have to have the conversation. So I see it. I see, I see it as a pretty opportune time. And the way that I've been approaching those conversations is I've had to be more present on social media than, than I've ever been.

Kelvin Walker
And quite honestly, then I care to be because I, I like to put up a boundary about what I'm taking in and, you know, but it's forced me to, to use social media in a different way. I've had more phone conversations been a part of webinars obviously zoom podcasts. And I just, I'm just taking advantage of any opportunity to use whatever platform that has been afforded to me to have the conversation, if, if I'm present in the, in the, in the places that are afforded to me, the platforms that are afforded to me, I'm finding that indirectly I'm having a conversation and that does then lead to a bigger conversation or have a more pointed, directed conversation with the individual. So that's how it's been happening for me. It's been good. It's been challenging. There's, there's no doubt about it. It's, it's, it's been hard, but it's been really good. And I find, I see people leaning in

Simon Yost
And so, well, I mean, it might be too early to tell, but are there any hopeful things that have stuck out or things you've heard in

Kelvin Walker
Response to the conversation that have encouraged you? Yeah, I think ah,

Kelvin Walker
I would say for the first time I've been, I've been, I've been around a long time.

Kelvin Walker
So and this, this we been at points like this in the past. But I think for the first time there there's genuine desire to have open honest conversation together.

Kelvin Walker
Would I say that that's across the board? No,

Kelvin Walker
I don't think it ever is across the board, but I see more, more leaning in and more saying, we, we can't, we can't do this. We can't address this. We can't combat this and maybe even eradicate this without doing it together. And we're

Kelvin Walker
To help, to help you understand what we're about.

Kelvin Walker
I'm about to say, I think there are four components to addressing the the racial and socioeconomic tensions that we're facing. One is listening probably that's number two, number one would be lamenting. And that is coming to a place where we can, we, we can cry out and grieve together, but the, what it is that we're lamenting doesn't happen without number two, which is listening. And I see more people taking on a posture of listening than I have ever in the past. I see more people saying, listen, if I'm just listening to media and I'm just watching the news and I'm just listening to, you know, what society

Kelvin Walker
And he says about this, I've got some crazy ideas, but what I want to know is your story. Tell me your story. So you got, you've got the lament, you've got the listening for the story out of that comes the learning, you know? Okay. So I didn't, I didn't, you know, I would never have understood the fact that there are systems and, and things like that that are still in play. If I hadn't, if I hadn't heard this story, so I'm learning something which then propels me to want to learn more. So the, the reading lists are growing. The conversations out of those reading lists are growing. The I'll put it this way. The, the right sizing of history is happening. It's not just a, this kind of glossed over thing where we're seeing both the good and the ugly, you know,

Kelvin Walker
It's from that. Then I, then the fourth thing launching, you know, now, now what, what is it that we must act upon to change? And I see that happening together in ways that I've not seen it in the past, you know, it's, it's global, you know, this is a global, I'm having conversations with people from the Netherlands, you know, that's never happened. And some would say, well, yeah, we live in a digital age. So it makes it possible. Yes, that's true. I don't want to deny that or diminish that, but the fact that there's interest globally in having these conversations and saying, we don't want to see this continue. Not, you know, not just for, for the U S but for the world, that's never happened.

Simon Yost
I I'm finding myself, I'm assuming, but then I can assume what are some of the through lines like when you're talking internationally, what are some of the through lines in those conversations? Or how does it translate through culture and, and location

Kelvin Walker
Question what are the, what are the through lines that I'm hearing is history. People say, you know what, I'm now interested in finding out what my home country's history is, you know? And even in places where they say, well, we don't necessarily have a racial tensions like you do. One of the through lines is where, where, where are the places of injustice where I live that I now must be a person who brings justice to the ingest places, or the unjust things that are happening in society in the country that I live. Those are two things that that, that seemed to be a common theme. And and that kind of back to, to, you know, how, how I started this people say, you know, how can I, how can I look at this from the perspective of respecting the diversity that we have. But also seeing that diversity from a perspective of, you know, we, we, we all, we all in our diverse ways of their God's image and how we celebrate that rather than making that a dividing thing, you know? So those are some of the common themes that I'm hearing. Yeah,

Simon Yost
Man, that sounds like a cool place to be too, like celebrating our diversity. And I mean, that could lead to some pretty cool parties and celebrations, man,

Kelvin Walker
Can I go somewhere else? Just kind of picking up on that. I think one of the things that has hurt us in this, in this quest to, to see diversity as something that is good and celebrate it and, and also then bring to the table, the diverse ways of doing things and understanding things and leading and all this. I think one of the things that's hurt us is this idea. And I might get in trouble here. I hope adult, but you know, this idea of us being a melting pot, because when you talk about a melting pot, you basically are saying, you know, while we come from all different places, we're assimilation. And so though a melting pot really brings things down to sameness, you know, and even if, even I've heard the analogy of, of saying, well, if we can't use melting pot and let's use salad bowl, well, but even with a salad, there's a dressing that's poured over it.

Kelvin Walker
You know? I like the illustration of a stew because you, you, you know, even though the Stu has this, this, this base root that is put together to be that rule has all the flavors of all the different components and you can, you can, you can taste the distinct flavors, even within the unifying piece of that, of that, on that roof. And so I, I don't think we get to the place where we can fully celebrate the diversity that we have and appreciate the different cultural expressions in leadership in, in life, in, in family, in all of those things. I don't think we can fully get there until we break this idea of the melting pot now. And that's gonna be hard because that's been the, the the narrative For forever, you know? So

Simon Yost
To go with that analogy, but the stew and things like that need some time to coalesce. Sometimes I make something the crock pot it's not ready for a few hours. What does it look like starting out then? Like, what is it? What's step one,

Kelvin Walker
I feel like step one is coming to the table and sitting down and having conversations and not just the surface things of, yeah. How do we get along The hard conversations from of what, what keeps us from, from living together in unity, even in the midst of depression, We are afraid to have those conversations. And on the one hand, I understand why they they're difficult. They can be volatile, but if we start from the place of Listen I see something Thinking, you, you see something in me that connects us. Then we, we push through the difficulties of the differences and we may have be at that table and say, okay we just need to take a breather and let this simmer going back to the, the analogy, let this simmer for a minute so that we can let things kind of marinate and mixed together, and then come back to the discussion, but there's gotta be a commitment to coming back to the discussion, you know?

Simon Yost
And there's an understanding. There's gotta be an understanding that this is for the long haul

Kelvin Walker
We live, you know, we we want it, we want crop part results with microwave time, and it doesn't work that way. It just doesn't, it's not successful. If you think about how quickly something cools down, when you take it out of the microwave, I, it might be, it might be like, you know, burn the roof over your mouth when it comes out hot, but it really, within a matter of seconds, in some cases, it calls down to the point where you might, you need to put it back in the microwave, you take something out, a crock pot, you put it on the right plate. That's going to stay warm for a while. You know, we want crop pot results in microwave time. And when it comes to conversations about diversity, about justice about, you know, what, what, what would, can we imagine together what a culture would look like, where we in our, in the beauty of our diversity live together in unity, those conversations, and those things don't happen in record time, they happen over the long haul, kind of

Simon Yost
You just a little bit to a music analogy. So I'm going to mix the two. So it's like, we're, we're building the stew and, and we're in it for the long haul. And so there's going to be some time that passes. And then, you know, maybe we, we poke our head up one day and we're like, I hope that I'm going towards the right thing. Or, you know, I hope we're, we're sitting in the right. And so to kind of go to a music analogy, like I, I can kind of wrap my mind around the idea of, you know, somebody that's trained in gospel music, on keyboard, for example, and leaning towards, you know, styles of the other musicians and somebody on drums that's chained and trained in jazz. And, you know, and then they, they might all be together, play something that's more of a rock feel, but it would kind of be toned. I can get my mind around that kind of stuff. But like I guess my point that I'm trying to get at is it would take a high level of skill and maturity of all those players potentially to get that respect that I just described. And so when you're talking about this Crock-Pot thing, it's like, What, how, how do we, You have to show up for each other as we sit down at the table, how do we have to continue to show up or continue to learn and listen, to get to this point where we are meshing in ways that enhances the diversity and celebrates the diversity?

Kelvin Walker
Two words, love and humility, love and humility. If we don't come from a place where we're going to purpose to love each other, through whatever the tough conversations are. And if we don't take the posture of humility in the conversation we will spend all our time posturing and, and trying to trying to get our point across and not really listening and not really learning. You mentioned music. And you, you said jazz jazz may be probably the best illustration of this because in jazz you have a landing place, you know no matter where you go and no matter where you improvise, you always come back to that landing place. You always have the same goal. You always have the same end result. You want to start together. You want to end together and the in between can go different places.

Kelvin Walker
The other thing about jazz is whoever the leader is, while it's clear that they're leading, they do it from a place of humility, because they're not always the one soloing. They may be the one who's calling, who's doing the solos, and they may at some point even pass that off to someone else. But it's, it's not, it's not, it's not my way or the highway when it comes to improvisation. The thing with improvisation and with jazz is we have to start together. We have to end together. So we must always be conscious of where the one is. Must always be conscious of where the downbeat is. And if you're not counting in your head for that downbeat, then you don't know how to call people back to where we want to be. And I think in this conversation, I'm leading the conversation and leading it well has to be someone who continually calls people back to the downbeat and say, okay, well, you're not on all these tangents. It's not that those things aren't important, but this is the reason why we're at the table. This is the conversation we're having. Let's get back to the boundary freedom within the framework of how we do it, but we must always come back to the downbeat. That's where we tell the site.

Simon Yost
I love that, man. I have more questions, but part of me is just like, we should just end there right there. So that's really good.

Kelvin Walker
This is the first time I've had a conversation like this with someone who knows and understands and appreciates music. This is fun.

Simon Yost
Let's go on the downbeat thing. So there's a book, white fragility. I haven't read the whole thing. But it's this concept, right? That it's, it's, it's just gonna take some, some kind of awareness and, and some lamenting and stuff like that to get to a place where some folks can, can talk about some of this stuff. When you talk about coming back to the downbeat, you have some minority culture that has been so hurt for so long. And then, and then you have folks that are trying to work through this white fragility stuff and all these other perspectives in the conversation, you know, at the most it's complex trauma at the least it's you know, some hurt feelings. How do you kind of step into this mess, you know? And, and and get some clarity. Like this downbeat thing is interesting to me, it seems very clear. And I'm like, especially when everybody is a, it's sad, it's like, what are some markers that you, You know, that you're kind of getting that downbeat? I keep coming back to, this is all, this is not in order to see the realities that exist when it comes to the topics of injustice and things like that you gotta have the stories. But you, I think, I, I think I start to see progress when a person's story is able to be told without the, the fear of when I'm done, all of the rebuttals are going to come, you know when you come to the table with your rebuttals, immediately, you come not as a listener, you don't come as a learner. You come as someone who's ready to instruct. And I think that's been part of the problem. You know everyone comes with their opinion as if their opinion is the only opinion, and there is no other opinion.

Kelvin Walker
So I'm going to listen to it. I'm going to listen to your story. I want to listen to your experience, but I'm really only listening. So I can wait for my, my moment to jump in and tell you how you're wrong. And for me, how do you tell somebody that their experience is wrong? How do you tell someone that the narrative that they've lived is wrong? The only way you do that is if you're coming to the table with the idea of instruction, rather than then listening, and then if I'm coming to the table really possible. Yeah. I'm a pastor I'm pastored to listen and I'm pastor to learn no way. I walk away from the table without asking myself where might I be? Where might I have, where might, where might I be living in a way that is that unconsciously perpetuating this, or I've been a part of this?

Kelvin Walker
You know, I think one of the, one of the common responses is, well, you know, slavery has been over for, for a long time. We've got the civil rights movement, you know things are better without realizing. It's really only been what, 55 years or so since the civil rights movement, you know? So if that's the case and that generation has not fully passed off, then that means the still a bit of a mindset that has that that's tied over and the, without, without really leaning into story and narrative, we then don't give ourselves, or challenge ourselves to ask the question, though, this may not have made. Maybe I didn't, I wasn't a part of this, or I didn't cause this, but where might I, where might I be? Where might it that I'm perpetuating this mentality that I wasn't even aware of when I see that happening in a way of, again, coming to the table with humility and people not feeling threatened and not taking on a posture of, let me re let me, let me be, but what you've just said, I think that's where I'm, that's when I start to see what coming back to the one, because you cannot deal with and get rid of that, which you are not willing to be aware of, you know, and then you talked about, you know, this idea, The sitting at the table and listening well, not just seeking To instruct I think

Simon Yost
Sometimes it feels a little vulnerable to do that, which is fine. But and, and so I think, I, I think people need to get comfortable with that, but there's also this thing just to, you know, to bring our jazz analogy back. The more I learned about jazz, The more I see the dignity and the Handoffs, right? The more I see the dignity and how it's, you know, there's, there's, people are waiting, people are patient, you know, people get a solo, but the ratio of solo denounce all the time is, you know, there's more way more non solo time than solo time. And so I know that at the heart of, of what we're talking about here, there's this immense dignity for everyone. Right? And that, because, because someone's listening that doesn't diminish Dignity I guess Softball, is there enough dignity to go around?

Kelvin Walker
I think there is. I think if we look at, if we look at jazz on the terms of equal and equitable everyone is an equal player, but everyone gets equitable soul time. And so my solo time may not be quite as long as yours in this piece, but I've gotten an equitable amount because it may be that your piece calls for more solo time at this time. But that also means you have to have the humility of being able to say, well, this is not my sole time, you know, and you all, and we also have to then come to the place where we are willing to submit to the person who is leading, who may, who calls the shots on, who gets a little time. And I think if we can bring this full circle, what we're afraid to admit or what we don't want to admit, or what we don't want to acknowledge is that for centuries you know, it's been, it's been white America, that's called the solo time. That's called the shots. And I think the outcry now is this, Hey, we all need to be equal players in the band, but the equitable calling of the shots has to, has to happen. And I think that's part of the outcry that's happening, you know, does that, does that connect, do you think? Oh, yeah.

Simon Yost
Yeah. And then to go, so to launch off that, just going to the socioeconomic part of all of the, this, this topic, I watched part of an interview with dr. King, I think it was NBC that recorded it a few months before he was assassinated. And one of the clips he talks about in his words, he doesn't have a problem with the idea of people picking themselves up by their bootstraps, but he, he went on to say, and I'm paraphrasing that we're dealing with folks that have been bootlace for a long time. And so, you know, you're talking about this idea of now we need to have even calling the shots, but I mean, there's some folks that are still getting their boots and have had to endure for a long time. What does that look like?

Kelvin Walker
I think it looks like an honest evaluation of the systems and the structures that prepare the boots and where the resources are and how those resources are distributed. And I don't think that that means that well, I want to be careful because I know there are a lot of, a lot of roads that people go down with this. Let me just say this, you cannot get from a person what has not been provided for them. And so, so if, if you're saying, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, but the person you're talking to perpetually lives in a state, a state of having no boots given to them, then that just does not work. We have failed to admit that we have left some people in some segments of society. Bootlace not just for a short period of time, but a long history. And until we admit that until we turn away from that, but until we say, we're going to repair the broken places that has caused that we continue to just have this conversation that goes round and round and round. And, you know, they'll say round around, around and goes where it stops. Nobody knows because we're not getting at the core of the problem. Yeah. And it's hard to get to that core if you're coming from a place of having the boots, because, because to you, I've got my boats. Yeah. And I know my feet, my feet, and I even know some people like you who have some boots. Okay. But the core issue still is you've got a vast majority of people who are bootlace and we're not.

Simon Yost
And then I'm suggesting this word and you can, you know, jump on another word. We can, you know, go with this, however, but just say the, this prosperity. Right? So if, if, if what we just talked about bootlace Snus was, was where we're starting at, and then we're going to a new place, call it prosperity. If there's other words that are, that fit better in your mind, we can, we can talk about that. What does this prosperity look like when we have the stew and we've done this, you know, and, and the stew starting to come together, what are some of those markers?

Kelvin Walker
Due to, you mentioned King earlier, he talked about this being like the beloved community. Some of those markers are where we, where we can from all of our different backgrounds, sit at the table together and be able to evaluate where there is lack and, and how we, how we address that. You know, again we're where everyone has equal opportunity with the understanding that there must also be equitable results. And, and that, that I likened to a an all wheel drive car, you know all of the wheels have the ability to have power, but at the certain time more power is pushed in one direction than the other. You know, that doesn't mean that, that doesn't mean that eat these meals don't have equal value, but whatever's being monitored there knows when I've got a, I've got to give that right rear wheel and that front left wheel a little more power to get us out of the situation that we're in, you know you know, that, that has to be a constant thing.

Kelvin Walker
That's why I say it's a long haul because you don't, there is there while there is that there's a, there is a hundred percent of the celebration when we see it, but there's also a hundred percent of evaluation so that we don't slip back into where things were. That's the piece that we don't want. We just want, we just want to get there. And so I hear a lot of we're having this conversation, and again, I'm 75 years from now. We'll be having this conversation. My hope is that it looks different. And, and my, my, the reason why I say that is because you can still have this conversation from a place of advancement and still looking to, okay, how do we continue to advance? Right now, I think we have it as a conversation from a place of continued deficit, because we're not willing to have to look at it and have the hard words that need to be said,

Simon Yost
Okay, you were just talking about the idea of the all wheel drive car. And I read part of a parenting book. One of the thoughts was almost whatever time period it is maybe two months or a quarter, you might just to help your family all going on the same page. You're maybe creating a thematic goal. You know, like, Hey, we're going to get person healed from surgery, or, you know, we have a little kiddo and they're gonna do a potty training or, you know, whatever the season is, it's might be a different kind of thematic goal. And so as we gather together and and do this all wheel drive, so that kind of came to mind, this idea of like, well, that should expand then out of my nuclear family, to the group that I'm in, you know, it's like, we're all moving together, you know?

Simon Yost
And at times the thematic goal isn't gonna change. I know that, you know, just kind of going back to some stuff, you said that we have a unique opportunity to have this conversation, why COVID is going on as we move forward. What do you think the scope of those groups are like, if I'm extending this kind of thematic goal or helping people out, you know, I'm going to help my neighbors, what does that look like in, you know, as COVID restrictions start to lift, or as they don't like, how am I able to take some steps?

Kelvin Walker
So with this, I think you continue to connect with the groups that you, you find yourself connecting with even now and ask the question, how do we expand this group and invite others into it? And what are the topics that are important to this conversation that we also need to address? You know I think let's just, let's just take systems. We're not just talking about systems that relate to to economics. We're also talking about systems that relate to education. We also talk about systems that re relate to the judicial system. You know, we it's multifaceted multi-dimensional but they're all, they're all important conversation to have because the goal is justice. You know what I mean? And so I think, I think you, it, it expands as we're willing to say, Hey, we're getting somewhere, it's going to take more than us. Who else, who else needs to be at the table? Who else needs to have not only equal space, but equitable voice, and what are the topics that, that go along with that?

Simon Yost
Cool. Well, I mean, I think I'm glad to wrap it there. Do you have anything else you want to add?

Kelvin Walker
Just that I am, I'm really honored to have this conversation with you with with your generation. Most of the conversations I've been having, or my generation, or just under me to have a conversation with, with your generation is, is, is, is thrilling to me because it does give me hope, hope that that I know this conversation is going to outlive me. I'd be naive to think that this would all be taken care of in my generation, but it gives me hope that not only will the con conversation continue, but there are those who are saying, we've got to, we've got to progress beyond where we are right now. So I'm very, very thankful for that.

Author Bio

Kelvin Walker
Kelvin Walker

Educator, Pastor, and Musician
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