Prophet WalkerCEO & Co-Founder, Treehouse Co-Living
On weekends, my friends and I built treehouses and clubhouses. They served as our fortress, used to share stories and amplify each other’s imagination. We’d leave them only to explore, which consisted of the local laundromat where folks came to wash clothes and rehash the week, and to attend Sunday dinners in the neighborhood. Dinners were my personal favorite. They were always informal, mashed together and perfectly unplanned. Stories of times past, local gossip and jokes flowed throughout the night. They occurred at different homes, with random dishes, but there was a certainty about them that was reassuring. We lived in South LA near gang violence, police brutality, drugs, extreme homelessness, and we were all poor, but through it all we depended on one another. Sometimes that meant sharing gut- busting laughter. Sometimes it meant running a power cord to a neighbor’s home because they couldn’t pay their bills that month. Other times it meant giving or receiving a quiet long hug because a relative lay slain in the middle of the street. There was inherent kindness in those moments, and it made us a closer community. There was shared joy when a neighbor drove up in their newly purchased bucket (aka a beat-up car) with shiny rims while playing loud music. Everyone would gather in the street to celebrate him for saving 3 years’ worth of his earnings, only to be interrupted by someone’s grandma lovingly yelling, “Enough now, turn that damn ruckus off!”
There was shared humanity when one of our homeless uncles would stop in to grab a bite and simultaneously teach us how to fix the chain on our bikes. We’d all hug him despite his perceived filth or odor and offer him shelter in the haphazardly built clubhouse. The lessons of childhood community carried me through my time behind prison walls from ages 16 to 21. It gave me the ability to see past people’s flaws and honor their humanity. The optimistic halls of academia at Loyola Marymount, where I studied Civil Engineering, suffocated me with memories of being broke with friends, yet having the resolve that we’d be okay. And varying professional endeavors, from running for state office to developing buildings throughout California, demanded that I remain open, vulnerable and willing to discover something new with someone new at any moment. The distinct connection through it all, however, has always been kindness. Kindness has allowed me to be forgiven. It has taught me to forgive. It has grounded me in the most unsure moments and life- altering decisions. It has challenged me to push myself and others to be a reflection of our collective hopes and dreams for the world. It is the acknowledgement of vulnerability and the affirmation of our shared humanity. To me, Treehouse is now a home for this kind!