It has been said that words alone are powerful, powerful enough to change lives; but words and ideas can change the world.
Baldwin native Zach Walker took a trip that proves this to be true.
Walker graduated from Baldwin High School with the Class of 2017. He attended the University of Wisconsin Madison for one semester (majoring in Mechanical Engineering) before transferring to Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. to study journalism.
“To me, journalism is so much more than writing news briefs. It is a way of looking at the world. Journalism is the study of stories and why they matter. It has taught me that every person I encounter has a story just as complex and important as my own. I find that if I view others through a journalistic lens, with a focus on validating individual stories, I lead a more respectful, kind, and whole life,” he said.
Walker recently traveled to India as part of an experience of writing for Textura India Magazine.
Textura India was conceived through the partnership of Bethel journalism professor, Dr. Scott Winter and cultural guide and host in Titram, Haryana, Mukesh Kumar.
Walker is part of the second Textura magazine created by the Bethel journalism and design departments.
Walker said, The purpose of Textura was to tell stories that matter. We traveled to rural northwest India to meet people with complex, important narratives and to amplify their voices. Textura was more than academics; it was a passion project. Our team of 20 student reporters, designers, photographers, and videographers cared deeply about the project and the people of India who made it possible by boldly sharing their stories. Ultimately, Textura is meant to provide a richer picture of India and the people who reside there and thus, encourage readers to recognize that, within every individual, there is a valuable narrative.”
Walker said he has travelled a fair bit throughout his life. “Most recently before India, I toured with the Bethel Choir to Sweden, Estonia, and Latvia. But India was by far my most life-changing travel experience,” he said.
Walker shared in the rural villages of Haryana, he met some of the most beautiful, joyous people he has ever had the pleasure of knowing. Walker said, “At the same time, those people had experienced extreme trauma and loss, feelings I have not come to know to such a degree in the last 22 years.”
A specific moment that stood out to him happened outside their hotel on the final night of the project. “We invited our sources to a gathering of food, dancing, and sharing our thanks. Among those sources was a young woman named Geeta on whom I reported for four days. She lived with her mother, Shimla, and abusive, alcoholic father, Ramkaran. She was uneducated despite offers to study at a local dance academy, an opportunity silenced by her father. Her story was one of oppression and trauma, but she was a woman of extreme joy. At the party, she danced to traditional Haryanvi music. Her feet stomped the ground with a force I had never seen. She smiled the whole time. Geeta, despite a lifetime of trauma, taught me what real joy, and real strength means,” said Walker.
Walker said the language barrier proved to be a difficult part of the project. “Being in India, we did not speak Hindi, the native language of our sources. Therefore, we had to use translators in our reporting. This was personally difficult as much of my reporting relies on improvisational questioning and banter with a source. However, our translators proved to be invaluable resources and caring friends. They also acted as cultural guides, introducing us to local communities and allowing us to report with the utmost respect and intention,” he said.
Walker said it was difficult to leave after such an emotional, meaningful storytelling experience, but it has been a privilege to share the stories with local communities.
He said, “My life centers around storytelling. I’ve been doing it since I was a toddler and would reenact toy commercials in the kitchen for my parents. Storytelling is the way I understand the world. It’s what makes sense to me. If I could inspire or touch even one person with a story of India and the beautiful people I met there, I’d be satisfied.”
To read the many stories Walker’s team worked so hard on or to find ways to support the project, visit seektextura.com.