I am pleased to be contributing a weekly human interest feature to the weekend edition of NEWS784 called Diaspora Dynamics, where we will focus on keeping you abreast of the activities, achievements, and contributions of Vincentians all around the world. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Max Walker of Layou, an electrician, entrepreneur, and environmental activist based in Capitol Heights, Maryland, USA.
Max Walker has some questions. He has a lot of questions. Max has lots and lots of questions. Want to know his burning question? Here it goes. “What is my purpose in life, what is my reason for being here?”
Upon speaking with him, I found Max to be extremely animated, thoroughly engaging, and very easy to talk to. His natural curiosity and open personality made for several interesting and lively conversations, meandering around a variety of tangents in my effort to get beneath the surface.
Max Walker’s quest for some of the answers to his questions leads him to take an annual sabbatical to spend time up in the mountains near his home at Layou, St. Vincent.
“I go up in a mango tree in the mountains for a few hours daily when I am home in Vincy, just to hear what God has to say. I do that to regroup and reset my perspective for the next year. I go up there to commune with the ancestors. I reflect, and I revitalize.”
Max, an African with traces of both Scottish and Irish ancestry, left Layou where he was born and raised by his grandmother to join his parents in New York, USA, in 1996. He found the city to be chaotic, noisy and overcrowded. Within just a few weeks of emigrating, he abruptly decided to move to Washington, DC, to be closer to the cousins and aunt who stood in for his parents after they left in the mid eighties in search of more opportunities.
He enrolled in a local high school, his athleticism earning him a track scholarship to Delaware State University, a historically black university. He decided to major in physics, intending to focus on engineering. “I always like to think, and I am always fascinated with figuring out how things work. So I had some questions I needed to answer about how certain things worked.” On his breaks, he would visit his electrician father in NY to work with him as his assistant to supplement his income.
Almost three years into his program, Max’s grandmother who raised him, transitioned after a brief illness. In the midst of this period of mourning and grief, he also lost his scholarship funding for his studies. All of this was compounded when he also realized an engineering focus in physics was not offered at Delaware. Max went through a very dark and depressing period, questioning everything, including God and his very own identity. He spent hours grappling with recurring questions about his destiny and purpose. He dropped out of college to take the time he needed to think about his future direction.
Encouraged by his Trinidadian girlfriend, and now wife 10 years strong, Max took an electrician course to further develop the skills he learned from his father on his college holiday breaks. Motivated by a desire to provide for their daughter, Max was determined to achieve financial independence. He went on to establish 3W Electric, LLC, in Capitol Heights, Maryland, where he now lives with his family. 3W installs electrical wiring primarily for residential properties, as well as a few commercial clients. Max is also employed as an electrician under contract at Boeing Aircraft for the past two years, a position he professes to love as it requires constant problem solving in real time.
Remembering his grandmothers words to, “do good and good will meet you,” he regularly gives back to his community, taking gifts to the Layou youth on his annual trips home. One year, he supplied all the neighborhood boys with marbles, reviving a dying boyhood tradition in SVG’s culture. On another visit, he observed four youths sharing one set of diving glasses as they attempted to spearfish. This led him to start supplying the neighborhood boys with sets of diving glasses every year for the past three years.
SVG figures prominently in his future plans. He is passionate about his desire to see the nation realize it’s potential to be entirely energy self sufficient. Working towards that end, Max is currently fine tuning a proposal to make SVG completely energy independent through the use of clean solar, wind and water renewable energy resources. Max envisions SVG utilizing solar energy nationwide for electric power as our national standard.
“St. Vincent has an abundance of sunshine, so we can use that all over, marketing to both individual homeowners, and also neighborhood or community cooperatives. For backup, I would install micro-hydroelectric plants utilizing water to propel turbines for those living in close proximity to our many rivers. Then on the windward side, I would install wind turbines to harness the wind’s energy to supply power.”
A project of this scale requires at least $20 million USD in funding to complete, however such change would bring immediate benefits to ordinary consumers. Max estimates individual homeowners could save up to 50% off their monthly charges, depending on their rates of energy consumption.
These savings would remain in the country to assist with building up and maintaining enviromentally sound infrastructure to contend with imminent climate change and it’s effects to our weather patterns. This switch would result in producing significantly less undesirable emmissions from burning fossil fuels, reducing our carbon footprint. This would be beneficial to the environment and overall health of our citizens. He believes with the proper cooperation, funding and support, SVGs energy independence and self sufficiency can be accomplished within five to ten years.
This plan is one example of the practical applications of the principles he explored through physics. “Physics is like God. It tells you how things interact with each other. How positive things can affect negative things in a positive manner and vice versa. The application of physics to solutions to everyday problems can demonsrate the laws of life in tangible ways we can measure. From the beginning, to the middle, onto the end.”
So rounding back to where we first began, I now get to ask my own burning question of Max. “Have you figured out your particular purpose in life yet Max?”
To which he laughs and readily responds. “Yes and no. Yes, I understand my strength lies in electricity, and that offering SVG renewable energy as a stepping stone to self sufficiency is a huge part of my destiny and purpose. No, I won’t say that is my final stop as I don’t want to set any limitations on what the future may hold for me.”
From where I sit looking at Max, the sky is the limit. Max is energy in constant motion, affecting change through movement. Electricity.
By Tricia Reddock