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Living the Dream

What do soccer, graphic design, and hip-hop have in common? I’ll tell you that in a minute.
June is Black Music Month. As we head into the summer with many of our favorite artists releasing new music, this writer is curious to see which song will go down in history as the sound of Summer 2024. The recent barrage of music that resulted from the Kendrick Lamar/Drake beef has “Not Like Us” looking like a contender for the summer bop.
Now, back to the question at hand: What do soccer, graphic design, and Hip-Hop have in common? Walter Barnett.

Who is Walter Barnett? Walter Barnett is the second son of Waltrina and Clifford Barnett Sr. He is a graduate of Methodist University, where he played soccer. He is Married to the beautiful and equally formidable Phavadee “Nook” Phasavath. Walter Barnett is a dreamer who is living the dream. Walter is currently a graphic designer for Dreamer by J. Cole. Yes, that J. Cole. So, how did a preacher’s kid end up working for J. Cole? Determination.

“Walter has always been a fighter,” his mother, Waltrina, says. When he was born, he had some health challenges. He was diagnosed with rickets, also called Osteoma Acia, which softens and weakens bones in children. Treatment may involve adding vitamin D or calcium to the diet, medicines, or surgery. “We started putting the vitamins in his food, and he showed improvement within two weeks.”

As the middle child, he looked up to his older brother. His older brother liked to draw, so Walter copied after his big brother and began to draw. While in church, his mother also made sure to have crayons and markers in her purse so that she would give him something to draw with when he was about to cry or get restless. It would calm him down. He began to use drawing to help manage his emotions.

Not only is Walter a fighter, but he is also competitive. This landed him on the varsity soccer team in the 8th grade, and he played soccer all through high school and college. However, Walter is not just a competitor; he is also a motivator. “I used to prepare motivational speeches to hype up the team before games.”

“Walter loves hard. He loves soccer; he plays hard. He loves his family, and he loves his wife. He is fiercely protective of what and who he loves,” says Waltrina.

Walter graduated from Methodist University in 2017 and returned to his parents' home but wasn’t content to stay there. He told me of something that his mentor told him. When you put a fish in a bowl, it will only grow to the size of the bowl. If you increase the size of the container, the fish has more room to grow. Walter was already doing graphic design work but wanted to see his work in a bigger tank. He wanted to see his work in New York. Walter had a cousin in New York, Daniel Watts. He encouraged Walter to move to New York.

Waltrina recalls, “He had been talking to Daniel. One night, he came into the room and said, ‘Hey, y’all, I want you to know I booked a flight to New York. I’m going to hang out with Daniel and spend some time with Kristin (another cousin). We said, Okay, when are you coming back? He said. “It’s a one-way flight.” The rest is history.

Once he moved, he would go into the city every day. He would dress professionally and hand out business cards to “anybody who looked like they might need a graphic designer. He would watch as some of the cards were thrown in the trash, but he didn’t give up. He knew what he wanted and was determined to put in the work to make it happen.

Walter did freelance graphic design work for different companies before he landed a job at 14th Street Y. He has worked for ESPN as the lead designer and creator of on-air graphics for the GetUp morning show. He has created branding and logos for Broadway entities and professional athletes. Walter has created event advertisements, posters, and social motion graphics and campaigns for The Jam, a live Spoken Word production by Daniel J. Watts. Walter also designed the logo and branding for J. Cole’s signature Puma shoe, Dreamer.

Walter spoke of having lunch with his cousin, Daniel, and Felton Brown from J. Coles's team. While at lunch, Felton mentioned that J. Cole needed a design real quick. Daniel said, “Oh, Walter can have you 10 of those by in the morning.” It was something that Walter had never done before, so he went to YOUTUBE and found out how to make it. The rest is history.

On October 22, Walter was recognized by Methodist University as a Distinguished Young Alumni. Of this honor, Walter Says, “My success so far is only a reflection of the family and friends I have in my corner cheering, fighting, praying, and crying for me. Thank you to the family and friends who have and continue to keep me up. Aim high. Remember to celebrate the wins. And Love.”

Walter Barnett is literally living the dream and working for the DREAMER. Let his life be an example to you. Trust God and the process, and never give up.

You can find more information @ www.waltercbarnett.com
Living the Dream, J. Cole, Walter Barnett, Summer 2024


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