Kevin graduated from Ohio State with a degree in structural engineering. He had grown up in Jackson Mississippi, having moved there from St. Louis as an infant, with his mother. She was bound and determined that he would not become another black male statistic, raised by a single mother, the south hadn’t been too kind to it’s young black males. She once told me how her father had told her not to look a white person in the eye, because you never knew if they were part of the clan and that would be taken as confronting them, he was trying to protect his daughter. Even so, she chose to buy a house in a predominately white neighborhood because the schools were better there and she wanted Kevin to have the best education she could give him. He loved baseball, if he could have, he would have chosen a college that was going to give him an athletic scholarship to play, but his mother said no, he was going to go to college to learn, to get an education. She knew the odds in getting into the major leagues, that playing baseball in college wouldn’t afford him the time to study, in order to learn a profession, such as engineering.
After receiving his degree he went to work for a firm, then decided to move and found another firm to work for, but still his dream of playing baseball echoed in his mind. He decided to quit his job, became a personal trainer and practiced baseball in order to try out for the San Diego Padres. When he made his decision, one of his quotes of the month that he'd send to friends and family included this!
"So 'what do I fear' you ask? Or more importantly, 'what is my boat?' It is because of my boat that I am writing this. It is because somewhere along the way my boat no longer served as my refuge but became a slave ship (Doubt's). You see, 6 years and 4 months ago I made the decision (THE choice) to become an engineer. I became one not because it was my heart's desire but because it was the "practical, reasonable and logical" choice. Even though in my heart I knew it would'nt last, I still chose to continue because I wanted a "secure" future. Thus, I ignored, or more correctly, did not trust my own instinct to choose a profession that was suited to match my natural talents and strengths. I was afraid of the uncharted waters that lay before me in other vocations. I feared the uncertainty of being the artist that I could be, the athlete, the writer, the leader. Afraid, that if I failed, then 'who am I? What do I have to contribute to the world (the best of me)? Despite the continued onslaught of questions of uncertainty that streamed through my head, it was not the questions that caused me to rethink my decision (finally trusting myself). It was the perpetuation of the very thing I tried to avoid in the first place, pain. It was only through the extent of my sentence, and the residual regrets that came with it, did I begin to understand that I MUST TRUST myself. I came to the revelation that if I was going to let fear of pain and failure govern my life, my only reward will be that I will survive . . . BUT I WILL NOT LIVE. So on January 26th I said "no mas" to engineering, and I jumped (quit) . . . "
He focused on trying out for the Padres at the time that Barack Obama was beginning his campaign. He saw in President Obama, a man, similar to him, raised by a single mother, with loving grandparents, who spoke of giving back, being more. Kevin read his book, The Audacity of Hope, gave the Padres a shot, then decided to apply to the Peace Corps and was accepted.
On graduating from college his mother helped him purchase a car, a General Motors Saturn. That car went from St. Louis to Seattle to San Diego, finally ending up in Los Angeles, driving Kevin as he searched for his lifes meaning. When the Peace Corps accepted him, he had recently paid off his car loan, so was waiting to get the title. Somehow the bank he was paying off his loan to, managed to keep up with him, to collect their money, but now that he needed proof of ownership, they were no where to be found! For two months he called around, frustrated at every turn, from dealership, to bank, to state drivers agencies, so he could sell his car before heading to Ghana, his post in the Peace Corps. He was to find that his loan, like so many others had been bundled and passed on, rebundled and passed on, that no one knew exactly what small bank now held the title in the end. I’m writing this because I found it somewhat an irony, that a young man is choosing to be of service, for very little money, but the money he could use by selling his car, he can’t get because when Wall Street decided to securitize loans, they didn’t consider the inconvenience people would have to go through finding their proof of ownership! It turned out that Chase Manhattan Bank held the loan, having bought some smaller banks, but which smaller bank, they didn’t know.
Kevin, left for Ghana on the first of June, the day that General Motors filed for bankruptcy, having to make alternative plans for his Saturn. It’s the seventh of July and he’s yet to receive his title. When the banks needed bailing out, they managed to get their money, pronto, but not a young man needing to sell his car, a car that who knows what it will be worth in two years when his stint teaching math in a little village in Ghana will be over with, when he comes back here to pursue a masters in teaching! As to Ghana, Kevin wrote about his first month in Ghana!
"As I once wrote, I
AM NOT AFRAID OF DYING. I AM AFRAID OF NOT TRYING. So I am trying.
Trying to challenge myself, so that I may find the best of me, so that
you may see the best of me."
So Mr. President when you visit Ghana this coming week, will you please tell Kevin that we’re still waiting for the title to his car. That we all love him very much and are very proud of him.