I remember the first time I heard it. I was about 5 or 6 years old… I might have been walking by myself, or riding on the back of my brother’s bike. Another kid, maybe a little older than me was walking toward me and, with all the swagger a little kid could muster, said these words:
What it is?
“Wuttiteeuz“? Did I hear him right? Was he speaking English? I couldn’t really correct him, because I didn’t really know what he said, and my grasp of the English language was only as good as the next first grader. So, I responded the only way I could… “What?”, to which the kid replied, “Oh, you ain’t black!”
This post is not a lesson in blackness, nor is it a commentary on the current sociopolitical climate. This is about change, transition, new things and gaining knowledge of self.
So much time has passed, and I can still feel the sting, and even more, the press… with that one statement my world was being compressed into something of someone else’s making. I have faced that situation and others very similar many times, each time learning how to better respond to the indictment. Still, I find myself wishing I could travel back in time to my 6-year-old self so I could deliver a witty comeback to that kid’s accusation. What’s more important though, is not that that kid knows what and who I am, but that I do.
Many years ago, I began a quest. In one sense the quest has been lifelong, but this was more of the intentional part of it, to not just find myself, but to be myself to me, as well as to the world. It has been a very hard journey, but rewarding nonetheless. During this journey, I began my blog, Kidstuph, under the nom de plume, Tall Pajama Man. Looking back over the many posts, images and comments, one thing I found, is that I did a lot of hiding. You will almost never find a picture of me in my blogs, and even “Kidstuph” and “TPM”, while having meaning, were steps away from the real me. They were safe zones, while I tried to figure out, not so much who I was, but who I was being, and becoming.
Oh, you ain’t black!
I didn’t know it at the time, but back then, and with each successive encounter, I had (and have) a choice. I had a choice to believe what the kid was saying about me, or to declare what I knew about myself. I had a choice as to which voices and influences would have power and value in my life. I think growing up with older brothers, I instinctively learned how to be my own person, but in retrospect, it is just as easy to fall into patterns of acquiescing. Being me must be a daily, and sometimes a moment by moment declaration and practice. Each time someone tried to tell me what blackness was, I chose to respond with knowledge and actions showing it was much more than the narrow view they espoused. This practice expanded to virtually every area of my life: Spirituality, social interaction, gender relations, customer service, management, etc. I remember a vendor examining the way I had implemented their products, telling me it was literally impossible for me to do what I had done, while seeing it clearly working. I chose not to believe in their version of possible or impossible, but rather in the ability to do more than our minds can conceive. I gave myself the permission to believe in the unbelievable, to walk out a faith that was bigger than formula, and to invite everyone around me to join in.
As a part of this journey, I took back my full name. No longer would I refer to myself according to my nicknames (it’s ok if you still do, I don’t mind) of Ken or Kenny (or anything with a K….), but I would introduce myself as Kenneth, for the knowledge of my name meant a lot to me, but more than that, the acceptance of who I am was just as important. I learned early on what Kenneth meant, and it had a profound impact on me as a child, learning what self acceptance and personal value were. The more I researched, the more I found my character tied to my name. Taking my name back, for me was a declaration that I would begin to purposely walk according to my character, according to the meaning of my name, accepting who I am every time I heard my name.
It is for these, and many other reasons, I felt it was important for people to know the real me. While Tall Pajama Man and Kidstuph still exist as a part of me, they are just a part, and not the part that makes me who I am. They only exist because of who I, Kenneth David Hopkins, am. Therefore, kidstuph.wordpress.com has now become kennethdhopkins.net. The updated site will include all of the content from Kidstuph, but will also include specific content for business, training and best practices for ministry, and will showcase many elements that make me, me.
Among the many things I heard on the December 1, 2017 episode of The Success Sculpting Show with Stephen Pierce, the guest Bo Porter said, “Application is the true definition of knowing”. It’s one thing to claim that you know it, but quite another when you walk out what you really know. Kennethdhopkins.net represents the walking out of what I really know, and once again, I invite everyone to join in.