Thank You Kenneth Gray

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This past weekend was Kentucky’s Annual Derby Celebration. I’m broke, so I didn’t go to any of the actual horse races. I saw pictures though! Ya’ll were cute!

I was, however, invited to attend a couple of the less traditional but still very prestigious Derby celebrations.

Thursday evening, May 1, I attended the Grace at the Race Gala and concert with my parents because they got money. The event was an elegant celebration of faith that also honored a few people in the city for their charitable works. Some of the attendees included, Daryl Griffith, Junior Bridgeman, Coach John Calipari, and Scottie Pippen with performances by gospel artists Amy Grant, Tamela Mann, and Kirk Franklin. Needless to say, the event was a pretty big deal.

There was one guest that particularly stuck out in my memory. A young man by the name of Kenneth Gray. Kenneth is a recent graduate of Louisville, West End School, which is a free and private college prep academy that opened in 2005. In this vastly mixed crowed of different color and status, Kenneth was given a chance to tell his story. I was so inspired and impressed by his courage and determination that I had to honor him with my first post.


Photo cred: Amber Sigman of the Courier Journal

Photo cred: Amber Sigman of the Courier Journal

In a room full of pompous prestige and audacious accolades your voice rang out.
In your broad chested bravery you stood flatfooted with a fiery opening sentence that would drip from our ears like the most costly of precious jewels.
You stood at the podium and bellowed a war cry that our community is working hard to help us forget.
One sentence
8 words
Simultaneously opened our ears, eyes and hearts.
“It’s hard growing up without a male influence.”
What followed, was a list of wonderful things you had accomplished thus far
Your resume was didn’t flow throughout the room for moments on end
But you were proud.
Your speech didn’t glisten with the eloquence of a professional
But you were brave.
You said you had your grandmother to thank for your success.
Not because she took pride in single-handedly raising you without a man
But because she knew better.
You thanked her for placing you in the presence of outstanding male role models
You thanked her for needing those men
And in that one sentence,
You thanked her for teaching you to do the same.
Your speech was more than 8 words and I heard each of them.
But I chose to carry those first 8.
“It’s hard growing up without a male influence.”
I’ll carry those words in the inner most pocket of this society-woven cloak
I will unwrap it from that breast pocket into the lives of each child I bear
I will join hands with my sisters and daughters
Remembering and reminding that you, your brothers and sons are important.
Our community is slowly squeezing our need for you out of our story
But you told yours and in just 8 words you shattered our perception of strength
Single-handed child rearing is only one portrait
I can do this alone is only one mantra
To stand before us and publicize a need for our brothers is strength personified and perfected.
As your sister in this fraternal order of the sunkissed
I promise never to forget your courage
Thank you Kenneth Gray
You are loved.
You are needed.

ImaniImani Williams is the newest intern columnist for The Mixx Magazine providing meaningful commentary and positive images on Black Love, Literature, Hair & Culture. We brought her on because we felt she offers a look away from the influx of negative images we see of ourselves daily in mainstream media, or at least makes much-needed observations about them. Imani currently moonlights as Beyonce.