Little Kenny as he was affectionally known, was born and raised in Portsmouth, VA, a small segregated town south of the Mason-Dixon line, an environment of legal separation. Being born into segregation, influenced and motivated him his entire life. As he stated, "Since I am of African-American descent, Virginia was not the best place in the world to experience your most impressionable years." At an early age, Little Kenny and his two sisters were taught to do a variety of community activities in the local black community through both school and church.
Little Kenny was the only son born to Fannie Mae and Kenneth, Sr. Although he loved them both, he was grateful to be raised by his grandparents, "Granny and Poppa." These paternal grandparents planted the seeds that instilled a sense of pride in Little Kenny's heritage. As he recalled, "Values were set in placed that would give me the skills to survive in this racist world, that I was destined to live in."
During high school, Little Kenny was sent to Washington, DC to live with his cousins, Lawrence and Lucille. He was enrolled at the prestigious Gonzaga College High School, an all-boys Catholic school. After one year, he pleaded with his cousins to return to Portsmouth. His rationale for want to return home was, "| needed to be with the girls". After returning home, he graduated from Our Lady of Victory (OLV) Catholic school.
Little Kenny enlisted in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) In June 1955. After basic training at Sampson AFB in New York, he went to Keelser AFB in Gullport, MS, September 1955, days after Emmitt Till was murdered in Drew, MS. He vividly remembered Granny's out cry when he told her he was headed further south, Mississippi.
During his USAF tenure (1955-1963), his Squadron Commander noticed his sensitivity to community involvement, and assigned him to be a member of his Squadron's Unit Fund Council in 1958. This was when his dedication to community service and volunteerism began to gain intensity and continued throughout his life. He was trained in critical technical skills; airborne radar and missile systems, and was therefore, able to secure excellent employment after military separation. He was honorably discharged after he completed 4 years of service and 4 years of Reserve Duty.
"A person is a product of their environment. The laws of discrimination, were in direct conflict with the laws of God, which were preached to me each Sunday at Mass. These same laws enforcing segregation, were also in direct conflict with the laws of the country, that professed that all men were created equal."
Ken reflected on the effects of segregation and measured in terms of lost opportunities for himself and his family. He fostered a hate for segregationist that afflicted emotional wounds which eventually healed, but the scars remained. Life's events lit the fire in his soul to "reach back and give back" to his community. His greatest passions were conducting annual fundraisers for the preservation of his hometown "Colored Library" and scholarships. Ken's ongoing efforts has been documented by many Awards, Commendations, and Certificates of Recognition over decades. One of his proudest moments was receiving the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Good Neighbor Award" from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Association of Santa Clara Valley. The award states, “In recognition of your voluntary service and significant contributions to the welfare of our community..."
Ken gained employment at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale, CA. During these years, he worked in a volunteer capacity as a member of the Philanthropy Association. After nearly 40 years, a "Trallblazer as he was often called, of dedication and commitment, he retired as a Manufacturing Engineering Supervisor Immediately after retirement, en relocated to Southern California with the "love of his life" and where he dedicated the remainder of his life to community service organizations.
"The most historical event in my life occurred during the Civil Rights Era of the '60s, as a student at Merritt College, Oakland, CA, participation was renowned among Black students, at local colleges. I was happy to be part of history in the making. This period of time influenced my Black awareness and perpetuated my desire to know myself as a Black man. Here is where the seeds Granny and Poppa planted began to bloom. Now, I realized I must plant these seeds in my son's repertoire so they can gain that black awareness insight to instill in their children."
"Not only was this justice delayed, and long overdue, but a time in our history of high social awareness. I was very active during those years, which stimulated my Intellect, and started my long-determined quest to complete my college education." Educational goals were always a high priority for ken. Although his quest was interrupted by circumstances beyond his immediate control, he never abandoned reaching his goal.
The tools that ken equipped himself with to help serve his community were:
In the early 90's, Ken joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Eta Sigma Lambda Chapter, San Jose, CA. Here, he continued his community service activities throughout the Bay Area. He mentored dozens of boys to men, a few returned and told him the impact he had on their lives as a young man. When he relocated to Southern California, he immediately began researching local chapters to continue his manly deeds. After working with several chapters, Ken joined his brothers in Mu Xi Chapter in Orange County and continued his hard work until his death. Ken dedicated over 10 years of fundraising for the MLK Memorial in Washington, DC.
A couple of pastimes Ken enjoyed was golfing and skiing which there was never time for both. ken was one of the founding members of Fire and lce Ski Club in the Bay Area. He enjoyed taking his sons to the snow for a weekend getaway.
In addition to the aforementioned, Ken was also affiliated with the following organizations:
· National African American History Museum (DC)
· Buffalo Solders
· Our Lady of Victory Alumni (VA)
· Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc
· French Quarter Cabaret, San Jose, CA
· Southern Poverty Law
· Historical Society of Portsmouth (VA)
· Tuskegee Airmen (Redtails)
· University of San Francisco Alumni
· West Coast Ambassadors
Ken fostered and nurtured long lasting relationships; early marriages and divorces, one ending in death. As he said, "God saved the best marriage for last." He enjoyed people interactions that were facilitated by conversation and debate. He worked well with people, "my social butterfly". Over the last 25 years, travelling for pleasure with his
beloved wife June visiting nearly 100 African American Museums throughout the country was his dream come true. We did it!!!
A favorite pastime Ken enjoyed was spending time with family, hoping his legacy will continue; two sons; Andre'(Jaune'se) San Diego, CA, Eric (Amberly) Acworth, GA, sister; Jessie (Floyd) Richmond, CA, grandchildren; Nyelah, Sanal, and Caleb, niece; Frances (Winston) San Pablo, CA, nephews; Michael (Terrie), Clifton, VA, Damian (Tamiko) Bethel Island, CA, Jonathan, Richmond, CA, cousin; Lucille (Abundio) Portsmouth, VA, a host of East Coast Family, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. brothers, friends, and acquaintances from the many non-profitable organizations that he was affiliated with throughout his life. Thank you for being a part of his journey.
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