Photo Credit: Marvin Shaouni

Photo Credit: Marvin Shaouni

“3 years later and I sell weed to make ends meet and I’m sleeping on the floor in a house without a furnace. I want you to do a follow up to show that getting to kids in high school doesn’t matter. You have to get to them when they’re young.”

If you know me, you’ve heard me talk about Kymoni. We met on a sunny day in 2012 at the beginning of production on Much Love. Looking at his stature it doesn’t make sense, but I was immediately at ease in his presence. He was a big kid. At least 6'-2" and muscular, with a scowl on his face that read like a man who has been mistreated by the world.

Kymoni grew up all over Detroit. He didn’t know his father and his mother was working her ass off in the role of both mother and father to he and his siblings. He told us that being a bigger kid in the hood was more dangerous than it was advantageous. Bigger kids are forced to constantly prove their worth, “I was so big that I stood out and got caught up in bad shit. I was fighting grown men my whole life.”

Photo Credit: Marvin Shaouni

Photo Credit: Marvin Shaouni

But despite the tough outer shell and the pounding it had taken, his heart was big and it was soft. Our first order of business was to follow along with him to get to school, and you would be shocked at what a process that is. Here’s an 18 year old boy working a full time job, on a budget, paying for his own food, apartment, clothes, and utilities so that he can live with his girlfriend and his then 2 year old son, Junior. All the while taking an hour and a half bus ride to school. We were quickly joking with him and as an adult in a school full of kids, it felt very safe in his presence. Once we began the interview at the school, Kymoni was an open book, but I could tell he was bothered by something. We later found out that he had just been told he wouldn’t graduate with his class in the spring. He was upset because he felt like he was letting people down. By the end of the interview he was crying, I was crying, the camera guy was crying, it was a mess. But we were forever bonded.

I stayed in touch with Kymoni long after that and he did graduate in July of that summer. We would grab Taco Bell or hang out with Junior and just chat. He worked so hard to get into college or a technical school, but he barely passed high school, no college was going to accept him. And even if they did, he’s going to go $15,000 in debt for something which he was in no way prepared? He’d spent his whole life not taking shit from anyone as a way of survival, when it came time to learn a new skill, or take critique from a manager, he couldn’t handle it. He got fired from his job. So he couldn’t keep his place and they all had to move out. Luckily his girlfriend and Junior could go live with her grandpa, but Kymoni wasn’t welcome there. He’s now bouncing around to multiple houses and crashing with friends in order to stay warm, trying to find work that’s within walking distance or on the bus route from his temporary residence. The last time we spoke it was because I drove a space heater, blankets and pillows out to him, we spent time eating the first dinner he’d had in two days.

He has never known or understood how to approach life and other people in order to create opportunities. It wasn’t until he was in high school that someone finally took an interest in him. His principal, Mr Matthews said he saw a gentle giant in Kymoni, and he took him under his wing. But by then it’s too late. If a kid doesn’t have that positive influence in his early years, you can pretty much forget it. Of course there are exceptions, but by and large kids’ futures are formed in the early years of life.

We’ve drifted apart as life moves on. I started to wonder where was the line between being a crutch for someone and helping them take advantage of opportunities. I’m still not sure what’s right, but I’m trying to see what happens if I back off a bit. I think he has it in his head and heart to be able to do the right things, but I wonder what direction he’ll choose. He’s given me an incredible gift so helping him never felt like anything more than natural, something I wanted to do but we haven’t spoken in 6 months and I’m actually afraid of what I’d find if I reach out to him.

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