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Being Authentic

“Black history is American History. It’s not separate but part of a bigger picture,” Kevin Henry emphasizes. “Connecting the past and present can be uncomfortable,” he continues. And it’s that internal confrontation that creates an opportunity for education, growth, and acceptance.

Born in 1957 in Los Angeles, Kevin was a Black teen growing up in a middle-class Jewish neighborhood. In high school, on high holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the contrast between him and his classmates was clearest when the school effectively closed for the day. “The teachers were mostly Jewish, too, so our substitutes didn’t have much to do. I looked around and saw a few other Black kids. Some Mexican kids. A couple white kids. We spent most of the day playing checkers,” Kevin remembers with a chuckle.

This variety of colors, faiths, and identities combined with his parents’ open mindedness led him to see the ways people are the same, rather than focusing on differences. Ultimately, he realized a passion for seeing and supporting others in living authentically: treasure your identity by not compromising or diminishing what makes you, you.

Los Angeles led to Seattle, then Honolulu, then back to the Seattle (Bellevue). with jobs along the way in journalism, talk radio, and diversity programs, usually in combination. Perpetually on a quest to help people understand one another, he encourages awareness campaigns like Black History Month to motivate us to learn more by listening more. But it shouldn’t stop there. “Life is a journey,” he believes. “Be open to what happens.” Kevin advocates for a continuous endeavor to affirm the narratives, accomplishments, memories, and experiences of those who have been traditionally voiceless, whether that is African Americans, Indigenous people, women, or many others. Awareness months are a highlight, but 11 other months should be where the real understanding happens.

Making space to receive others on their terms is the way forward. And offering your true self to the world is a gift. As Kevin declares, "Life’s too short to not be authentic.”


Kevin Henry is the DEI Coordinator in VOAWW’s Behavioral Health program, where he develops training curriculum that targets cultural competency, so crisis counselors can better serve the community. If you’d like to get in touch, he can be reached at

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