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050 – Dem Smell De Blood, They Know Who You Are

Kennon was raised by in the lumber town of Mattawa, Canada, where he was one of the only people of color in the community. Growing up in a predominantly white community, he later had trouble assimilating into the black and Jamaican communities when he moved to Toronto. Struggling to find himself, Kennon journeyed to the land of his roots, Jamaica, discovered Rastafarianism, and ultimately found the love and acceptance he missed his entire life.


Kennon: (00:05She just said, like, I’m so sorry for everything that happened to you. If I knew that just I would have gone to Canada, myself to bring you back to Jamaica, to make sure that you grew up around your people. You know,

Damon: (00:22Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis. And today you’re going to meet Kennon. He called me from Markham, a suburb of Toronto, Canada. Kennon is a man of mixed race who grew up in a predominantly white community. And the racially charged comments he heard in his youth were alienating for a guy who just wanted to belong. When he moved to Toronto, his upbringing in the small town hindered his ability to fit in with people of color throughout Kennon’s life. It seems like he didn’t belong anywhere until he found his roots in Jamaica. This is Kennon’s journey. Kennon grew up in Matawa Canada, a small French Canadian lumber town. He was a Brown skin child in a community filled with white people. He said it didn’t take him very long to feel how different he was from the rest of his community.

Kennon: (01:36I was different than others because I lived in a principally white community and a French Canadian community. And I was Brown you know or black or whatever you want to call it mixed. I’m mixed race. So, you know, I’m not, uh, I’m not the darkest man around, but I’m also not a, nobody would mistake me for a white person either. So the pressure of being different, you know, probably prompted me to inquire with my parents, uh, probably earlier than most adopted kids might as to why I’m being targeted for being different and all those kinds of things. Right. You know, my earliest solid recollection of, of really starting to feel that sort of, uh, awkwardness and, and, and understanding that I wasn’t, the child of my parents was probably, I don’t know, seven, eight, nine years old before it really started to like sink in, in a way that I could, you know, actively think about in a conscious manner.

Damon: (02:40That’s fascinating. And what did you think about what, when you say you were targeted for being different, what kinds of things were happening to you that really sort of flagged your difference?

Kennon: (02:53Well, I mean, you know, principally, it was name calling, uh, you know, I heard the N word lot when I was a kid child. I was called Oreo cookie a lot, like Kamala the Ugandan giant. Like there were a thousand names that people had me, you know, tar baby, uh, you know, there is even within my family, you know, my, my mother’s uncle, I remember used to always rise me saying I was blacker than Toby’s arse and things like that. And, you know, I didn’t really think much of it maybe at the time, but, you know, and I’m thinking about it in subsequent years, you know, that’s a, that’s a highly offensive racist kind of a statement.

Damon: (03:36Yeah.

Kennon: (03:36And, uh, and this was a man who, who was a native American, right? Uh, not a hundred percent, but probably 50 or 60% native American. And so it was a weird dynamic between him and I, I would, I would sometimes fire back, you know, things at him to sort of, you know, degrade his person a little bit with respect to his, you know, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t healthy. It was definitely something that undermined my confidence, a great deal. When I was young,

Damon: (04:09Kennon is feeling his differences from others. He’s hearing racist, epithets barked at him by his peers. And even his uncle when he asked his parents, liberal teachers respected in the community, why he was being singled out, they tried to remind Kennon that there was nothing wrong with him and challenged the ideals of those who would attack him.

Kennon: (04:30They provided me a fairly consistent message of, you know, it was a combination of, you know, you’re special and you’re unique. You’re not like the others, but that doesn’t mean you’re bad or that there’s something wrong with you. And then that usually followed up with, uh, with some messaging around other people being ignorant and other people, not really being able to, to understand and appreciate who you are because of their own backwardness and things like that. So, you know, they did their best to defend me, but, um, and to sort of give me some tools to sort of help manage, you know, what I was feeling, but, you know, they couldn’t, they couldn’t really speak to me, you know, as a black person, they couldn’t really give me much more beyond, uh, you know, just kind of show yourself up and be prepared because this, this is going to be the last of it. And the people that are going to call you these things may not be your friends. And they may not truly, you know, understand themselves either. And that kind of thing. It was more along those lines.

Damon: (05:33Kennon said that he was a happy kid growing up, playing hockey, going fishing and riding his bike. But as he got older, things changed, he said, his urge is to search for biological relationships started when he was a teenager. And he was further isolated.

Kennon: (05:50Once I became a teenager and I started to see my other friends start dating, you know, it just seemed like there was no girl that was interested in me and anybody that I asked out, very quickly said no, or, you know, oftentimes I would hear like I couldn’t because my parents would absolutely lose some of their minds if they knew I was dating somebody like you, things like that. So that’s what really started to sort of make the whole thing, start to percolate that little bit more to say, like, there must be something else. There must be some other place, some other people’s or some other place I can move to, to find somebody of like minds of light skin tone, you know, all those kinds of things.

Damon: (06:31I was, I’m glad you raised the part about dating because as you, as I asked the question, I’m thinking to myself, you know, this guy’s growing up in a predominantly Caucasian lumber town. He’s, I mean, you had to be one of maybe two, if any other people of color. And I was wondering about that, you know, you grow up, you start trying to date, you know, the dating circle can be very, very close and competitive in under normal circumstances. And then if you stand out, you know, under any kind of circumstances, for any reason, you’re automatically eliminated as a possibility, for sure. As soon as Kennon and turned 18, he was out of there. He moved to Toronto to try to start a new, but integrating himself into a new, more diverse group of friends was challenging. He struggled to find inroads into the black community there because he was seen as culturally, very white in their eyes. It’s a common phenomenon for someone who’s raised outside of their cultural norms. They’re visually different than the community in which they were raised as Kennon had been back in Matawa, but they’ve picked up all of the norms of that community, which unintentionally separates them from the heritage and culture. They’re trying to introduce themselves into,

Kennon: (07:48In fact, I received a, as much or more flack from that community for being mixed and for being quote on quote Canadian and being, you know, hockey and, you know, baseball caps and, you know, all of the sort of typical Canadiana type things. Right. But, um, you know, the one thing that I did know at a fairly early age was, you know, from my parents that was, you know, they, they were able to tell me that my father was Jamaican. They were able to tell me that he was a musician and that my mom was studying to be a nurse and that she was Canadian or white, if you want to call it. And, but really the thing that stuck out in my mind, you know, from 12, 13, 14 onwards was the fact that my father was Jamaican, you know, and that he was a musician because I was very involved in music as well. I was always on the band and played the music and all these kinds of things. And so that’s the thing a really, really, really, really close to. I’m just having a moment.

Damon: (08:51I understand.

Kennon: (08:53it’s, it’s still a volatile subject for me,

Damon: (08:58Kennon says he still sometimes feels like an outsider after years of trying to fit in, even though his wife and children are black, he speaks with a unique combination of a Canadian accent with the Queen’s English mixed in with a Jamaican accent,

Kennon: (09:14They’d say, Oh, you’re the whitest black person I’ve ever met. That’s something that, you know, stings still to this day to be perfectly honest,

Damon: (09:21But Kennon pressed on trying to assimilate into the cosmopolitan city of Toronto, his older sister, who is biological to his parents and seven years, his senior moved to Toronto before him. So his parents already kind of knew Kennon’s moved. There was imminent. He said his parents who had divorced, had differing opinions about the move. His mother was more supportive of his move, but his father tried to convince him to stay in town, get a job at the lumber mill and find a wife, but that didn’t appeal to Kennon at all.

Kennon: (09:54You know, I have always moved with, without any impedance where that is concerned. Like I haven’t really taken their, their thoughts and feelings into consideration where, you know, my, my wellbeing, my racial well being was concerned. So I just went ahead and moved and, and, you know, started to live my life down here

Damon: (10:15Throughout college Kennon had white friends, dated white women, and really did move toward his black or Jamaican heritage for three years. But he had a sense in the back of his mind where he was going when he was about 22, he filled out the paperwork to learn who his biological parents were, but his quest led him astray from the friend circles. He had developed those friends were intimidated by the fact that he was looking for an identity outside of their group,

Kennon: (10:42Because, you know, I, I traveled to Jamaica when I was 20 years old and in a college trip, there was 30 of us. And, you know, it was just partying, booze, you know, girls, the whole kind of thing. But you know, a few times during that trip, when I was down to Jamaica, the very first time I kind of went off the beaten track by myself, by myself. And, you know, I remember this, uh, sorry, I remember this one old Rasta man who kind of befriended me. He used to stand outside this one show store, you know, and he didn’t have to be nice to me. There was, he didn’t own me anything, but there was something about him that just kind of sensed that I was ill at ease, you know, what some in my life. And he, you know, he started asking me a couple of questions about who I was and where I came from.

Kennon: (11:32And, you know, I was able to tell him, you know, all my father’s Jamaican and you know, this and that and whatever else. So he really kind of inspired me to, to take on that persona or take on that identity. You know, he says, that’s your people, you know, your father is your father. And if you don’t, you have to, you know, make sure that you know who you are, if you, unless you know who you are in the past, you can’t go forward when you’re just walking on quicksand kind of a thing. Right. And, um, you know, it was that, that time that, you know, I was, I was sort of like a sworn, uh, easiest, I guess at that point in my life, I really had no purpose with God. I kinda given up on the whole spirituality thing. But, um, you know, that man kind of inspired me to start looking into spirituality, at least from a historical context. You know,

Damon: (12:26The Rastafarian man gave Kennon a book called dread. It covered the history of Jamaica, the Rastafarian movement and slavery it’s swayed Kennon spiritual path, introducing the country of Ethiopia into his life. He journeyed there to find himself

Kennon: (12:45Ethiopia sprung into my, into my consciousness, like a beacon of light. And it just, you know, I very quickly started to just read and consume anything, uh, about Ethiopia. So I went to Ethiopia when I was 24 years of age to find myself, I guess you could say. And, um, it really, really changed, you know, my outlook in terms of my identity and feeling comfortable within my skin and feeling accepted and feeling, you know, at home around black people and things like that. And it really sort of set the stage for, you know, the man I’ve become in my later years, you know,

Damon: (13:26That’s really amazing that, that an individual, as you said, who owes you, nothing doesn’t know you from anybody else sets you off on this journey, both sort of spiritual wise and, and in terms of just general introspection. And it’s fascinating too, I can’t help, but think most people when I speak with them, talk about a search for their birth mother, but you have made a strong tie to your father’s culture and I can’t help, but think that a strong piece of that is because you already grew up in a predominantly white community and as a brown man, you are searching for your connection to other people of color. And so the identity of your father seems to be the one that you Strode to explore first.

Kennon: (14:18Yeah, absolutely. You nailed it. You nailed it right there. You know, and having met my mother now and understanding who she is and where she grew up and what she’s about it, it wasn’t very different at all. From where I grew up,

Damon: (14:31Kennon admits he had a familiarity with whom his mother probably was. So the idea that his father was a black or Jamaican was really a lifeline, something to cling to within his identity. I asked Kennon about his search and what encumbrances he may have encountered along the way. He shared that in Canada, the ministry of social services maintains a record of every adoption in that country an adoptee the, fills out an extensive application, including their identifying information.

Kennon: (15:02So I submitted the paperwork and I followed up with a couple of phone calls. And the lady on the phone said, you know, I’m in an office with about 35,000 physical files on top of desks on top of filing cabinets. It’s probably going to be several years before we can get to your files, even enter into the system to even begin the process of investigating who your parents might be. So, you know, I placed many calls over the next two or three years, and basically I got the same message. So I kind of just put it on the back burner thinking, you know, maybe one day or, you know, that kind of thing. And by that point, you know, as I said, I was sort of living my life. I was traveling back and forth to Ethiopia. I was still going to Jamaica as much as I could. I was playing in reggae bands. I was, you know, basically living, living the life of Riley in a lot of ways, you know, just enjoying who I was and enjoying this new experience and enjoying my new friends and my new sense of identity

Damon: (16:01When Kennon was 30, he returned from his final trip to Ethiopia and was staying with his sister back in Toronto. It had been almost 10 years since he submitted his paperwork to the ministry of social services. And suddenly his sister was calling him frantically on the phone with news.

Kennon: (16:17I’m like, what’s up? What’s up? She goes, Oh, I have some information about your mother. I’m like, what are you talking about? Like, how do you know that she goes, Oh, it’s a letter from the ministry of social services. I was like, okay. So I ran home and I opened up this piece of mail and it basically said, Kennon, you know, we received your application. We know who your mother is. We know where she is. We have all the information that you want. What do you want to do now? So I wrote back and I said, yeah, give me everything. I want to know

Damon: (16:48The ministry of social services sent her a letter reminding her of the son whom she gave birth to in 1970, informing her that the child was looking for her. She was given the chance to accept or deny the receipt of more information. She accepted the offer. They exchanged three de-identified letters through the ministry as their intermediary. They had individual consultations with the ministry to vet them both in order to have reasonable assurance that each person was going to be okay with the reunion, not harboring animosity.

Kennon: (17:22Yeah. I don’t even think it took six months. It’s probably like anytime I got a letter, I just read it tragically and then go back. You know? So she, she did it as well. You know, she sent pictures, I sent her a couple of pictures, you know, and you know, even just opening up that letter and seeing my mother’s face for the first time, like, you can’t describe it. You don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what she looks like, but then when you see this person that bore you into this world, it was honestly, I didn’t see myself. You know, I was really a head scratcher for me. I was like, really is this mother. Like I just, I really didn’t see myself at all in her face,

Damon: (18:06)

But how emotional, I mean, how crazy is it? You’re absolutely right when you first get that look, you’re just like, wow, you you’re it’s, you you’re the one after the whole process was completed, about a six month timeline, Kennon was given his birth mother’s phone number. They spoke by phone a few times, but Kennon says he can’t even remember the phone conversations because he was much more interested in the deeper connection that is sometimes best achieved face to face.

Kennon: (18:36You know, for me it would, you know, the energy and the intensity was really not about the word. It was much more about just, you know, seeing her, smelling her, feeling her, you know, looking her in the eye. Those were the things that were more important to me. I could care less who she was or what she was up to, or, you know, any of the sort of petty details of her life. And for me, I just really needed to, you know, to literally hug somebody that was my family.

Damon: (19:06Yeah. After a few phone conversations, they agreed to meet in Mississauga where she lived.

Kennon: (19:13So I was there waiting and, you know, she drove up and, you know, she had to get the little, like, you know, we had nod check it that use that media. Yeah. Use that to identify each other. And so I get out of my car and when she got out of her car and then he just sort of walked towards each other and, you know, be very gentle, you know, embrace, you know, and, um, you know, both just kind of said, wow, you know, kind of thing. And then we jumped back in our cars and they went down to the Lake shore in this quiet little park kind of a place. And, um, you know, we just sat and talked, you know, for two to three hours. And then we went and had a bite and so began our relationship, you know,

Damon: (19:58That’s amazing. What was it like to sit there next to her for a couple of hours and just talk?

Kennon: (20:03It was very surreal, you know, it was like, it wasn’t even happening, you know, it was, uh, it was calming and, and, and anxiety provoking all at the same time. You know, I, I, you know, I had a thousand questions, but you know, one of the things that I remember saying to her, both of my letters and probably on the phone now that I’m thinking about them a little bit and in person, you know, I just kept reiterating. And I don’t know why I kept saying this. I guess I, I, you know, there was the fear factor of being rejected again. But I remember just telling her, like, I’m not angry with you. I’m not upset with you. I don’t need anything from you. I don’t want anything from you. I don’t need your money. I don’t want, you know, I just want to know who you are. I just, it’s one of the things I just kept saying, you know, and, and, um, she just took it at face value. You know, she, she didn’t know what it was or what it was up to if I was a good guy, a bad guy. So she just sort of, you know, took it at face value

Damon: (21:02For the first year Kennon and his mother grew fairly close. He invited her over for dinner and they would just sit and talk, but he says he may have unintentionally misled his mother into believing that he didn’t want anything at all from her when he really did. He wanted answers.

Kennon: (21:20The thing is when you, for me anyways, when you’re, when you’re a person of difference, you know, regardless of color, when you’re different and you know, I’m also a big man, like I’m, I, right now, I’m six foot four. And, and, you know, when I was a teenager, I was also very large. And so, you know, that was an alienating elements for me and my society as well, because not only was I black, but I was also a huge, right. So a lot of people either feared me, you know, physically as well. And so when you grow up with that feeling, you, you tend to, or at least I tended to overcompensate by trying to be exceedingly nice to people, you know, by really extending my boundaries and, and giving my all to try and ingratiate , myself with people, to seek their kindness, to seek their acceptance, to seek their acknowledgement kind of thing. And so that’s what I was doing with her as well. You know, I was sort of really bending over backwards to try and, you know, placate her or to not ruffle her feathers or to not bring up any feelings of, of, you know, rejection or detachment or longing, or, you know, all of those other feelings that you have when you’re adopted person, not knowing who your parents are. Like, I really withheld that much to my detriment now that I think about it, you know, I really withheld that for many, many years, you know?

Damon: (22:47How do you mean much to your detriment?

Kennon: (22:49Well, you know, I think it kind of put her in a, in a, it gave her a false sense of security and, and I’m sorry that it was a false sense of security for her, but, you know, I still had a lot of questions, you know, it’s not that I was angry, but I still had a lot of questions as to how and why. And what was your thought process of what did you go through and what were your parents saying? You know, what was it like to, you know, have this child come out of your loins and then hand them over three minutes later to somebody else? He didn’t, I didn’t suckle her breasts. I didn’t, you know, have any closeness. Right? All those things that you happen to regular children, right? The umbilical cord is not even cut. Then you’re laying on your mother’s belly, feeling her warmth, smelling her, you know, and those types of things.

Kennon: (23:34Right. I didn’t have any of that, you know? And so, you know, I just, yeah, I wanted to sort of try and ensure that, you know, we would remain close, but not for a long time. And so do it in. So doing, you know, I think she kind of expected that I would never, ever, and I, you know, I, as I said, I even said the words, Oh, I don’t want anything. I said those things, but in the back of my mind, I still wanted to know, you know, I still wanted to understand what was the, what was her thought process? You know, I mean, beyond, beyond inconvenience, but what was her thought process around giving up a child kind of thing. Right.

Damon: (24:16How did you get to the point. Um, it sounds like you were in reunion for quite a while before you really got the courage to ask those questions. How did you do that? And what happened when you did, when did she tell you and how was her reaction?

Kennon: (24:30You know, I’ll tell you something, you know, my mother, my, my mother stopped evolving the moment she had me, my mother is still stuck in 1970. You know, still at this time, she’s not a happy person. She she’s bitter. She has health problems. She has resentments. She has a lot of, sort of, if you scratch the surface a little bit with her, she, she comes back, you know, very, very hard at you.

Damon: (24:57Kennon never pressed his mother too hard on the answers he wanted. She shared with him that he had siblings on her side of the family and she did connect him to them. But he said that while he was part of his birth mother’s life, he didn’t feel like he was actually in her life. As an example, he tells the story of the time his birth mother was hospitalized with a broken hip. His brothers and sisters had notified him of her hospitalization. So like a loving son, he paid her a visit. Remember they had been in reunion for quite a while at that point.

Kennon: (25:31So I, I went and stopped at the tuck shop and bought a, bought her a little by little flowers and went upstairs and, you know, walked in the room and said, Hey mom, how’s it going? And her eyes just like, what, as big as silver dollars? Like she was shocked to see me there. And I was, what’s the word I’m looking for? I was kind of shocked by her response. Right. But she had two of her coworkers there standing beside her. And in that moment it was super awkward. She was like, um, and these are her best friends for 35 years. Right? She said, Oh, by the way, ladies, um, Barb and you know, Tina, whatever the names were, this is, um, this is Kennon. This is my, um, this is my, um, my first son. And like, you could have heard a flee scratch its hind leg. Like it’s just this silence in that room. At that time,

Damon: (26:25Kennon feels his mother never dealt with his relinquishment and they’re in reunion. She still didn’t seem to be dialed into the fact that she had to face this situation. His birth mother never invited him back to her hometown during the 10 years they were in reunion. So Kennon never met her mother. His, before she passed away, he tells the awkward stories of his introductions to his siblings and the sad rejection of his desire to pay his respects to his grandmother.

Kennon: (26:54It was the Thanksgiving, the Canadian Thanksgiving. And she decided, Hey, why don’t you come to my house? And you’ll meet your siblings and I’ll introduce them to you and all this kind of stuff. Right. I was in the foyer of her condo building, pressing the button, the Intercom button to come upstairs before she told her other children about me in the time it took me to go up the elevator to get to the door to knock. She said to her other three children, by the way, your oldest brother, brother’s coming to meet you. And they were just like, so I walked in that room and again, the silver dollars, right? Just this, the silent, awkward, like OMG, what the hell just happened like this.

Damon: (27:36right. Four guy comes walking in the door holy crap.

Kennon: (27:41Yes. So they, you know, she’s never really fully accepted me. And so the fact is when her mother died, you know, my other siblings who we had been, you know, friends for the sake of argument for the last 10 or 15 years. And they were like, Oh, you’re going to come up to the funeral or whatever else. And I was like, I guess if you want, if you think it’s appropriate. And I was like, well, what does mom think? Kind of thing. Right. And so they asked my mother and then my sister called me back and she says, my sister, like, you know, she, yeah, she’s very much in my side. Right. She was absolutely livid. Like she was like, mom does not want you to go. And I was like, what? She’s like, yeah. She, she says that she doesn’t want you to go up there.

Kennon: (28:27And I was like, why? Like, you know, the woman is dead now. At least I could look at her face one time in my life before she but no. And so since that time, that was, that was two to three years ago. Since that time, the relationship has really kind of fallen apart because I just realized that she’s, she’s still stuck. She hasn’t really accepted what happened to her. She hasn’t accepted the fact that I’m sort of here and her first born son and a part of her life. And she’s still sort of hiding me underneath the covers kind of thing behind the curtain sort of thing. Right. So it’s, it’s, you know, I hate to say it, but our relationship has sort of fallen out over the last few years. We still talk like she’ll still come by for my kid’s birthday parties and stuff like that. But it’s, it’s, it’s uneasy at this point. She doesn’t want to, cause she doesn’t want to open up. She doesn’t want to accept or acknowledge or, or answer questions or have anything to do with any conversation about me.

Damon: (29:24Kennon said his birth mother was ostracized by her family. When she was pregnant with him, she was forced out of her small town to have her baby at st. Mary’s salvation army hospital where apparently many mixed race. Children in Ontario were born between 1960 and 1985, Kennon learned from his siblings that not everyone in their family shared the same feelings that led their mother into temporary exile. As we began talking about his experience reuniting with his birth father Kennon spoke his truth about the difference in the two reunions that is impossible for him to ignore.

Kennon: (29:59I hate to draw these, you know, very drab, you know, contrasts between black and white. Right. But there are some realities that exist that at that I can’t, you know, I can’t lie to myself about right. And one of them is the fact that my father’s family accepted me, like instantaneously, it was come quick. You’re going to meet the whole crew. Like Kennon’s here. Like he’s one of ours. Like that whole thing. You know, my father brought me down when I went to see my father for the first time, but he brought me to meet his aunt Mel because his mother had passed. I didn’t get a chance to meet my mom, my grandmother. But like, she just loved me. Like she, she just took me under her wing. You know, she just said like, I’m so sorry for everything that happened to you. If I knew that you existed, I would have gone to Canada, myself to bring you back to Jamaica to make sure that you grew up around your people.

Kennon: (30:55You know? And one of the things my father told me, you know, um, the very first conversation that we had, you know, um, you know, I remember, you know, maybe jumping the gun here, but, but I remember picking up the phone to call him and I’ll tell you about that story too. But you know, he, I said Carlton and he’s like, yeah. I said, this is your big son. And he’s like, my big son. He’s like, yeah, my name is, I said, my name’s Kennon. And, and he’s like, and even before I could get the words out of my mouth, he’s like, is Carol your mother? Yes. How did you know that? And he proceeded to tell me that he heard that she was pregnant through a friend of a friend of a friend kind of a deal. And that he actually called, you know, what would have been my grandmother’s house shortly afterwards, I was born and asked about me and my grandmother basically told him to eff off. So it really just like all of those kind of details really just told me, you know, where my home was in this world. Who were the people that, who, who were the people that wouldn’t accept me, who are the people that were going to love me unconditionally and that kind of thing.

Damon: (32:07Kennon can’t help feeling the stark contrast in his reunion experiences. He said, Carol did tell him who his father was, what he was like. And about the night they were together using the information she gave him. He tapped into the network of Jamaicans in Toronto, especially those in his birth father’s generation to try to find the man. He was known by the local community. And they remembered him as a musician, but they thought he had moved back to Jamaica. In that local community Kennon used to buy Caribbean goods from a local shop,

Kennon: (32:40The shop owner’s wife, you know, hadn’t met me yet, physically in person. And one day I was walking down the road on the way to work at like eight 30 in the morning and this crazy woman, like topically crashes her car into the sidewalk, into the other cars, sprung out of her car. And she goes, are you Kennon Vaughan? And I was like, uh, yeah, she goes, are you Carlton Vaughan’s son? I was like, uh, yes. How do you know that? She goes, Oh, I’m his friend. And my husband told me that you’re looking for him. And I’m in contact with him all the time. I know where he is. I have his phone number and this and that. And I was like,

Damon: (33:18wow. That’s crazy

Kennon: (33:21So she, she basically said, just, just give me a couple of hours. I’m going to go home. I’m going to make sure that the number still works. I’m going to contact him. And if everything’s good to go, I’ll give you the number kind of thing.

Damon: (33:33The next day, the woman called Kennan to provide his birth father’s phone number in Jamaica. He called him immediately.

Kennon: (33:40That’s what I did. Like, she called me back with the man’s number the next day, or, you know, a couple of hours later and I was at work and I just called him up, you know? And, and you know, it’s been, he and I remained, you know, best friends to this day, you know,

Damon: (33:55Unbelievable man. That’s crazy.

Kennon: (33:58People say a lot about, you know, black people and whatever else, but I’m telling me when it comes to family, like nobody can touch us. You know, we defend our own, you know what I mean? And at least in my experience, anyway, these people, they just see, no, in fact, they were expecting me the whole time. You know what I mean? If it’s setting a place at the table, for me, almost in all those many years, waiting for me to walk through the door, you know, and on the other side it was completely the opposite.

Damon: (34:26I asked Kennon what his adopted family felt about his reunification. He said they knew he was going through the process and he checked in periodically to give them updates. When he found his birth parents, his mother was protective, but she accepted things for the most part. At that time, he was already distant from his adopted father

Kennon: (34:47When things really started to tumble down, especially with my father, right. Is when I changed my name because I took my, my biological father’s surname, you know, uh, within a year of meeting him, I changed my name legally. And that really, really set off my adoptive father. You know, he did not like that at all, you know, and, uh, still to this day, he’s, you know, he’s, he’s a little bitter about that, you know, and we don’t really talk that much, but you know, that’s one of the things that, um, you know, he’s, he’s sort of, he’s not been happy about, but, you know, I told him and I told my mother and anybody else that wanted to hear it, you know, this is who I am. You know, this is, it’s not even, it’s not even for me necessarily it’s for my children and my children’s children. So that wouldn’t be, look back in time after I’m dead gone. They’re not going to find some old stylish man in Finland and think that that’s there for parents. Right. It’s, you know, you have to really know who you’re, who you’re coming from. Right. So obviously I get it from my own sense of purpose and identity, but, you know, equally. So I did it for my children, right. So that they would wear the name of my real people.

Damon: (35:57Of course, I was eager to hear about that first trip to Jamaica to actually meet his birth father. He had been there many times before trying to identify with pieces of himself that were rooted on the Island. How was that first trip down there? You’ve been there before, you know, he’s there, but now, you know where you’re going, how did that trip go,

Kennon: (36:18Man It was exciting!! You know, you know, by contrast, when I think about the, my mother’s meeting, my mother, you know, it was, there was just an anticipation, you know, a goodness fairness and openness, you know, and it was probably within a month or maybe two after I spoke to my father, the first time that I jumped on a plane to go down there and I went down there for six weeks, the very first time I just glued up in his house and let my siblings and all that kind of stuff. And I remember, I remember coming out of the airport in Montego Bay and kind of looking around and I, and my father is not small. He’s not as big as I am, but he’s not. But I just seen this man, like practically, you know, jumping on his tippy toes to try and see me, you know, trying to, trying to get my attention. Right. And his eyes were just like big and wide open that just like, he couldn’t wait to hug me. He know, he just couldn’t wait to put his arms around me and accept me. You know, it was like one of the sweetest moments of my life, because at that moment, nothing else existed. You know, it just really gave me so much. It gave me so much in that moment, you know,

Damon: (37:33During the 90 minute ride to his father’s home in Negril, the men talked the whole way. His father talked about his wife, his own father who lived in Toronto and the people in the family whom Kennon was about to meet. And they were waiting for his arrival.

Kennon: (37:50They knew I was coming. It wasn’t like what my mother’s side. They knew I was coming. They told, he told them all about me as much as he knew. And I remember walking in the door and they were like all over me. You know, my little, my sister was, uh, my, my younger brother was maybe eight or nine. My little sister was six or seven. And they were just like all over me. And my father was like they smell the blood enuh. You know, you can’t fool them. They know who you are. You know, question question, you know what I mean? The acceptance was just automatic and huge and just so good for my soul. Like, I can’t reiterate that enough. Like the sweet quenching that I felt in those moments, those first few moments, especially with my siblings, you know, it just was something I had waited for my entire life, you know?

Kennon: (38:45And it was just such a difference, you know, because everywhere we went, my father went out of his way to say, this is my son. You know, this is my big son, he’s from Canada. So my big son, yeah. I mi had him in 1970. You know, he come to see me, you know, this is who he is. And you know, he just everywhere. I went to, like, I was his, his prize jewel almost, you know, he was so proud, so proud that I came back, you know, and found him and wanted to spend time with him.

Damon: (39:16That’s amazing. That’s amazing. That’s one of the things that, you know, so many adoptees want is that open, welcome validation that I am one of you and your family, and don’t, don’t turn me away. Right. And it doesn’t have to be it’s like you said to your mother, you know, I don’t want anything. I just want to know who you are. Uh, but that extra layer of come in, be with us, let me share, share some pride over who you are cause you are. um, of my making is really, really spectacular at that time. Kennon’s paternal grandfather was living in Toronto on a weekly basis. Kennon went to visit his paternal grandfather. They watched Toronto maple leaf hockey, listened to records and talked about the past. They had a really great three years before his grandfather passed away, but Kennon was very thankful for the time they had together because he got to befriend him in a way that didn’t carry any baggage from their pasts. Kennon leaves us with one final story from his experience. Well, Kennon thank you so much, man, for sharing your story. This has been quite an adventure. I mean, from going from, you know, a racially charged upbringing to like wholesale acceptance in your Jamaican family is really quite a ride, but it sounds like you’re in a better place now than you’ve ever been before. And I’m really happy for you for the reunification. The stuff you have been through the validation of your mom, but also just, you know, the fact that your father’s family was so accepting.

Kennon: (40:56Yeah. As you can tell, it’s still very, very close to the surface. Right. All of this stuff for me. But, um, but yeah, I realized too, you know, for all those other people adoptees looking and searching and maybe having, you know, not found or been rejected. Like I realized the uniqueness of my story as well, right. To, to, to find both loving parents and to, you know, uh, have them in my life is not something that everybody gets, you know? And I, the last thing I’ll leave you with, you know, one little story, you know, I, after that time, I went to Jamaica to see my dad, uh, he came back up about a month later and he was staying with me and, um, you know, he had not been in contact with my mother Carol since way, way, way, way, way back in the day sort of thing. And, and I came home from work one day and uh, my father was staying in my place and I walked in the door and who was sitting on my couch, my mother and my father just sitting, chatting, having a good old time recollecting the good old days, you know? And that like, that’s another moment that, you know, when I closed my eyes for the last time, that’s one of the things I will see or think about, you know, it was a very special moment.

Damon: (42:21That’s amazing. That’s a rarity among adoptees. I can’t remember any other story where someone has been able to say they’ve reunited their own biological parents for a moment.

Kennon: (42:32Yeah.

Damon: (42:34Yeah. Thank you for sharing, man. This is,

Kennon: (42:37Hey, thanks Damon. Thanks for reaching out. I appreciate your time and I appreciate what you’re doing. And I’ve often thought about doing some of this, something like this, myself for other people, and I’m just glad that you’re doing it. And I hope that somebody takes some inspiration from my story.

Damon: (42:52Me too. And thank you so much, man. I appreciate you sharing your story all the best. Take care man.

Kennon: (42:57Thanks. Thanks, Damon bye.

Damon: (43:01Hey, it’s me. Kennon started his life in racial isolation and I think he’s lucky to have made it as far as he did in life. I was inspired to hear that his faith was restored when he found Rastafarianism because many people who don’t find themselves end up really lost. I’m glad he got the chance to come face to face with his birth mother. And I hope she can work through the past to accept Kennon here in the present. I don’t know about you, but I was really emotional as he talked about how much love was poured over him by his Jamaican family. What an amazing story of love and acceptance after the way his life began. By the way Kennon mentioned, he was a musician just like his father.

Damon: (43:44And he was an opera singer earlier in his life. He said when he was in Jamaica, his father was a member of the house, jazz band at the sandals resort and the grill one night during that six week journey home, his birth father called him up on stage to sing with him and his band. It must’ve been an incredible feeling to share the experience of making music together. I’m Damon Davis, and I hope you’ll find something in Kennon’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really, if you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit You can also find the show at really, or follow me on Twitter at waireally. And please, if you like the show, you can subscribe to who am I really on? Apple podcasts, Google play Stitcher tunein radio or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, take a moment to share a rating or leave a comment. Those ratings can help others find the podcast too.

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