His mother, lost in the world of addiction, eventually found herself and regained custody of Kwame. However, it was the un-credentialed pastor of a storefront church—Pastor William Irving Anderson of Bethlehem Temple Apostolic Church—who got Kwame and his mom their first apartment and first car. Pastor Anderson did not go to college. He may not have graduated from high school. But when Kwame’s mother died from a sudden asthma attack and the state thrust Kwame back into foster care, Pastor Anderson opened up his home. Despite having no degree that mattered in academia or corporate America, Pastor Anderson had a master’s degree in community. He trusted in Kwame and in the power of his own—and others’—ability to make a difference.
Pastor Anderson located Kwame’s aunt and uncle in Long Island. After landing in that permanent home, Kwame restarted his academic engines. Many teachers supported Kwame along the way. He graduated among the top twenty students in his class and got a scholarship to Penn State University where he graduated in 2006. However, if you ask Kwame who was the most significant person in his life, he will say, “I will name my first son William Irving Anderson.”
Kwame joined Teach for America in 2007, came to New Orleans and became a founding member of Langston Hughes Academy. He fathered a daughter, Kayla, whose smile provides the powerful proof of love. Kwame and Kayla’s mother broke up, but Kwame kept custody of her in New Orleans.
All these things make for a wonderful story. However, just a few days ago, the bank approved Kwame for a mortgage. Let’s not mistake the meaning of that mortgage as simply a down payment on a house. That mortgage is evidence of Kwame’s commitment to New Orleans. That mortgage is evidence that a community in New York decided they were going to save a son, and a community in New Orleans—and our larger, national community—reaped the benefit. Most importantly, that mortgage is evidence that true transformation is possible through everyday people.
Measures of smartness won’t save New Orleans—or any other city. Commitments to community will.
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