Beyond Ordinary: The return of 'Special K'

Published: Friday, June 10 2011 2:09 p.m. MDT

Because I was not one to shy away from trying just about anything at least once, that attitude in my "Before Being Mormon" days often led me to places and into circumstances I later regretted.

However, on occasion that daring attitude greatly benefited me by launching me into new worlds of ideas, associations and relationships that altered the course of my life. Such was the case when I first allowed two LDS missionaries to teach me about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Such is the desired result I seek as I make my initial foray into the world of blogging. I feel both a humbling sense of potential failure and a vain tinge of powerful possibility as I do so.

I recognize no one may care about what I think or have to say. Yet, based upon the positive reaction to my recently released book, “Last Laborer: Thoughts and Reflections of a Black Mormon,” I have the swagger to believe enough people will consistently find my thoughts interesting and worthwhile.

In truth, my bravado stems from my pre-Mormon days while a student at North Carolina State University. There, while part of a small contingent of blacks at the school, I joined a traditional black fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi or KA?) and later became a disc jockey on State’s college radio station WKNC-FM.

To order to join my fraternity, I had to pledge at St. Augustine’s College, a neighboring black school in Raleigh, N.C., because at the time there was no KA? chapter at State. Because I was the only pledge from State among my pledge group of seven, my pledge name was “white boy” for nearly all of my six-week pledge period.

I despised being called “white boy,” especially while receiving “instruction” from my big brothers. Thus, when I became a full-fledged Kappa brother, I chose the name “Special K” as my fraternity name to counteract my loathsome pledge name while still recognizing my unique pledge status.

Kappa men have the image of being pretty boys and ladies’ men, a persona which did not come naturally to me because my true self is basically nerdy and academic. I made a major breakthrough, however, when I became a DJ on the WKNC’s R&B “Midnight Affair” program.

The details of doing so are involved, but the quick version is that someone told me I couldn’t achieve it, and nothing disturbs or motivates me more than disbelief in my abilities. As a result of a “manhood challenge,” I earned my FCC license and got my own radio show.

I chose my fraternity name as my radio moniker, and at 3 a.m. on Valentine’s Day 1979, “DJ Special K” was introduced to the listening audience as a fill-in host. I began the show with the singular song appropriate for the occasion, “Love’s Holiday” by Earth, Wind and Fire. It was a slow, sensual ballad that served notice that DJ Special K was going to be an on-air ladies’ man and Raleigh’s “Fox on the Box.”

That summer I became a regular host and I remained on-air until I graduated two years later. Eventually, I dropped the DJ part of my radio name and “Special K” became one of the more popular R&B radio personalities in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle area.

My Special K alter ego was the daring, fearless, creative, witty, smart and the life-of-the-party side of me. I was able to attract the interest of the most beautiful of women and I was the quintessential man’s man — the athletic sports-enthusiast and storyteller who could comfortably dine and talk politics with kings and tycoons or hang out “on the streets” and tell jokes with winos.

For better or worse, Special K’s influence on me began to wane after my graduation from State beginning with my call as an LDS missionary. He did not entirely vanish while I was a 23- and 24-year old in Puerto Rico, but I was determined to keep him in check.

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