Beyond Ordinary: Beyond Ordinary: Hanging with 'Mo Brothas' in the City of Brotherly Love

Published: Friday, Aug. 12 2011 1:35 p.m. MDT

Vai Sikahema and Keith Hamilton.

Keith Hamilton

First, I’d like to express how humbled I am by many of your favorable responses to my past columns. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined so many people being positively influenced by what I write — because, to be honest, my wildest dreams don’t involve me writing.

So now that we’re practically family, I have a confession to make.

I miss feeling the full effect of being the black man I am because I live, work and play in an overwhelmingly LDS culture that exists in a predominantly white area of Utah.

Please hear me out before you start calling me racist or overly ethnocentric.

Remember, I am a black man who was raised mostly in the South, and my true self stems from that upbringing. I prefer R&B music over country. I say “hey,” “y’all” and “what’s up, man” instead of “for sure” and “you bet." And I’d prefer to hang out with other black males, a k a “da brothas,” rather than anyone else. Again, it comes from my upbringing.

After more than two decades in Utah, I still find it particularly hard to be the only black man in the vast majority of situations I find myself in. And while I love living where (and with whom) I do, I sorely miss being my whole self, because being one of “da brothas” was and remains such a big part of who I am — just as big a part of me as being LDS.

Consequently, for me “Mo’” means both “more” and “Mormon”!

One more thing about me: I dearly and unconditionally love Vai Sikahema.

A few weeks ago, while back East for job-related purposes, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in the greater Philadelphia area. It satisfied my yearning to be in a place where I could see, and feel, African-American culture all around me. I also got to spend quality time with Vai and his family. It was one of the best and most fulfilling weekends of my life.

I first became aware of Vai during my BYU Law School years when he was an integral part of the Cougars’ 1984 national championship football team. We both left Provo in the summer of 1986; Vai to start his NFL career after being drafted by the then-St. Louis Cardinals, and me to start my Navy JAG career after graduating with my law degree.

Floyd Johnson, the BYU athletic department’s beloved equipment manager, had taken some interest in me after learning that I was soon to become BYU’s first black law graduate. Before our departure, he made arrangements for Vai and me to speak at a fireside somewhere along the Wasatch Front. Unfortunately, due to an unavoidable conflict that arose for me, I never got to speak with Vai as planned.

I didn’t personally meet Vai until our paths crossed at the LDS Business Conference in Park City this past April. Vai gave a moving presentation that inspired me to boldly introduce myself to him and leave him a copy of my newly released book with my contact information. Not long thereafter, Vai called me and we began having late-night conversations on his way home from his 11 p.m. sports broadcasts. We learned that even though our backgrounds had little in common, we were kindred spirits with similar interests and gospel-related goals. After finishing my book, Vai graciously laid the groundwork for me to get involved with Matt Sanders and Deseret Connect, which led to my current opportunity to write for DeseretNews.com.

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