I grew up in a population where I never saw a Black doctor. I never realized that I could be a doctor. Although my cousin and I would always respond with saying we wanted to be pediatricians, I am unsure if I truly believed that I was capable or even smart enough to conquer that goal.
The first time I learned about Black history outside of Harriet Tubman and MLK was in Mr. Fenwick’s class. This was the first year I had Black male teachers. It was at Huntington Middle School in 1994-95. He taught us about KWANZAA. We had civics with Mr. Frazier; a Black male. We had band with Mr. Braxton; a Black male. And we had a Black male principal; Mr. Cline. I remember this year…
I didn’t know then, but now I understand why.
As Black students in low social-economic communities, we needed to see people that looked like us. We needed to hear those words of Les Brown that Coach Frazier had us listen to. We needed those positive images of Black males, because the images that my classmates and I saw in our neighborhood were not the potential that our Black males could reach.
In 1995, right up the street from my hometown of Newport News, Virginia was that big news story about Kemba Smith. The drug epidemic was huge. There was the story in the Washington Post about Rosa Lee written by Leon Dash. There was the recent death of Len Bias almost ten years earlier with a focus on drugs. Nothing positive was really associated with our Black males, but had they only been given a fair chance, I know they would have been amazing. When I see those Black males that I have taught, my son included, I see greatness. I see the greatness in the making… they just need to be reminded often.
I’m grateful that I have such positive images and positive relationships with people that look like me now. My son, your son, my cousins, your nephews, now have opportunities to see Black men in a positive light.
We have doctors, lawyers, engineers, mental health technicians, teachers, administrators, accountants, soldiers, architectures, public speakers, and artists that our Black kids can look up to and aspire to emulate.
One person that I have been inspired by is Dr. Kevin; Kay Bee. I have adopted him as my own personal life coach. He has taught me to believe in myself, realize that all questions cannot be answered, and be true to your authentic self. I still recall my first encounter with him and his wife. We were on our way to the tropical island in Berlin. I don’t know if he recalls one of our first conversations, but it was centered on why some individuals are successful, while others are not. I still do not have the answer, but as I listen to his weekly FaceBook messages (check out the page), I learn. Whoa, what a wise guy!
He is the doctor that our young girls and boys can aspire to be like. Thank you Kay Bee for sharing you…
His bio reads:
My born name is Kevin L. Buford. I’m a certified psychiatrist in Adult, Addiction, and Child/Adult Psychiatry. I am also board eligible in Family Practice. While I love what I do in my profession, I love coaching introverted professionals to achieve success, live life as authentic selves, and move past mental road blocks so that they can live their best lives. I am a staunch advocate for psychological/emotional wellness.
I am an African American and world citizen. While I was I raised in Alabama, I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel and experience over 40 countries. The more I have travel, the more I have begun to realize the universality of the human soul regardless of an individual’s background.
My father was a minster and Mother worked for the department of defense. Both had varied interests and lived life in non-traditional roles. My mother infused with the dogged spirit of anything being possible if you can just find a way. My father taught me that people and relationships matter. Their template infused with my own life experiences has led me here.
As long as I can remember, I felt like I had to choose between compromising who I am and what I want. For years, I choose the latter as opposed to the former. While challenging, it was a less complicated and clearer path to pursue. Armed with the inheritance of my parents and being blessed with magnificent people along the way, I have achieved a lot professionally. And yet, I felt empty. I realized that it was because I left the essence of me behind and I only strove for my mind could conceive.
One day, my spirit cried out that it had enough and an aspect of myself re-emerged. I playfully call this side of myself, Kay Bee the Imperfect. It is a part of me that pursues life without having all of the answers and takes action despite some of my actions being flawed. Imperfect execution does not excuse me from being the best I can be, it frees from me not acting at all.
I believe that:
The biggest Enemy is the Inner Me. Audacity and tenacity of mind/spirit leads to a truly authentic life. However, without self-awareness and understanding of how you are, it becomes a daunting task.
I want to have people experience the best versions of themselves on their own terms. I am motivated and inspired by others people’s transformation — especially when I am a witness and a change agent involved in the process. Simply put, I am coach that wants to see people WIN as themselves.
I’d like to invite you to connect by subscribing to the Kay Bee the Imperfect Facebook Business Page, YouTube Channel or the Imperfect Nation Facebook Group.
How do you describe yourself?
I am simple man from Alabama, husband of Erica, and son of Ona and Adolphus Elliott. As I grow older, I have become more of my alter ego “Kay Bee the Imperfect” than Kevin. I am an imperfect black nerd and an audacious introvert who strives to be as authentic as I can be everyday!
What do you do for a living? How did get into this field?
I am a holder of mirrors who has been gifted with the sword of omens (like Lion-O from the Thundercats) to see what others don’t usually see in themselves. In laymen’s terms, I am a psychiatrist. I got into this field because I love hear the stories of others. I enjoy facilitating the re-writing of their narratives so that they can enjoy a better version of their lives. I was originally a family physician, but I got tired of seeing patients every 20 minutes in a revolving door model. When the door stopped revolving, another door opened for me specialize in children and then addictions as well.
What do you do to promote positivity amongst your race? Do you think it’s necessary? Racism doesn’t exist, right? (I’m being extremely sarcastic here).
I strive to be the best human I can be. I love being black and I love my African American culture. I am usually in rooms where few are of my hue. However, I use to it an opportunity to stand out. Yes, I frequently have to work twice as hard to get half as much, but that has made fit for my environment. Whether I like it or not, I am a representative of my culture. The brighter I shine in positions of influence, the more I can facilitate my brothers and sisters winning. It is what I live for and one of my life’s purpose.
Promotion of positivity amongst is critical FOR ME. Why, because many people of my race have done it for me and they have changed the trajectory of my life. It is MY choice and I don’t think every black person has the mandate or obligation to do this if they don’t truly feel compelled to do so. Nevertheless, I think it is to our collective demise if a lot of us don’t. I have benefited heavily from my culture’s tenacity, accomplishment, and verve. It is a debt that I will continue pay to the day I die.
Racism ABSOLUTELY exists and will never go away. Even if it did, there would something else to feel the vacuum (classicism, colorism, gender inequality, etc.). People have built in bias, some more malignant than others. However, I feel the sting a lot less living overseas and not bombarded with reminders. Even while still living in the US, I choose not to consciously think about race or racism every day. It didn’t serve my psychological well-being to do so. I TOTALLY get and recognize it exists. And no, I can’t just snap my fingers for it to magically go away. I just made more of a deliberate effort to add value to my soul, but I WILL engage/confront racism when necessary.
I am focused more on my humanity. I heard it once said this way, ”If you begin to look at things differently, the things around you begin to change accordingly.” I believe this mindset has allowed me to connect in a greater way to other cultures and people. It’s a big world and I don’t strive to be insular to my race alone. Yet, I do realize there will ALWAYS be reminders. I am a black — no doubt that!! And yet, I am also a man, husband, a son, an American, and a world citizen. I can’t totally control the narrative of how the world sees me, but I can control my response to the world. IT AIN’T EASY, BUT IT IS NECESSARY FOR MY SANITY.
Are their challenges as a black man in this field?
Hell yes!! The margin of error is clearly less for me. As one on my non-African American supervisors/mentors told me, “You will constantly have to educate some of your colleagues throughout your career. It is a matter of optics and preset beliefs. And even then, you won’t be well received by all.” I thought his candor was refreshing and I have always taken in it to heart. My parents always taught me to never be weary in well-doing regardless of the situation. Life has further taught me to strive for peace, but stay ready for war.
I truly been blessed to be mentored by a multitude of both black and non-black mentor throughout my career. Yet, I know despite my achievements, I can be knocked on “my perch” at any moment. And yet…I learned not to value the perch, but moreso the ability to fly. I stand on the shoulders of those who equipped me to do so. The world is not always fair and I don’t expect it will ever truly be. Nevertheless, I have been amazed about how much can be accomplished when you focus on your character, integrity, principles, and love.
Haters and obstacles will come and go. In fact, I am sure someone may be plotting on me right now just because of my complexion and some other irritant that I evoke. I don’t have time to worry about anyone sharpening the knives to insert in my back. My energy is devoted to the armor and weaponry that will me make more impervious to attack. I am not violent man; yet I am not afraid to fight as needed it.
What are challenges that you have had as a black professional man?
The biggest challenge is having my skills/abilities being under-estimated. To be honest, the challenges don’t bother me any more. It is used to bother me, but it doesn’t 85% of the time. I am not going to lie, it still stings every now and again. However, for the most part I have learned to utilize these perceptions to motivate my performance and exceed expectations. When the expectation is exceeded, I stand out from the majority. I leverage this to seek out more opportunities to grow. My support system and my faith in God helps me to maintain my sanity when the wounds cut deep. I think that may the Achilles heel of a lot of black men. Showing your vulnerability to others you care about can help clean out the infection instead of slowing dying from septic shock. We need to each out other. Black Panther is clearly stronger when he rolls with his crew than when he rolls alone.
What are ways that you have overcome obstacles that have been in your path?
Application of biblical principles, selective choosing my social support system, constant self-assessment, and professional development.
I don’t go to traditional church every Sunday, but there are some gems in the Bible that I have followed with great success. It works for me, but I still struggle with a lot of the tenets. I try to dissect some of the blueprints of what I consider to be successful people in the Bible. Ruth, Joseph, Daniel, and Nehemiah are my favorites.
My social support system is not solely race based. While racial congruency is a somewhat of a factor, I have people in my network of varying races and cultures. The ultimate prerequisites are not being the smartest one in the group and striving to add value through mutualism. I have local, distant, and virtual mentors. My survival and sanity depend on the interdependence of my dual gender multi-cultural tribe.
Continual self-assessment is non-negotiable. I don’t know everything and I fall short often. My goal is to make new reversible mistakes for the purpose of being a better me. In any issue or dilemma I face, I try start out by asking the question,”How am I a part of the problem?” Depending on the response, I proceed form there. I continue to sharpen the saw in my profession by constant learning.
What is your day to day mantra?
Pray like the desired outcomes of life depend on God. Work like the desired outcomes in life depend on you.
How do you manage everything that you do?
I ask for help, prioritize, and starting to become less of a bag lady. Oprah says,”You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at one. I can’t do everything I desire to do on my own. I NEED people. In order to get people to help me, I have to get better at adding value to others.
Erykah Badu says,”Bag lady you gon’ miss your bus. You can’t hurry up, ‘cause you got too much stuff.” I am learning to let go some of things that I used to you that I used to hold on to. It remains a struggle — even for stuff that no longer serves a purpose for me.
What or who inspires you?
I am inspired the potential of what one person can accomplish or become in one’s lifetime. As Les Brown says,” I don’t want my dreams or aspirations to stand over my death bed screaming out to me why didn’t you give us life??”
Any advice for young men who are facing challenges being black and trying to move up?
The world isn’t fair, racism exist, and you will not always get what you deserve. However, if you are alive and breathing today, the possibilities of becoming what you imagine exist. There are examples all around us. We are achieving more than ever despite being under attack. Focus on what you can control and master that to the best of your ability. Don’t fight to be accepted, fight to the best version of yourself. Focus more on your character and your integrity than your bank account. You will be rewarded more than doing it in the reverse order. You are not totally in this alone, though some times in your life you will be lonely. If no one reaches out to you, reach out to us. I promise that some of us will reach back. Our future depends on you!!
Any last words for our readers?
WE are awesome, but WE are not a monolith. I love US and the continuum unto which WE span. Let us continue to uplift each other. While there is value in conveying the narrative regarding chains that keep us in bondage, let us consider funneling some more of OUR energy on the keys to releasing us from our shackles. And there are sooo many different and innovative ways to be unshackled!!