"A Journey of Faith"
Kenneth Antione Bailey, Father & Truck Driver
by Monica Haynes
He grew up. He did become a man.
On a sunny, unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in January, Kenneth Antione Bailey and his wife, Tanishia, gave Stephan Hicks a tour of their recently purchased four-bedroom home in Richmond, VA. Like any parents might, they forewarned that their children’s rooms might not be as neat as they like. The rooms were fine.
After settling in at the dining room table, the Baileys took stock of how far they had come as a couple, and how far Antione had come in his journey to become an “Authentic Man.”
Tanishia beamed with pride at her husband, as he talked about how My Brother’s Keeper of Greater Richmond had changed his life. Antione was one of 19 men who participated in MBK’s Quest for Authentic Manhood program.
Initially, he was skeptical of what, if anything, the program could teach him, Antione recalled. “I kept coming, I got into it,” he said. “Just like any other person, sometimes you have the wrong perspective of what a man is.” As the second youngest participant, Antione became determined to build a relationship with everyone in the workshop, participants and facilitators. “And I kind of learned from everybody, especially [MBK founder Stephan “Coach” Hicks],” Antione said.
The 24-week workshop culminated in a graduation ceremony in which Antione received two awards – Rookie of the Year and The Man of Faith. “I didn’t even know I was getting trophy,” he said. Not having played sports in school, receiving awards was foreign to him. “For me to be called up there to get a trophy, I never received anything like that before in my life. But I think those trophies I got were better than any kind of football or sports trophies because I took a manhood class, and not only did I take it, but I exceeded it. I learned from it.” That night my wife and kids hugged me and told me how proud they were of me,” said Antione.
The Quest for Authentic Manhood program didn’t just affect him, Antione said, his whole family was impacted. “My wife saw the changes in me. My kids saw the changes in me.” Others saw the change in him, as well. “They knew something was different about me. I wasn’t just that hard core street person.”
A father of four by the age of 18
“I got kids, I pay my own bills. I didn’t think I needed anybody to teach me how to be man.”
Indeed, Antione’s completion of the workshop was the culmination of a decades-long journey he had been on to be the man God had intended him to be. The only child of teenage parents, he was raised by his maternal grandmother. Being the first grandchild on one side and the second on the other, Antione could do no wrong in his grandmother’s eyes and did not receive the strict discipline she meted out to her children, Antione’s aunt and uncles. “I could do everything and I didn’t get in trouble for it,” he said. “There was really no great structure or discipline.”
Antione was allowed to hang out with his uncles and run the streets with them without consequence, he said. At 15, he was expecting his first child. “Nobody sat me down and told me I shouldn’t be making kids. Everybody was happy. It was like a celebration. Here I am this young kid and I’m getting ready to have a child and nobody said nothing.” By the time he was 18, Antione was a father of four.
A year earlier, he had met Tanishia. “He could open up and talk to me in a way that he couldn’t open up and talk to other people, and we were good friends,” Tanishia said. “But I always saw potential in him. My mom didn’t care for him, especially when I was younger. She just thought he was totally in the streets and she heard that he had some kids.” But Tanishia knew there was something more to Antione than met the eye. “I always knew that he had potential. He had potential to be a good person, a good husband and a good father. It wasn’t there when I met him, but I could see something in him that he probably couldn’t see in himself,” she said.
Having grown up in a two-parent household, totally different from Antione, Tanishia knew what she wanted out of life and what her priorities were. At 19, after discovering she was pregnant for a second time by Antione, she decided not to tell him. “I left him alone for a good while, for about two years,” Tanishia said. “I didn’t want to see him, I didn’t want to talk to him. Somebody told him I was pregnant but it wasn’t me.” She knew that he could be a better person, “but he still wanted to be what the people around him wanted him to be at that time.”
But after talking things over, she decided to give Antione the opportunity to be the kind of father and potential husband she knew he could be. However, there were some caveats. “I said okay we can give this a try, but I’m not going to have nobody, not their father, not nobody running in and out of their lives,” Tanishia said. “Either you’re going to be a part of their lives or you’re not. That was my standard.”
Antione lived up to that standard and the couple eventually married. Like many young couples, they have had their ups and downs. In all, Antione has nine children, including four with his wife.