Identity

The Johnson Family, Daryl, Braxton, Tammy, Kindall, Tamina and Kassidy The Johnson Family, Daryl, Braxton, Tammy, Kindall, Tamina and Kassidy photo by: Carl Squire McGuire

kindall blog photo   I was in Middle School when I first overheard my teacher’s concept of blackness. We were
walking back from lunch, and she was talking loudly to a group of teachers about me, because I had
just gotten into a competitive magnet program. In her perspective, it was nearly impossible for
someone to be student body president, taking honors classes and Black at the same time. In
hindsight, I don’t know why hearing her share that with a group of white, female teachers made me
feel so betrayed and so self-aware. Maybe, I felt like the color of my skin shouldn’t be brought into a
discussion about my academic and leadership qualities; maybe, I never heard anyone I trusted talk
about me in that way; maybe, I didn’t think excellence and blackness were mutually exclusive; or
maybe, I thought she should have been more discrete. Either way, I was young and naïve about the
way things were, but time would teach me what I didn’t want to learn.
   I was everyone’s little sister. As the youngest of four children, my siblings and all of their friends
loved and sheltered me for many years. I had an over-achieving big sister who won speech
competitions and read every book in the elementary-school library. My middle sister could do a
300-piece Disney puzzle in minutes, and she opened the door for all of us to get into “gifted” classes.
My brother was just a smart, but a million times more popular—he had a smile that won the hearts
of many, including several of my closest friends. By the time I came on the scene at Citrus Park
Elementary School, everyone already knew about the Johnson kids. I had teachers that taught my
sisters and brother, so they already knew that I was going to be Black and smart, because that was
how we were. By the time I got to Middle School, new families began to move into the Odessa
suburbs and the growth necessitated more schools. My siblings and I didn’t all have the same
teachers anymore. My teachers didn’t know what to expect. The majority of the black population at
Walker Middle was being bussed in from inner-city communities.

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   I was fortunate that I was accepted to the International Baccalaureate Program at Hillsborough
High School. It was my first time going to school with so many Black and Latino students. Yet, I
couldn’t reconcile being in an urban school with being in such a segregated, college-prep program.
IB students had our own classes, our own lunches, and our own extracurricular activities. Being in
the band, I interacted with a few “traditional” students, but I still felt like an outsider with the Black
community at Hillsborough. My sophomore year, I joined the track team, and that was it. I finally
felt like I had a place, and I knew people, and I was Black. Track quickly became one of the best
things in my high-school career. I became captain, competed at the State championship, set a school
record for the 800m, and made friends on my team and at schools throughout our region. I learned
to live with W.E.B. DuBois’ “double consciousness,” and navigate my school and social life. It was
the support of the multi-ethnic “traditional” population along with my peers in the IB program that
allowed me to be elected Homecoming Queen and Senior Class President.
   In the Johnson household, going to a Historically Black College/University was not a choice, it was a
mandate. My parents knew that being one of the few Black families in our community had affected
our sense of identity and of self-love. My first sister went kicking and screaming; she didn’t think
that Black people liked her. When my time came, I was initially set on Howard University.
However, when I visited Florida A&M University, I felt something special. I knew that was where I
belonged. I was so happy when I was accepted to the university, I went right away. I had just won a
significant sum of money in a local pageant, and I asked if I could apply my scholarship toward my
summer tuition. They agreed, and I was the happiest, most committed student that summer. I had
never had a Black male teacher in my life. At FAMU, I had two my very first semester. In the fall, I
met a fellow student who I would later marry. I was running for freshman Senate, and he was a
sophomore Senator. The first time I heard him speak, I knew he was the one. I lost the election, 

because I was going by a nickname at that time, and they wouldn’t let me put it on the ballot. When

I won Miss FAMU two years later, I had spent time on the Electoral Commission influencing the
policies I thought were unfair. In Spring 2010, Kindall “Sunshine” Johnson was elected Miss Florida
A&M University by an overwhelming margin.
   My college years were golden, and I have to thank my parents for making it so. Daryl and Tammy
Johnson both grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, a city where there were Black people at every level
of society: judges, doctors, politicians and professors. When they moved to Tampa in the late 80s,
they saw the presence of professional role models for their children diminish along with the
promotion potential on their jobs. They decided to go back to school to finish their degrees, in
hopes that it would level the playing field. My father was 18 when he became a civil servant for the
U.S. Postal Service, the job he would work until he retired in 2014. What enriched our lives was his
decision to move us to a newly-developed subdivision outside of the city and my mother’s decision
to reinvent herself, even after having four kids and moving to a city where she barely knew anyone.
When my mom started working for the radio station and eventually became a radio personality, she
opened us up into a world of access, celebrity, concerts, sports stars and fancy cars. Though we were

far from wealthy, my parents had something better than money: influence and a good name.
   As I look over my life and reflect on where I am today, representing the United States in
Colombia, I know I stand on the shoulders of many—not only those of my parents and my
successful siblings who pushed me (my middle sister has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, my oldest sister
will graduate with her MBA next year, and my brother was in college when he died in a car
accident), but also the community of role models that my parents created to nurture us throughout
our lives. I may be Black, female and 28 years old, but I have also been to more than twenty
countries in the world, I speak four languages, and I am married to a diplomat. The sense of self-
worth I have garnered has allowed me to represent my community whether it was in a preppy
public school, a majority-Muslim population, among a Spanish-speaking citizenry, or with the
neighbors who watched me grow up and grew to love my family. I know that my voice will
contribute something to this world, and I hope to have the chance to use it.

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| 1443 views | May, 5th, 2018
Kindall Sunshine Hayes

Kindall Sunshine Hayes spent the majority of her life chiefly concerned about herself.  As the youngest of four children, she struggled with self-absorption and all of the ills that come with it: fear, perfectionism, neediness, and pride.  She often found her family telling her that she should be more considerate of others, or that every situation was not about her.  It was only after getting married and moving to the other side of the world that Kindall came face to face with her own insecurities and the damage it did to herself and others.  
For the two years that she accompanied her husband on a diplomatic assignment to Bangladesh, she remained silent about her new experiences living as an expat and visiting more than 20 different countries.  She abandoned writing, journaling and all forms of social media, relying on her husband and friends to keep her family informed on her wellbeing.  Living abroad and in a different time zone made her feel entitled to personal privacy.  
In her last few months in South Asia, after growing in her job, as a helpmate, and a world traveler, God convicted her to come out of silence with this scripture: "You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God...”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭MSG‬‬.
Through this personal account and with God's power, Kindall will attempt to do something that all youngest children hate to do: share.

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