Kenneth L. Hardin: Throwing in the towel after three decades of service

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 7, 2024

By Kenneth L. Hardin

Once I make up my mind, I don’t go backwards. There’s no gray area with me, it’s strictly black and white and you know exactly where you stand. I don’t tap dance around subjects or people. I see no value or purpose in grooving when no music is playing, scratching when I don’t itch or laughing when nothing is funny. Although I appreciate this attribute, others find it a little offputting. I surmise people are so used to being spoon fed copious amounts of BS through passive aggressive, indirect communication, they deem direct and assertive communication as angry or aggressive. That’s not my cross to bear nor will I ever temper myself down to pacify another to lessen their insecurities so they feel comfortable with me.

I made a well-thought-out conscious decision recently and have shared it with a few close friends and business associates. I’m developing an exit plan that will see me pull back from all involvement in political, social justice and community service efforts. The countdown clock has already started and the numbers are slowly ticking downward. It will reach its conclusion on my 60th birthday in June 2025. My goal is to become a memory, a thought and a footnote. I’m retiring and removing myself entirely from all aspects of public life, service and involvement.

My plan is to extricate myself from any professional holdings and assume a modest, minimalist, more sedentary and solitary existence. In essence, I plan to revel and participate in all things Pop-Pop for my four-year-old grandson. I’ll also work roots and magic hoping my other two single sons will finally take the plunge into marital waters and give me more grandpa duties to undertake. Over the last few months, especially in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing my decision with a few folks I do business with and even fewer I socialize with regularly. The responses have been the same with the look of disbelief, masked in a series of derisive head nods, repeated eye winks and a nonverbal statement of “Yeah, right.”

Many have asked what precipitated this monumental personal decision. The simple answer is, I’m tired. It’s not the kind of tired that an extended rest, a tropical vacation or a temporary break from social media can solve. My soul is tired. On top of my weariness, I’ve become disheartened and disillusioned with the lack of leadership, their absence of genuine concern for the citizenry, self-serving people in positions of authority and the apathy and inaction on the part of the people.

The final nail for me was after the spate of shootings in one weekend and all of the aforementioned folk’s response. Anytime there’s any violence or issues, I get a phone call, inbox, text or email almost immediately after it occurs. When the gunfire erupted at the J.C. Price American Legion, my phone started to ring as it was happening. I listened to the panic and fear in the voices of people who lived nearby. In the subsequent additional violence and murder that occurred, my phone rang for three continuous days with residents calling me seeking relief. I went to the city council meeting expecting the room to be full. Only three people showed up to speak. I approached the mic with the intention of sharing the fear and concern I had been exposed to, but the sparse turnout from those impacted prompted me to change course and promote my veterans business instead. As I sat waiting for public comments to commence, I engaged in a conversation inside my head. I said to myself, “No one is shooting where I live, there are no long-term abandoned homes nor any occupied with wild disease-ridden animals. The police aren’t driving an armored vehicle through my neighborhood, and I rarely hear sirens. So why am I out here fighting and the people calling me aren’t?”  

As I laid in a hospital bed last week suffering from extreme exhaustion and severe dehydration, I watched five bags of fluid slowly drip down a tube into a port in my left arm and right hand. I felt good about my decision at that moment and the weariness, that had taken up residence deep down near my essence, was momentarily relieved. I thought back on a life of hard work and service starting at 12 years old. I remember hoping for a 10-speed bicycle on that birthday, but instead received a push lawn mower and hedge clippers. I had to walk around the neighborhood and knock on doors to earn my allowance and pay my father back for the mower. I got a work permit and started my first paying job at 15 years old and haven’t stopped since. I’m tired. 

I started working in the community as soon as I received my honorable discharge back in 1988.

For those critical and ignorant of my community service for over 35 years, and who have questioned my commitment, I’ll happily share a list of my involvement and compare resumé’s of service and accomplishment. Feel free to email me and I’ll happily provide you with a comprehensive list. Otherwise, I’m done. Come June of 2025, I’ll be singing the lyrics from a Michael Jackson song, “I don’t care what you talkin’; bout…I don’t care what you say…just leave me alone.” 

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and can be reached at