After logging thousands of miles this past year during his “World Kindness Tour,” U R Awesome not for profit organization founder Kemy Joseph is back in South Miami to celebrate the third year anniversary of the organization he began while a student at UM.
From New York to California to British Colombia to Alaska, Joseph cruised around North America on his trusty scooter donated by tour sponsor “The Genuine Scooter Company” and flew commercial thanks to his Gates Millennium Scholarship. His purpose was to perform random acts of kindness and inspire individuals and organizations to do the same.
“It has been incredible to see the amount of kindness America has to offer,” said Joseph. “People expect Americans to be nice on an outward fence but complete strangers have trusted me and brought me into their homes, I haven’t even had to pay for a place to stay. It inspires me to be kinder and more trusting.”
Joseph and his red “U R Awesome” t-shirt wearing team have been visiting area hospitals, donating clothes to the homeless, and waving “Free Hugs and High Fives” signs around sporting events and concerts in South Florida for years now. He decided to take the spirit of the work to the next level by launching the “World Kindness Tour” to spread the love a bit further and establish U R Awesome cells of positivity all over the place.
Thanks to traveling networks like couchsurfing. org, Joseph was able to introduce himself to friendly supporters around the country before arriving in their home town and thus secured a place to stay in advance. The Aids Walk in Honolulu, South by Southwest Creative Arts Festival in Texas, and The Images and Voices of Hope Summit in New York City are some of the events Joseph attended while performing random acts of kindness and spreading the kindness message.
“I was walking around with my sign in Anchorage, Alaska, and a woman who couldn’t read asked me what the sign meant,” said Joseph. “When I told her it read that she is awesome and offered her a hug she started crying. Here was a stranger loving her as she is.” Unfortunately the woman’s cell phone rang right after the hug so the moment was over before he could get her name.
“Our society needs kindness more than ever,” said Joseph. “Since the beginning of the organization we have been working to help break the cycle that keeps violent terrorism going on. The idea is if we continue to love people and forgive we can break the cycle of violence and bullying pain and suffering to feel the love out there.”
Because Joseph is about to graduate with a Master’s in Education from Nova Southeastern University, some of his tour dates were spent studying and writing papers indoors. He said Venice Beach, California felt very much like home and he spent the day there walking on the beach and coordinating a team of eight volunteers to spread the U R Awesome message. Texas was a different story. “I was taking a picture of the state sign when I arrived,” said Joseph, “and somebody in a pick-up truck screamed what I’m pretty sure was a racial slur; it wasn’t very welcoming. Then I met some Cajun people that invited me to a barbeque, all of that happened within the same block. It really shook my foundation because a lot of people said I would have a tough time in Texas and it was reaffirmed by the truck that drove by. But that total acceptance I received after that broke it open. I stayed in eight cities in Texas, including Waco, and had no problem.”
There was a slight detour in the World Kindness Tour when Joseph’s scooter got stolen while parked off the camp grounds at a festival in Eugene, Oregon. However even that had a serendipitous happy ending. He ended up meeting his new girlfriend Jenny during that unexpected extra stay. All his gear was secured elsewhere and so untouched, and The Genuine Scooter Company stepped up with a replacement scooter immediately.
Joseph says one of the most amazing aspects of his travels was to sit down in a coffee shop and see people’s faces change and “get blown away” when they heard his story. “Many of the places I went to, people were taken aback by my appearance. ‘Who is this young black man with dregs on a scooter looking for free hugs? ‘Is he homeless, does he have some kind of issue?’ But for some it didn’t matter. They would just come running up to me to make a genuine connection, I’m a positive energy and they just want some positive energy.”