New Yorkers rising up together to meet unprecedented challenges is in the fabric of this great city.
Through the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve seen countless examples of the community-minded selflessness and resilience associated with New York City and we’ve been inspired by those who have raised a hand and stepped up to help their fellow citizens.
In this spirit, we are setting out to reflect what’s truly undeNYable about our city and the people who make up our extended NYCFC family, all doing whatever it takes today to be back together again tomorrow through the sport we love.
undeNYable is a series of stories here on NYCFC.com, holding up members of the NYCFC family who’ve shown the meaning of "For The City", coming through for their fellow New Yorkers when it has mattered most.
Kwame King has been a part of New York City Football Club since 2017 when he joined the team as a Community Coach but he has gone on to fulfill many roles in the City in the Community (CITC) x New York City FC family since.
Now a Youth Leadership Coordinator with CITC and the face of NYCFC’s matchday coverage on Instagram, Kwame is using the power of soccer to promote health, education, and leadership development, as well as playing a key role in helping to create safe community spaces throughout the five boroughs.
King, a Brooklyn native, grew up in East New York and, although he spent most of his early years playing basketball, in 2010 his passion for soccer sparked through one fateful summer.
Inspired by Landon Donovan and the U.S. Men’s National team’s run at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, it was a lightning bolt moment for Kwame.
He remembers: “It was the last winding down minutes and Landon Donovan scored a crazy goal, I could remember it like it was yesterday. I was going crazy in my house and my mom was like, ‘why are you making so much noise?’ That was the introduction to soccer and to the rest of my life,” he explains.
As his interest in soccer deepened, Kwame and Omari (AKA: The Pigeon) won a contest to travel to the UK to watch NYCFC’s sister club Manchester City in a Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium and it was on this decisive trip the pair decided they wanted to bring the power of soccer home to kids in the neighborhoods where they grew up: places where the unifying power of the beautiful game could truly be unleashed.
Upon arriving home to New York, Kwame and Omari created Bed-Stuy Football Club and then Kwame was inspired to volunteer with City in the Community to help with their Saturday Night Light’s programs. It was there he became a part-time coach before eventually pursuing the current full-time position he holds today.
Kwame believes working with kids through sport is a vocation and one that he held long before he took up his first voluntary role with CITC. He recalls: “I've known for a long time that working with kids in a capacity was my calling. I realized probably when I was in fifth grade. That sounds super far-fetched and crazy but I honestly felt that was my calling even then.
“When it finally happened, I felt like, ‘I'm ready for it. I'm ready for that.’ And I think City in the Community in general is a platform for people to use their voice. I've just been blessed to have City in the Community help me use my voice in a better way.”
Since bringing soccer to his community, Kwame has seen how the sport has made a huge impact on the kids, their behaviors, and has given them an outlet to express their feelings. “There’s so many techniques where soccer helps a child express their feelings in a better way, and with soccer bringing soccer into the communities it gives kids an outlet, rather than basketball rather than football.
“I never labeled a kid bad that's just portraying or expressing their feelings. I feel like with soccer, having it here, it gives them the release to express their feelings of when they lose, all right, I'm angry, how can I explain myself about how to lose. There's so many techniques where soccer helps a child to express their feelings in a better way.”
Another way Kwame is inspiring the youth of New York to use their voices is through the Power the Vote initiative which is the brainchild of Kwame and his CITC colleague (and earlier undeNYable subject), Gwen Hernandez.
Whether it’s been creating a hub at NYCFC.com/PowerTheVote, holding a voter registration event in each of the five boroughs for National Voter Registration Day, or holding virtual City Hall meetings with NYCFC players, Sky Blue FC and officials, Kwame has been spreading the importance of civic engagement across the city - and not just in 2020, but every year now going forward.
He added: “I think Power The Vote equals what City in the Community speaks every single day, every year, every month, because we want to make change in our communities and how we make change in our communities, is using our voice and using our platforms in a positive way.”
To learn more about Power the Vote, visit NYCFC.com/PowerTheVote.