As unconventional as we may appear when we are together in public–with our differences in height and skin tone as well as body type and personality–we are no less a family," Brown writes.

My phone rang late on a Friday night in September 2015. On the other end was a student in an afterschool program I direct at South High School. “Mr. David,” Chrisbian said, “Kulay is in trouble, and we need your help.”

Chrisbian and Kulay were both in South High Harmony, which is part of Harmony Project, the organization for which I serve as creative director.

During the call, Chris told me about a very serious situation within Kulay’s family that had resulted in Kulay being removed from the home. Eventually, he would be placed in foster care, but at that moment he was in juvenile detention. I told Chris that I would show up in court the following morning.

Kulay had come to America as a refugee from Liberia. In his first four years of life, he witnessed civil war and the death of family members at the hands of rebel warriors. He was smuggled across borders, hid in the African bush, spent weeks in an immigration camp in France and finally arrived in the United States. Since then, he had moved to three different states, attended 13 schools, and lost his grandmother—his closest relative and his only provable ancestral connection to his family in Liberia.

Continue reading David Brown's story on Columbus Monthly.