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Inspiring boys to be men is second nature for young author

Turning pain into purpose: Yannik Mckie spreads his truth through mentorship

Rev. Jesse Jackson often quotes a passage from the Bible’s Book of Romans in his speeches

“Suffering builds character, character breeds faith and in the end faith will not disappoint.”

This quote can be attributed to adversity and the character-building process that comes with it. It can represent so many people who have been through the fire. But it’s a dead-on description for 38-year-old pastor, author and motivational speaker, Yannik McKie.

In his book, Living in the Shadows, McKie tells the captivating story of how he became one of the first children in America to lose both of his parents to AIDS — he was just a teenager. McKie later lived with close family friends and got involved in environments contradictory to his life now.

“My dad made a decision that affected my entire family,” McKie told The Undefeated.

“I was an at-risk youth. I was involved in drugs and gangs. Somebody stepped into my life to help mentor me, to help me make a positive change.”

Overcoming such adversity has helped McKie earn his reputation as an expert on how to overcome life’s toughest challenges. McKie used his expertise by founding The McKie Foundation, through which he mentors, counsels and donates his time and resources to at-risk males through his signature program Men In Training (M.I.T.).

At Augusta University in April, he found himself at another event where he would speak to youth about adversity and character development. He was one of three guest speakers at the Future Leaders Conference in Georgia, where he formed a lifelong bond with the other two speakers — Fernando Velasco, a center for the Buffalo Bills, and Cory Fleming, a retired NFL player who won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys and is an Arena Football League Hall of Famer.

“He gave me his book,” Valesco said. “I read his book — it was an unbelievable story.”

Velasco grew up in a rural area outside of Augusta, Georgia, and runs the Right C.H.O.I.C.E.S. Foundation that empowers youth through character development and athleticism.

Fleming was set to speak after McKie and was smitten by his speech.

“He gets the mic before me. I was like, he’s got me taking notes on my phone. I forgot I had to speak after him in front of two to three hundred kids. He’s powerful. Now, we can’t stop talking. That’s like my guy. I can call him right now, and he misses my call, he will call me right back,” Fleming said.

McKie is a vibrant speaker with an extraordinary ability to reach and inspire people of all ages to eliminate excuses and take responsibility in their lives. He used his expertise in founding The McKie Foundation.

McKie said he believes in helping youth overcome their problems to achieve productivity through M.I.T. and the female alternative, CLASSY.

“We are able to team these young people up with other mentors in their community to help with their education, to help them socially and to help them financially,” McKie said.

He also hosts the Let’s Talk About Sex Conference.

“This conference is to attack what I believe is one of your biggest social problems, and that is our sexual activity among African-Americans,” he said. “If you look at statistics for African-American males and females, even though there is medicine to help with HIV, it’s still big in the community. Specifically in the area of their relational habits.”

Until McKie turned 13 years old, he certainly had no idea that both his mother and father would be snatched away in this tragic manner.

McKie did not understand how to handle the tragedy of being one of America’s first double AIDS orphans, and after years of living his life full of bitterness and anger with God, he humbled himself to face a calling he never imagined. McKie has dedicated his life to passing on the gift he found in the midst of adversity, helping others to overcome any circumstance life throws at them, no matter how tragic. His extraordinary book tells how to turn your life’s greatest disappointments and heartbreaks into your life’s greatest opportunity and purpose.

McKie’s personal memoir is a story of confronting life’s most crushing blows, of standing on faith and conviction. In its June 1981 statement, AVERT, an international AIDS charity, stated, “the first cases of what is now known as AIDS were reported in the USA.”

His parents’ battle with AIDS and his own thoughts of hopelessness once led him to a short life of crime. McKie has firsthand knowledge of dealing with the police, and as he helps others see pain in purpose, the recent events on race and policing have caused him to speak out. He said there has to be a change.

“As a father and leader in the community, we are also working on programs to train our sons on how to handle these situations because it seems to be getting worse before it gets better. So I want my boys equipped with knowledge just in case they ever find themselves in one of these horrible situations.”

Mckie’s wife, Linda, is right by his side through his training program with their son and daughter.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.