On Father’s Day, in a now-viral video, a 17-year-old from Suffolk, Virginia, named Keon Wiggins-Saunders held back tears as he shakily read his letter to Donzell Powell, the man who stepped up as Keon’s father since he was 1 and married his mother, Keona, when he was 3.
His caption to his video read, “Will You Adopt Me? My stepfather raised me! I wanted to pay him back by taking on his last name, legacy, and giving all legal custody and rights over me as the man who raised me. (Show me some love because it takes a lot to make somebody like me cry)
Happy Father’s Day 2020”
Since circulating the internet, 1 million viewers and counting have continued to pour out support to the young man who shared such an intimate moment.
Wiggins-Saunders spoke with Atlanta Black Star to share what motivated him to make this gesture. In a Zoom interview, Wiggins-Saunders said that although he always knew he would ask Powell to make their bond official, the execution of starting the process to be legally adopted was just a matter of when.
“I came up with the idea for him to adopt me that way, everything that he’s created, everything that he’s built, everything he’s done for me — ’cause I done gave him some headaches — I felt like I had to repay him,” Wiggins-Saunders told Atlanta Black Star.
“I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t know the perfect time to let it ride, but I felt like the relationship with my biological father was fading, and I was just like, well maybe this happened for a reason. Maybe I need to make this move, especially before I go to college and start doing what I’m doing and all, and I’m away from home a lot. I want to do it and felt like Father’s Day was the perfect time,” Wiggins-Saunders added.
How did Wiggins-Saunders get to be blessed with such an adored father figure since age 1?
“My biological father and my mother ended up separating,” Wiggins-Saunders said. “My mother was working in a bakery, and my stepdad [who was serving] in the Army Reserve saw her and spit game, and they started talking. They started getting serious. And he’d immediately take me everywhere from a young age. He would take me everywhere. Riding in cars, to the barbershop, wherever it was — I was with him. People were starting to think I was his biological son.”
Their bond and the fact that Wiggins-Saunders’ siblings already have the last name Powell made it seem only right to unify his surname with theirs.
In reflecting on why he wants to change names, Wiggins-Saunders said, “I felt like my biological side of the family really wasn’t putting forth the same effort as the Powell family was, so I wanted to take on the legacy which made me who I am, rather than the legacy that brought me into the world.”
Although Wiggins-Saunders had a semblance of a relationship with his biological father, the teenager said in an interview with the Whole Brother Mission YouTube channel that it wasn’t enough.
“We stayed rather close to one another, but we weren’t really in communication, and I felt as though I was tired of splitting my love between two men in my life, and I want to give my all to the one who deserves it the most,” he told Whole Brother Mission last week.
Donzell Powell, who was not available for an interview with Atlanta Black Star but did speak to Whole Brother Mission, works as a plant manager. Wiggins-Saunders said his stepfather is constantly empowering him to use his voice to create change.
As they begin their new journey overwhelmed with support, Powell, who has admitted that it is not clear how the family will proceed with his stepson’s adoption request, is honored to be an inspiration to other fathers and sons not connected by blood, telling Whole Brother Mission a “connection through humanity,” is what’s important, especially in today’s times.
The road to family wasn’t always easy, as Powell admits. “Being that he did have a natural father, I always advocated to Keon, no matter what, that’s your father so you need to make sure you have respect for him regardless of the circumstance,” Powell told Whole Brother Mission. “And I always made sure I was cordial with the father, that I don’t step on his toes. But we had moments in trying to figure out where my place stood in his life and how far I could go in being the actual stepfather.”
Despite a few moments of bumping heads and fallouts, Wiggins-Saunders and Donzell’s love for each another prevailed each time, bringing them closer to the beautiful moment viewers were able to witness.
Wiggins-Saunders also is an entrepreneur with a clothing line called Rich Kid Clothing, and he has been using his social media and YouTube channel, Rich Kid Nation TV, to raise awareness and advocate for racial justice.
Since sharing his hope to change his last name legally, Wiggins-Saunders also described to ABS how everything else changed has as well. Initially, the young activist was denied admission to his dream school, Howard University, in late December. Reflecting on the devastation he felt during that time.
“In junior year I started to focus on Howard,” Wiggins-Saunders said. “I applied early — early decision as a binding contract. I was set on Howard. I didn’t care how much it cost, nothing. I figured it was labeled as the best coed HBCU. I applied around October. I got a denial letter in December. And that crushed me. I woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning when I saw. I was sad about that.”
However, some weeks later, everything changed.
“I trust God; I believe in God. I kept praying on it, and around January or February, maybe, I met somebody who knew somebody who made a couple of calls, and it was like, ‘Yo, Keon, you got accepted!’ And I got a financial aid package and everything, so that was nothing but a blessing.”
The blessings continue to rain down on Wiggins-Saunders. He also launched his brand Rich Beyond Monetary Gain to expound on the belief that wealth has nothing to do with money and everything to do with living a fulfilled, philanthropic, and humble life.
“I don’t look at money as my first priority — ever,” Wiggins-Saunders said. “The money comes, the money goes. But I like to focus on the quality of things within myself. When you focus on the qualities within yourself and you call that being rich, you can’t lose. You’ll always forever be happy because you’re happy with yourself, no matter how much money you have or status.”