A five times martial arts world champion, actor, author and artist living in Los Angeles has “virtually” travelled back to his native northeast of England to inspire and enthuse young people on the first steps of their careers.
Kevin Brewerton was born in Newcastle and spent his youth living and growing up in Jesmond Dene where his grandfather worked as the park keeper. His early years were typical of any young boy growing up on Tyneside but at the age of 12, he discovered that the girl he thought was his sister was actually his mother and that the couple he thought of as his parents were in fact his grandparents. Add to this, the discovery that his birth father was originally from Ghana and that he suddenly realised that he was a man of colour, his life was sent into adolescent turmoil.
Kevin, however, channelled his confusion, anger and self-expression into the sport and became a major name in the martial arts and kickboxing world travelling all across the UK and beyond to compete in championships.
“I remember as a young boy having all sorts of mixed emotions about my birth father, the fact that I was mixed race and how my life up to then had been built on untruths which made me question a lot of things,” he said. “To escape from the pressures I was under, I used to climb over the walls of the Odeon Cinema and sneak in to watch Bruce Lee movies. They inspired me to be like him and become a winner in life.”
At just 17 he moved to London where it was easier to be for his fighting career and as his skills progressed so did the array of titles and championship wins under his belt. His career took him to the USA where he immediately felt at home and embraced the people and culture. At that stage, he also realised that he was running away from his past, his Newcastle upbringing and all of the confusion surrounding his identity.
Following his fighting career, Kevin settled in LA working in the health and fitness industry and teaching martial arts. He also started a career in acting with roles in major movies including Hackers and The Fifth Element and today he regularly features in movies both as an actor and director. Kevin’s creativity knows no end and he is also an established
abstract expressionist artist and writer.
Indeed, his latest project is his autobiographical account of his life from his early Tyneside upbringing to his career highs, but the book “These are African hands” also delves deeply into his emotional rollercoaster search for his birth father and the psychological effect that his father’s ultimate rejection had on him and his life.
“I started this book 22 years ago and it has been a very cathodic and healing experience. Looking back, I now know that when I left England, I was not only running away from my past but also looking for the real me.
“I even travelled to Ghana in my quest to find my father and although he never ever accepted me as his own, I feel that a part of me has been found and I’m grateful for that and I’m proud of who I am, what I’ve achieved in life and where I’ve come from.”
Now, Kevin’s story is being told not only in the book but to hundreds of NE students on a live video podcast thanks to Consett-based north east charity, Building Self-Belief CIO.
Christine Thomas is Chief Executive of the charity which gives vulnerable young people in socio-economically deprived areas the opportunity to take part in team building, arts, employability and emotional well-being programmes.
“Kevin’s story is truly inspirational. He shows young people that it is possible to turn extreme negatives into extreme positives. His numerous achievements are something to be very proud of. Kevin’s interview podcast will be shown to young people in the north east so that they can learn from his experiences and take inspiration from this fantastic, multi-talented, world champion Geordie.”