Terry Kennedy would sometimes hide his skateboard or walk the other way to avoid neighborhood gang members, who would call him "white boy" and couldn't understand why a young black man would want to be a skater.
"But I just saw through the negativity. To me, this is what kept me out of trouble. Through skateboarding, I was able to see outside of my neighborhood and expand my horizons," Kennedy said.
Now, Kennedy's talents have landed him a TV show. The 25-year-old skateboarder from Long Beach, Calif., anchors a new reality show, "Being Terry Kennedy," scheduled to air on BET beginning Tuesday night.
The show will focus on how Kennedy has been taking care of his six family members through his skateboarding career. It also highlights his new clothing line and his rap group, The Fly Society.
Kennedy said he understands why barely anyone from his neighborhood _ including his grandmother and brother _ believed he could make skateboarding a career. In Long Beach, where most kids grow up playing football and basketball, they just didn't know much about the sport.
"They thought it was a hobby," Kennedy said of his grandmother and brother. "Nobody else did it in my neighborhood. ... But it's funny that the same people who told me to do something else, I'm now taking care of."
On the other hand, Kennedy's cohorts at skating competitions _ namely skate park legend Tony Hawk and MTV reality show star Bam Margera _ along with other skaters have always encouraged him to keep honing his skateboarding talents.
"He's so positive," said pro skater Paul Rodriguez Jr., who has known Kennedy for 10 years. "He comes from an area where it's very easy to be negative, to be angry about your life. Somehow, he manages to rise above all that."
Before the show was picked up by BET, Kennedy said some television networks didn't believe his show would make it and even he had his doubts.
He said other networks wanted him to "be funny and jump off the walls like Rob Dyrdek," a skateboarder who starred in his own reality show on MTV.
Ultimately, Kennedy's show was picked up after Sacha Jenkins _ now one of the show's producers _ approached him about pitching his show to BET.
"My faith was getting low," said Kennedy, who placed in the top 10 in the X Games and Maloof Money Cup in 2008. "Those other (networks) didn't understand my concept. ... But BET is allowing me to tell my story."
Kennedy was raised by his grandmother after his mother died when he was 14. He said his infatuation with skateboarding began in the eighth grade when he used to watch a friend _ who was always wore skater clothes _ do tricks after basketball practice.
Kennedy said practicing tricks on his board were tough to do in areas of Long Beach prone to drug activity and gang violence. Kennedy has seen the street realities firsthand: In 2005, he was shot in the jaw and forearm after a party in Long Beach.
But Kennedy hopes he can use the TV show to inspire people through the hardships he has overcome.
"Skateboarding isn't one color," he says. "People from my neighborhood discredited me because of that, until they saw that I'm no different with the same struggles. I can show people just that through my show. I've got a story to tell."
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