For Kevin Hofmann, race has always been an issue.
Two and half weeks after the riot of 1967, Mr. Hofmann was born to a white mother and a black father in Detroit. After a stint in foster care, he was adopted by a white minister and his wife.
"There were very clear lines drawn between black and white," Mr. Hofmann said of his childhood first in Grand Rapids, Mich., and later in Detroit. "I knew growing up that I had to cling to one race or the other. I did a lot of purposeful things to assimilate with the black culture."
At 2 p.m. Thursday, the 44-year-old author of Growing Up Black in White will lecture at Lourdes University in the Den at Lourdes Commons as part of the school's Black History Month activities. His topic will be "His Words, My Life – The Message of Martin Luther King." The lecture will intertwine the messages of the famed civil rights leader with Mr. Hofmann's own life story.
"When it comes to racism, it's more than just not being a racist, it's standing up for someone," Mr. Hofmann said. "It's even worse when you sit there and say nothing."
Mr. Hofmann, who moved to Toledo in 1989, said that the book began as the story focused of his adventures with his best friend, but he soon realized that "the voice of the adoptee is absent" in literature. He then turned his focus to his own adoption by a white family.
He now travels the country sharing his story with social workers and other professionals involved in the adoption process. Growing Up Black in White is also used in several multicultural studies classes at Lourdes.
"The more universal theme is just the conversation of race," he said. "We rarely talked about race, and that was a big mistake. There is so much fear about different cultures and race. The biggest way to get away from that is to sit down and have conversations about it."
Mr. Hofmann hopes to further share his experiences with adoption and race in two more books. One, he said will be a compilation of entries from his blog "My Mind on Paper" at www.kevinhofmann.com. The other will focus on stories from birth mothers and adoptees.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hofmann is continuing his quest to find out more about his birth parents.
After a 21-year search, he found his birth mother's family only to learn that she was deceased. Information on his birth father has proven even more elusive. A recent court battle revealed only that his name is Lawrence Nelson and that he worked in an auto parts plant in 1967.
"It's like searching for a needle in a haystack because all I have is a name," he said. "For me it's just been so frustrating because the courts can't give my information to me."
Mr. Hofmann says he remains close to his adoptive parents and that they have been very supportive in his search.
"I believe strongly that I was placed in the family by divine intervention," he said. "I think what I added to that family was as important as what they gave to me."