Thomas the Security Guard: The Man Behind the Desk
Most King’s students walk by the same man every day, perhaps forgetting their ID and gesturing to the same bald head, blue polo, and playfully shocked face knowing nothing about him, maybe not even his name. But, he knows every face, and he will open the gate every time: This is Thomas the security guard.
Keithon Thomas Rahshad Allen, known to King’s as Thomas, was born and raised in Flatbush Brooklyn, New York by a single mother and absent father.
“To be honest, It didn't really bother me,” said Allen, “He was a cheater... My mom was my dad.”
Allen’s childhood varied in experience. Many of his positive memories of adolescence are wrapped around strong relationships with other kids that were his age at the time.
“My childhood, it was fun,” Thomas says, “the neighborhood kids all hung out together. Back in the day, things were different... How you knew where everybody was hanging out when I was growing up, is you’d look for who’s house everybody's bicycle was in front of.”
Other aspects of his childhood were more difficult to swallow. Thomas had to face loss, racism, and instability from a very early age. However, sports brought a great form of stability into his life.
“Sports is the only thing that kept me out of jail,” said Thomas. “It took my mind off of a lot of things, because my mom passed away when I was 12”
After his mother passed away, he was shuffled around to different family members, and even moved out of New York for a period of time to live with one of his sisters. Considering his upbringing being based in New York City, it was difficult to adjust to rural living.
“I’m a city boy, I’m not used to milking cows, and saying ‘yes, ma’am’. I’m used to stop signs and lights, not dirt roads” Thomas said. “There were two light polls, and at night there would always be bats circling around them. I can deal with pigeons, but I wasn't used to bats!”
However, despite this constant movement and unfamiliarity, sports, specifically football, would be a constant in his life that never waivered. Thomas started football at the age of 7, but he wasn’t always best suited for the sport.
“They laughed at me when I tried to play football my freshman year of highschool and called me weezles, because I weighed 130-135 pounds,” Thomas said.
True as it may be, the image of a scrawny teenager with dashed hopes and a bruised ego is quite contrary to the 6 foot, burley man King’s students see everyday. Nevertheless, that year Thomas bought his first set weights and dedicated the entire summer to getting in shape.
“By my sophomore year I weighed a whopping 195. I walked in for tryouts, and the veteran players came over and said ‘Is that you weezle?’ and accepted me into their clique” Thomas said. “That’s when my football career truly began.”
After high school, he abstained from college to pursue semi-pro football until the age of 50.
“This june I will be 53,” Allen said.
He first started working at King’s in 2015, but has been in the Financial District long enough to have seen both attacks on the World Trade Center.
“I managed a hardware store on Greenwich and Rector,” Thomas said. “The 9/11 memorial museum on Rector street, they tried to get me to speak there. But, I can’t... because believe it or not, I actually lost a lot of friends. Where that museum is, that used to be my hardware store.”
Being in New York during these heightened city tensions made Thomas's religious beliefs all the more interesting. Already having to deal with racism and major loss, more discrimination would follow Thomas as well.
“What my dad did, is he took a Bible and he took a Koran, because my dad was Muslim, placed them on the table, and me and my second older sister had to choose. My sister touched the Bible first, so that's what they let her read,” Thomas said, “I guess the Koran, the way the book was, I touched that one, and as soon as I touched it my father said, ‘Good, you’re going to follow in my footsteps.’”
Although, Thomas was urged to replicate his father, he tries to create a different reality for his own 14 year old son.
“That’s another thing that changed my life, was him,” Thomas said about his son, “I teach him to be his own man. Don’t be like me, you have a choice. I try to make it better for him. I want [him] to be better”
Even though Thomas works to provide his son with more choices, he still has to deal with the common misjudgment of Muslims in today's culture.
“A lot of people have misconceptions of Muslims anyway; they think that most Muslims that you see are terrorists. But, that's not true, it’s only extremists. If you were starving, and you went to a Muslim person they would offer you food.”
In the years Thomas has worked at King’s, a Christian institution, he has had one negative experience with a student in regards to his religion. However, beyond that, he has found a more welcoming environment than in past work places.
“The most polite, sincere people I’ve ever met. And, knowing that I’m Muslim, treated me with open arms the way they would treat one of their fellow Christians”
Thomas has especially grown to enjoy seeing and talking with King’s students everyday.
“My favorite thing about working at King’s are the students that come in. Once they pass Inviso, and once I see them again they become my adopted nephews and nieces.”
Although, Thomas has faced hardships difficult for anyone to bear, he has found great joy in being a father, a football player, and a watchful eye for all King’s students.
“That’s pretty much it, there’s nothing fancy about my life,” Thomas said.