Christopher King hails from blues music royalty.
His grandfather, B.B. King, is the legendary blues musician, and while Christopher is not a musician — he spent much of his life around it.
But the 40-year-old Zephyrhills man devoted himself to a different passion.
He has spent a decade raising awareness about human trafficking and has become a champion for proper etiquette and human rights.
He’s created his own brand — a program called The Gentleman’s Course — and uses lessons learned from B.B. King, such as: “The knowledge you learn, people can’t take from you.”
“He taught me that they can take your house, car or guitar, but not your knowledge, and the application of knowledge is wisdom,” Christopher elaborated. “It’s the things he taught me and applying it that has made my brand because I wanted to blaze my own path and help people.”
The Gentlemen’s Course, a 501c3 nonprofit, focuses on educating youth in proper etiquette and manners in association with Human Rights Education and Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts. It also helps those who have survived human trafficking to reintegrate into society.
Christopher has helped human trafficking victims, raised awareness about the evils and devastating impacts of the exploitation, and provided programs to help those who have suffered and survived to move forward.
“I don’t lead with (I’m B.B. King’s grandson). It’s — it’s not in my introduction,” Christopher said. “I tell people because they usually end up asking about my (B.B King) pin (I always wear) to keep him with me. I still have my brand and it’s not something I lose if I break a finger and can’t play guitar.
“I’m proud of my brand because of how many people it has helped.”
Learning on the road
Christopher has been on tours.
He spent 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a combat veteran.
Then, he became an assistant road manager on tour with B.B. King.
Being on tour with his grandfather gave him a chance to learn the business side of the entertainment industry and, of course, to sell the King brand.
It was an opportunity to learn and soak up knowledge that would come in handy later. An experience he had at the White House inspired him to create The Gentleman’s Course.
“We get to dinner with this whole formal setting, and I say, ‘Pop Pop, I don’t know what any of this is,’” Christopher said.
He decided to change that.
“I started to take protocol classes to learn that and more about fashion, which is important to me,” he said. “It all helped me build the platform of what we teach to those we want to help.”
When B.B. King passed, at 89, in 2015, Christopher needed to find work.
“The (tour) bus wasn’t moving anymore,” he explained.
Initially, he leaned heavily into his knowledge of the fashion side — selling and marketing high-end clothing.
At one point, he was asked to host a fashion show that would benefit a Tampa group home for those victimized by human trafficking. He was profoundly moved when he learned all of the models in the show were residents at that home.
But he had not found his calling, nor felt fulfilled or happy.
Tina Cox, his manager at the time, suggested he might want to transition into something that gave him a chance to give back and help kids.
He decided to volunteer at the same group home.
Through research and his first-hand experience around human trafficking victims, he learned about how pervasive and destructive human trafficking is in Florida.
He wanted to make a difference.
He decided to help people who had been trafficked to learn social and life skills to help them become functioning members of society. Soon after, people started asking: ‘What about the children in the community who could use etiquette training?’
So, he created courses and began doing speaking engagements to reach youth that might not gain that kind of knowledge in school or at home.
“I had one women ask me, ‘Why does my daughter need to know how to tie a tie?’” Christopher recalled. “A lot of women in the world today are single mothers and have a son, but no man to teach the son to tie a tie. It’s a sad thing, and we’re not promoting single-parent homes, but we live in a world where it exists.
“Also, women like wearing ties, too.”
Teaching on the road
Christopher is now involved in public speaking engagements across the state of Florida, focusing on proper etiquette and human trafficking awareness. He also touches on the importance of knowing life and social skills, such as those taught in The Gentlemen’s Course.
People who are rescued from human trafficking are also suffering mental trauma, said Kimberley Michele, the Gentlemen’s Course purpose coach. “Helping them reintegrate back in (to society) is about how I can help them find their independence.”
She also helps them understand the traumatic experience they survived does not define them. It’s just one chapter in their story, she said.
Michele said she loves working with “a powerful organization” that “can shape this generation.” She said it’s fulfilling to teach “young men and women how to walk with purpose.”
“We’re teaching them how to carry themselves as young adults,” she added.
Christopher has brought his program to Pasco County and partners with the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis and Wellness Center in Zephyrhills. He soon will work with the center’s junior mentors.
“Chris is going to do The Gentlemen’s Course with our junior mentors and coaches and make them become better leaders,” center executive director Nick Walton said. “If we can help Chris raise awareness (of human trafficking) in Zephyrhills and Pasco that exists right here in our backyard, then that’s a great added value to our junior programs.”
Responsible for the road ahead
Christopher feels responsible to educate people on the 30 human rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created in 1948 by the United Nations. One of those rights, Human Right No. 26, is the right to education. That right leads to Human Right No. 29: Responsibility.
Christopher believes his nonprofit has a responsibility to help others learn about all 30 human rights.
“He doesn’t do it for fame — nor does he do it while saying who his grandfather is,” Michele said. “He’s always in the community and standing up for (ending) human trafficking. He does it for the people, and even though he’s in a small town, he makes sure the word gets out.”
In the end, playing a guitar doesn’t chase Christopher’s blues away — helping people does.
“I meet a lot of people and kids who I can help,” he said. “It began by raising awareness about human trafficking, but it has grown so far beyond that. We’re actually affecting people’s lives and bringing back the person they either were or supposed to be.
“And, I truly love it.”
The Gentlemen’s Course
Details: A 501c3 nonprofit that focuses on educating youth in proper etiquette and manners in association with Human Rights Education and Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts. It also helps survivors of human trafficking to reintegrate into society. The program includes lessons on proper attire and etiquette, strengthening social skills and the toolkit needed to help land a job.
Info: Visit TheGentCourse.com.
Published May 10, 2023