Letsie James “Khotso” Khabele
April 20, 1974 – May 16, 2020
The world suffered a profound loss when beloved educator, entrepreneur, and thought leader, Letsie James “Khotso” Khabele, CEO of KoCentric in Austin, Texas passed away by drowning at the age of 46.
Khotso had launched KoCentric with partners Zoltan Papp and Jasen Trautwein, which consists of a membership community combining coworking, yoga, seminars, executive and corporate events, online courses, retreats, a restaurant, and a startup accelerator. He was enthusiastic about harnessing new technologies to help humanity usher in a golden age, and that this is possible, provided we begin with and from the heart.
When Khotso was one year old, his family moved from his birthplace of Abraka, Nigeria, to their new home in Roma, the campus of the National University of Lesotho. They eventually moved to Maseru, the capital of the Kingdom of Lesotho where he attended Maseru English Medium Preparatory School. At twelve, he became a boarding student at St. Stephen’s Episcopal school in Austin, returning home to Lesotho during summer breaks.
He earned his B.A. in economics from The University of Texas at Austin, his B.A. at Fielding Graduate University’s Human and Organizational Systems and his M.B.A. through Harvard Business School’s Alternative MBA Program for Leadership Development.
In 2001, Khotso, his former wife Moya co-founded The Khabele School to teach how to learn and instill the love of lifelong learning and the ability to adapt to rapid change. Khabele pioneered and integrated mindfulness techniques and cultural practices into school culture: Pitso (assembly inspired by traditional Sotho consultation), Ubuntu (I am, because we are), Centering (two minutes of silence at the beginning of class), door tassels (to not disrupt Centering time), the Socratic method of debate, and deep listening. These techniques and the environment they created, relieved physical and emotional stress, and enabled the students to retain information and enjoy the process. He took students on yearly service trips to Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland, where they had adventures and cultural experiences that included camping, hiking and horseback riding.
After the Khabele School, Khotso co-founded KoSchool Incubator with Michael Strong, and co-authored combining conscious leadership, start-up incubator principles and the Socratic Method. The middle and high school engaged the students in project-based learning, internships with local businesses, and entrepreneurial projects. When they parted ways, the school became ATI (Academy of Thought and Industry).
Khotso also served as the CEO for Trails.by, an e-learning software company that helps schools map their curriculum and display student work online. He spoke frequently in the worldwide education community, including TEDx and SXSW:Edu events and was named Community Leader of the Year by the CCAACC (Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce).
As a coach, trainer and visionary, Khotso believed whatever you focus on, expands. He traveled the world several times, developed amazing relationships, and inspired people to live their dreams. His civic-mindedness, love of community, entrepreneurship, and passion for education drove him to seek new ways to make life better for all.
Khotso began meditating in college and kept the discipline for the rest of his life. Profoundly sensitive, he spent years of devotion in different spiritual, religious and personal development communities where he is deeply loved. Though raised as both Anglican/Episcopal and Catholic, he followed Krishnamurti, Pramahansa Yogananda, Buddhism, and the Bahai Faith. He synergized their teachings and wove them into practices that produced profound transformation for him. Ultimately, he chose Christ as his path and St. James’ Episcopal Church of Austin as his home, his grandparents being two of the 16 founding members.
Khotso proactively gave others the treatment he sought, and he loved God with all of his being. He saw God in everyone and everything and unreservedly and unconditionally loved friends and enemies alike. He spread joy through his infectious smile – it was impossible to be or remain sad in his presence. Individuals of all walks of life and countless communities love Khotso for the love he gave.
Whether African Drumming, Men’s Groups, The African Student Union, Landmark Education, Harvard University - Khotso, naturally led by way of his profoundly enthusiastic love for nature and humanity – one human at a time.
Khotso’s endeavors had always been a means to an end: to find a way to bring as many people together for their healing.
His maternal grandmother Bertha Sadler Means, an educator and businesswoman, is known for her civil rights activism. She is the namesake of the Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy and over 100 years old. His maternal grandfather, the late James H. Means Sr., was a distinguished mathematics professor for forty years, at what is now Huston-Tillotson University. He also owned Austin Cab Company, a radio repair shop and invested in real estate.
His late paternal grandfather, Janke Johannes Khabele, was a businessman who owned Blue Star Taxi and an international hostel for mine workers in Kimberley, South Africa. He led in the fight against apartheid. In his later years, he ran a small farm in Leribe, Lesotho. His late paternal grandmother, Mamorapeli Khabele was a homemaker and leader in the community. She took in many orphans and ensured their educations. She continued her work when they moved to Lesotho.
His father, Dr. Paseka Edwin Khabele earned his doctorate at Fordham University and was Dean of the College of Maths and Sciences at the National University of Lesotho. He was exiled from South Africa and became a citizen of Lesotho as he fought against South Africa’s apartheid regime. He has owned a meat processing factory, served as advisor to the Premier of the Northeast Province of South Africa, and was the first black South African to head an international private school. His mother, Joan Means Khabele was one of first African American students to attend Austin High School and integrated Barton Springs Pool and The Ice Palace. She was an African Studies professor at the National University of Lesotho and served as Director of Arts and Culture in the Northeast Province of South Africa.
From the family by blood and by spirit: the testament to Khotso’s life’s work is the countless souls he has left behind who feel lost without our guiding light. We lost our benevolent king –our rock and our glue. He transformed lives, families and communities. We feel so lost but are sustained by the many years of happy memories with him. He was gentle and kind, yet stern when need be. He looked out for us, checked in with us, and spared no expense for beautiful, fun, enriching experiences. We witnessed him retreat from the world and battle with the demons of his childhood traumas and the pain of his failures and mistakes. He suffered greatly by being a public figure and at times grossly misunderstood and slandered. He battled profound sadness, loneliness, and insecurity, and yet took 100 percent responsibility when most would be justified to cast blame. He forgave his enemies and actively sought reconciliation and peace with them because he couldn’t help but love them. He had compassion beyond comprehension and wanted for them the peace that is beyond understanding. His vision for what is possible or humanity was crystal clear. He dove deep to do the work to heal himself and emerged to share the knowledge of healing with as many as possible. He did so much for us yet apologized profusely because he felt he could have done more. He had many little flaws but made up for each exponentially by his love, generosity and caring.
Khotso was on a mission to lead our world to unity, purpose and joy and insisted we love ourselves. We know of no other person more disciplined and hard working. He voraciously read philosophy, spiritual and leadership books. He prayed, read scripture and meditated every day. He gave thanks and cried tears of joy for this life and its beauty. Khotso treated each of us like we were the center of the universe. He was a man of integrity and the truest of friends. He was pure love in action and brought a bit of Heaven to everyone who spent time with him. He’d embrace us, and lock eyes and unabashedly announce: “I love you. I love you so much.” with shimmering eyes and the widest of smiles.
Khotso enjoyed walking the dog, tennis, riding bikes, wake surfing, skiing, camping, hiking and horseback riding. The natural world made his heart sing. He loved education, teaching and coaching. He loved the creative arts equally and was a phenomenal chef and host. His greatest love was building community: bringing people together and teaching them how to love themselves was his most essential and cherished work.
Khotso had a beautiful, profoundly loving bond with his three children Naledi (18), Tau (15) and Letsie (10). Though he traveled frequently, he was 100% there for them and made sure they were engaged in enriching activities. They hiked and did sports and played games together. They took walks and talked philosophy. He showered them with affection and lovingly and sternly guided them building the resilience they needed for challenging times. They are grateful. Khotso was the ultimate Malome (Mother’s Brother) of Sotho tradition, and his nieces and nephews called him by no other name. He was so proud of each and every one.
We want the courage to live by his example. We could not have asked for more and are eternally grateful for the gift of his life. We strive to honor his memory by loving ourselves better and allowing our actions to align. May he Rest in Peace and may we embrace him again on the other side.
Khotso was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents Janke Johannes Khabele and Mamorapeli Khabele of Kimberley, South Africa; and maternal grandfather Dr. James Horatio Means of Austin, Texas.
He is survived by his daughter Naledi and sons Tau Khabele and Letsie Khabele; his parents Dr. Paseka Edwin Khabele and Joan Means Khabele; his sister Dr. Dineo Khabele and brother in law James Hunter and their son James Lebohang Hunter; his sister Inonge Khabele and her former husband Michael Stevens and their daughters Lesedi and Palesa and sons Thabo and Tumelo Khabele-Stevens; his former wife Moya McIntyre, her husband Colin McIntyre and their daughter Anya Mae; his former in-laws Joe and Mary Alack; his former brother-in-law Robert Alack and wife Hiromi and daughters Julia and Kayla Alack; and countless uncles, aunts and cousins on the Means and Khabele sides in the United States and South Africa.
A private visitation and viewing for immediate family only will be held at King-Tears Mortuary at 1300 East 12 th Street in Austin, Texas. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, a private funeral and memorial service will be streamed on Sunday, June 7. Details are forthcoming.
The family is grateful for all of the condolences, well wishes and tributes to Letsie. We are saddened we cannot celebrate his life together in a normal fashion, and we hope the livestreamed services will do him justice.
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