Latasha “Tasha” Blackmon was paralyzed by depression for years following the murder of her only son, Kenneth Ramos, Jr. in September 2009.
Kenneth was only 20 when he was fatally stabbed in the neck by a “jealous friend,” said Blackmon, a lifelong Crown Heights resident.
“For two years, I was just drinking; I just wanted to be numb,” said Blackmon. “I was hallucinating. I would see other children that I thought was him and think, ‘No, he’s not dead; he’s right there.’
“I was not able to get out the bed and wash ass at all… When you depressed, you could be smelling like 10 ni**as; you don’t care. That bed just got you there, because you wake up and the problems were still there. You be so much inside of your own feelings that it sinks you to a point where you’re paralyzed; you’re stuck in a hole.”
Blackmon said when she did try to move around and do everyday things like talk on the phone or shop for groceries, she’d feel dizzy, start breathing hard and get panic attacks. To make matters worse, over the next five years, two of her best friends also passed away.
“I felt so alone! I was running back and forth to the emergency room saying, ‘My brain is gonna blow up!’ said Blackmon. “The feeling I had of wanting to die was the same fear I had not to die. So finally, my mother was like, ‘Listen, you’ve got to go to counseling.’”
Eventually, Blackmon went to Paul J. Cooper Center for Human Services in Bed-Stuy, a therapy clinic for residents struggling with drug addiction, developmental disorders or mental illness.
Blackmon admitted, therapy was the last thing she considered, because, “I know I can be loud or whatever to the family. But when I go around other people, I’m very nervous talking to strangers… therapy is not really something we [Black people] think about. We’re used to just trying to figure things out on our own.”
“I started talking to a therapist. They prescribed me a medicine. They helped me out a lot,” Blackmon said.
The healing she received from therapy and medication (and time) propelled Blackmon, with her daughter Katorah, to form Kweens Foundation (kings and queens), a support group for low-income families in Brooklyn who have lost a loved one at the hands of street violence and who may not be sure where to turn.
Blackmon said trust of the outside world with issues related to financial struggle, violence, coping and survival is an issue. With Kweens, Blackmon hopes to provide a relatable network and support system of individuals for people like herself who may be inclined to turn inward instead of seek help. She said the self-isolation that tends to happen when parents feel there’s nowhere to turn can is self-destructive– particularly if you have other children and need to continue earning a living.
Aside from her son Kenneth, Blackmon had two younger children– Quin and Katorah– who still needed her. In fact, at around the time she finally decided to seek help, the oldest, Katorah, was a teen and a budding rapper.
And by the time Blackmon finally established Kweens, Katorah– now known to the world as “Young M.A”– had become a triple platinum-selling artist whose record graced the Billboard Top 20; who was nominated for BET and MTV Artist of the Year and Female Hip-Hop Artist of the Year awards; and who was opening for big names like Alicia Keys and Beyonce.
Suddenly, there was money and Mercedes Benz’s and reporters and TV cameras on her front lawn and loads of phone calls from a soup of people she didn’t know or trust. Even the familiar places and faces in her life began to change.
“These friends I grew up with… suddenly talking ‘bout, “Go ahead Tasha, you go first; you can help us get in this spot.’ I’m like, When did you ever push me ahead to do anything? C’mon, we played skully and hopscotch together! I had the snotty nose too!” said Blackmon. “So now you’re scaring me, acting weird all of a sudden…
“I mean, I’m blessed… And I’m very grateful… I just want my friends back and my son back. I’m tired.”
Still, her foundation, Kweens, has been a point of bright light and hope for Blackmon, who still resides in Crown Heights. With a little help from a few friends, she has established the foundation’s non-profit status and set up a website page. But she needs an experienced someone to volunteer technical assistance; help her set up a GoFundMe page, build out the website and lead the foundation’s growth.
So far, in 2018 she has held three very successful events she has paid for out of her own pocket– a Mother’s Day Brunch, a back-to-school bar-b-que, and a toy giveaway event during Christmas– to build Kweens’s visibility across Brooklyn. And her daughter, Young M.A has been right by her side, making financial donations and offering to show up to arouse the cameras and the crowds.
But Blackmon insists she needs to know how she can run the organization so that it can earn money, without having to depend on her daughter, who is often traveling and focused on her own career. Blackmon is looking for people who believe in what she’s doing, people she could trust.
“I just want to put my foot in it. I’m all licensed up to do this,” she said. “I want to take women who have lost a child as a result of violence out of each project in Brooklyn and take them for mani-pedis and make them feel good for that day.
“If I could get at least 10 women, take them around, laugh and talk and make them feel good just for that one day… let them meet, discuss, cry it out, relax and do something fun after the miserable days… That’s what I really would have wanted at that time– that support system of other women who could relate and wanted to just feel good.”
“I want them to know, we know that you’re hurt. And as far as the fathers, they hurt too. But they more stronger, so you know … ” said Blackmon. “I want the ladies to show the men we appreciate them too.
“The goal is to create a human thing; a support system for love and acceptance after loss.”
If you’re interested in volunteering for or helping grow Kweens Foundation, contact Latasha Blackmon at [email protected].