Young M.A. organized a pre-Mother’s Day brunch for residents who lost loved ones to street violence in the East New York neighborhood where she grew up.
The event is the first for her KWEENZ foundation.
The hip-hop star lost her 20-year-old brother Kenneth in 2009, when he was fatally stabbed in the back by a friend. Her mom, Latasha Blackmon, recalled the dark times that followed his slaying.
“My whole world changed,” she told the audience of about 50 people. “I had PTSD, I had depression, anxiety. It hasn’t been easy, every day is a struggle for us. But we have had many blessings along the way.”
Young M.A., whose real name is Katorah Kasanova Marrero, said events like this allow people to share their pain with others who faced the same crushing anguish.
“This is our way of keeping him alive,” the 26-year-old rapper said of her brother. “Reaching back to families who are going through the same situation … and letting them know that they’re not alone.
“When you’re going through it, it feels like you’re the only one.”
Helium-filled balloons marked “Happy Mother’s Day” floated above the tables where the families assembled inside the 3 Black Cats Cafe in Brooklyn.
In addition to mimosas, the guests sipped sangria while enjoying a spread of sugar-dusted waffles, shrimp and chicken.
Hip-hop music played in the background as the guests bonded by sharing their stories.
Young M.A. was joined by her mom and her grandmom to hear attendees like Dominique Harrell, 17, share the story of a friend killed by gang violence in the summer of 2016.
Harell made a lifelong pal in Nashaun Plummer when the pair met in a middle school bereavement class. Dominique lost her mom and Nashaun lost his older brother in a shooting.
Several years later, at the age of 15, Nashuan was gunned down about three blocks from the site of his brother’s gang murder.
“He was funny, outgoing,” recalled Harrell, a student at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville. “Whenever he smiled, you smiled.”
Halchervene Bobbit, 42, recalled the shooting death of her cousin on a Brooklyn rooftop back in April 2004.
“I don’t know if I’m entirely over it,” said Bobbit, who spent the last 14 years avoiding the building where the gun violence occurred.
“I haven’t been back (there) since,” she said.
The foundation’s name combines the royal titles of king and queen. The rapper hopes her group can not only help heal the bereaved, but offer assistance to low-income families and single mothers.
“Having my platform, I just really wanted to reach out to my community and do something right,” she said.
On a personal note, she hoped the event would introduce her mother to other moms dealing with the same issues.
“This is something for her to get into and give her a little relief, and meet other mothers who have been in this situation so they’re not alone,” said Young M.A.
Click here to check out more photos from the event.