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Mother uses music to keep memory of her son alive

By Howard Koplowitz

August 31, 2011

 

 When Shenee Johnson's son fell victim to gun violence last year, she decided to do more than just mourn.

Johnson founded Life Support, a nonprofit that provides a grief support system for families shattered by violence, shortly after the murder of her son, Kedrick Ali Morrow, who was killed during a May 2010 party in Springfield Gardens.

"She was really devastated and I think she realized she couldn't bring her son back," said Johnson's uncle, Bob Poindexter. "You can't bring your kid back, but maybe you can do something. She's a very strong person and she's trying to do something to keep this from happening."

Morrow, who was headed to St. John's University on a $24,000 scholarship, was shot and killed during a party in Springfield Gardens one month before his graduation from Elmont HS, where he was captain of the basketball team.

Usually strict with Morrow about being out late at night, Johnson eased her restrictions since her son had done well in high school and let him go to a party May 14.

When Morrow did go out, he would call his mother by 10 p.m. to check in with her.

But Johnson did not get a call until 11 p.m., which came from a stranger on her son's cell phone telling her he had been shot.

"He said to tell you he's going to be all right," Johnson recalled.

But when Johnson got to Jamaica Hospital, her son had died.

"When I saw the look on his face, I know Kedrick was gone," she said.

Johnson said many of the 43 murder victims slain in southeast Queens last year were just like her son and their killings were senseless.

"There are intelligent, good, going-to-college kids being murdered," she said. "What message are we indirectly telling our children? We're losing the battle to gunplay and violence. We're not working together. Either you don't think it will happen to your child or it's not going to happen in your neighborhood. We're losing our youth."

Morrow's murder has taken its toll on Johnson's family, with her 6-year-old child in bereavement counseling.

"I'm still kind of like in shock, but I channel my anger and frustration to keep his legacy alive," Johnson said. "I wanted the world to know who he was."

Johnson said she has coped with her son's murder by thinking about the mothers of Biggie Smalls -- real name Christopher Wallace -- and Tupac Shakur, two rap stars who were killed during the East Coast-West Coast rap feud in the 1990s.

"I would picture Ms. Wallace talking about Biggie and Afani [Shakur] talking about Tupac," Johnson said.

Johnson said her son was well-liked and had talent as a rapper, using his aunt's and uncle's studio in their south Jamaica home to record songs.

She instilled education in her son at a young age and wanted him to be either a lawyer or doctor.

"At 4 years old he told me, 'Well, I can take Bill Clinton's job,'" Johnson recalled her son saying.

"Our deal was education first," she said. "Education was first and then music was second. He was talented in so many other things. He had great potential to be a rapper."

As part of Life Support, Johnson recorded her first song, also titled "Life Support," to detail the heartbreak of losing a child to gun violence. The song begins with sounds from an emergency room.

A music video about the song was also made.

Johnson's aunt and uncle are also active in the nonprofit.

"Sometimes you feel hopeless and despair, so we want to replace that," Poindexter said.