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Event to support angel moms

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Sunday, April 14, 2019

In August 1994 in Baltimore, 17-year-old Kenyatta Johnson lost his life after being shot at point blank range at a street corner in an argument over $8.

Although the killer less than a few years later received a life sentence, Johnson’s mother, Rhonda, left behind a good-paying job as an employment counselor in Baltimore and relocated to Rocky Mount to better cope with the loss of her son.

Rhonda Johnson was in the cafe and restaurant business in Rocky Mount for a time, also feeding homeless and sick people and making sure teenagers stayed out of trouble.

Last year, Johnson, a community activist, decided to host an Angel Moms dinner at the Booker T. Washington Community Center, timed for Mother’s Day weekend. Johnson said she did so due to the loss of her son, which she noted is something a mother never gets over.

She said instead of having an unhappy Mother’s Day, she wanted to do something for other mothers who have lost their children so they could celebrate their children’s lives.

The 2019 Angel Moms dinner gathering is set for 4-7 p.m. May 11 in larger space at the Booker T. Theater.

“It lifts their spirits,” Johnson said. “They’re not sitting home Mother’s Day weekend feeling sad and lonely and crying the whole weekend.”

As part of the program, mothers of the deceased children are given the microphone so they can tell stories in an upbeat manner.

She also said plans are for Edgecombe County native Milton Bullock, of the Motown group The Platters, to sing.

She emphasized the importance of people knowing the angel moms are not forgotten because children are murdered daily or die of accidents or illnesses.

“And they give you a couple of days off from work. And it’s back to work. You’re supposed to go on and life is supposed to go on as usual — and it doesn’t,” she said. “So we need to be able to stick together and recognize these moms and let ‘em know that they’re not alone and that they have some support.”

Johnson spoke of the success of last year’s gathering, which included entertainment, flowers, food and gifts and photographers taking pictures.

“We had 60-something moms show up,” Johnson said. “And originally it was supposed to, I thought, be for moms that lost their children to violence. But then so many other mothers were contacting me that had lost kids in other ways and were so hurt.

“And, of course, I didn't turn ‘em down. I said, ‘No, this thing is going to be for any angel mom that has lost a child’,” she said.

As for the future, she said she would like to try to get some sort of an organization together for her and fellow angel moms. She said that is because a lot of them need help with a variety of details and matters, including getting headstones for their children.

“A lot of ‘em aren’t just prepared to lose a child,” she said.

As for the source of the Angel Moms name, she said, “Because your child is considered an angel once they pass away. So, then you automatically become an angel mom when you lose a child.”

Anyone interested in knowing more about the Angel Moms gathering can call Johnson at 252-314-5262. Admission is free.

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