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King Von’s Christmas cash giveaway showed his ‘humanity,’ anti-violence activist recalls

MASK founder Tamar Manasseh had no idea at the time that the “baby playing dress-up, draped in diamonds and platinum,” was the popular drill rapper recently killed in Atlanta.

Founder of MASK, Tamar Manasseh, poses for a portrait outside a small school set up in shipping containers set up by MASK (Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings) at 7500 W Stewart Ave in Gresham, Thursday, July 23, 2020. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings founder Tamar Manasseh on meeting slain Chicago rapper King Von in 2019: “I saw a kid on Christmas morning giving gifts to other kids. I’m old enough to be that boy’s momma, and so when Black mothers lose kids, all of us lose.”
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

In the aftermath of the murder of Chicago drill rapper King Von, much has been said regarding the difference — or lack thereof — between the content of his lyrics, and their possible role in his murder.

Along the way, Von made a fan of a woman who dedicates her life to shutting down the very circumstances that may have led to his killing last week in Atlanta.

“To meet that boy, for him to be as bad as he was supposed to be, for him to do what he did, that’s why I didn’t understand how he could possibly be the person that was murdered in Atlanta,” said Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (MASK) founder Tamar Manasseh in a phone call Tuesday night.

“How could he be? I saw his humanity. I didn’t see King Von. I saw a kid on Christmas morning giving gifts to other kids. I’m old enough to be that boy’s momma, and so when Black mothers lose kids, all of us lose. It has to be something that’s felt throughout the community; that’s the only way we’ll care about it.”

On Monday, Manasseh took to social media, posting a lengthy tribute to the O-Block native by recalling the first time she met Von, and how his murder affects her and the community.

Christmas Day 2019, Manasseh and MASK volunteers were in Parkway Gardens during their “sleigh ride,” when Von, who grew up in the housing project, pulled up to the group asking how he could help, saying, “I don’t have any gifts on me, but can I pass out these dollars to the kids?”

LONG POST ALERT. BUT PLEASE READ IT TO THE END AND WATCH THE VIDEO! On Christmas morning last year, during our sleigh...

Posted by Tamar Manasseh on Sunday, November 8, 2020

Manasseh, who says she started MASK in 2015 by taking over a lot in the 7500 block of South Steward Avenue in the aftermath of a murder in the neighborhood, had no idea who Von, “baby playing dress-up, draped in diamonds and platinum” was.

“I was just proud of a kid who could’ve done anything with that money and could’ve been anywhere doing it, but chose to be there with us on Christmas morning, giving,” wrote Manasseh on social media. “And being the best version of himself, like the rest of us were trying to do. Before he left, he smiled and told me, “I wish somebody would’ve did this for [him and the other young men in his entourage], when we were shortys [sic].”

In a 2018 interview Von declared he was the “grandson” of “King David,” commonly known as David Barksdale, the founder of the Black Disciples, one of Chicago’s oldest and largest street gangs. One of Von’s most popular mixtapes is named “Grandson, Vol. 1.”

“I don’t think this is what David [Barksdale] would have wanted this for Von,” said Manasseh, referencing Von’s alleged gang/family ties. “I don’t think David would’ve wanted it for any Black kid who followed in that tradition, or who adhered to or were involved in the organization that he started.”

Chicago drill rapper King Von was killed last week in Atlanta.
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Before the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest, tragedy hit home for Manasseh as two of MASK’s volunteers were murdered in 2019 — events she believes, along with Von’s murder, are the product of the adverse effects that failed federal policies have on marginalized communities.

“These kids become victims of all of this political stuff that we have going on that they know nothing about, nor do they care much about,” said Manasseh. “And with this last election, you hear people talking about the crime bill [The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994], and these kids are becoming all of those things. … People don’t see that part; they just see what they become, and they don’t see why they become that way.”