Let us pray…
May Steven “ASAP Yams” Rodriguez rest in power and may his legacy always strive and prosper. Amen.
It was Thanksgiving day and the first time I met Yams’ mother, Tatianna Paulino. We met just a block away from where he grew up at the Westside Market in Harlem. She made me feel like family from the jump and her warm heart couldn’t help but radiate on that cold November morning because she was eager to get out there and provide.
We were to head out to homes for a Thanksgiving dinner give back with the ASAP Foundation, an initiative that was founded by Paulino and established after Yams’ untimely passing. The non-profit focuses on protecting the youth by supporting creativity and bringing more awareness and prevention to drug abuse.
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We’re out here now❗️❗️❗️ Tatianna Paulino ( @mama_yamborghini ), the mother of the late A$AP Yams, is joining forces with Washington Heights CORNER Project and New York Harm Reduction Educators to hand out naloxone overdose kits and other overdose prevention supplies to Electric Zoo festival goers as part of her life-saving campaign to give youth the tools they need to safe safe– and alive. A$AP Yams, who passed away from an overdose in 2015, was the well-known mastermind behind the “A$AP Mob” New York hip hop collective. @cornerproject ● Date: Saturday, September 1st ● Time: 12:30pm ● Place: East 125th Street Lexington Avenue in front of the Randall’s Island shuttle buses. #overdoseawareness #alwaysstriveandprosper #nocombo #washingtonheightscornerproject #nyhre #longliveasapyams
Before we made our way to the first home, we packed up the cars with trays of mash potatoes, salads, stuffing, apple pies, and giant baked turkeys. Locked and loaded with food the cars made their way to the Lucille C. Clark House in Harlem.
With food trays in hand, Paulino and her team of do-gooders were ready to deliver a full blown Thanksgiving dinner to Rob Johnson. He greeted us at the door with a smile and led the way to his home.
Upon entrance, there was pot bubbling with a soupy concoction of what was probably going to be their “festival of plenty.” In another room was a bedside table flooded with bouquets of flowers and Johnson’s mother who was bedridden. She had just turned 89 and suffered from dementia.
She struggled to speak but Johnson’s personality kept the vibes up. The Marine-vet couldn’t hide how happy he was to receive the bountiful blessing. As he unwrapped his tin foil cornucopias I couldn’t help but smile too.
It made me feel good to give back and it reminded me that sometimes I do take my livelihood for granted. Growing up most of us never had to worry if there would be a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving. For these families, we were not just giving them a plate a food but an opportunity to have a holiday dinner with their loved ones.
The homie Teni Seriki, volunteer at the ASAP Foundation, told me,
“A lot of the homes and families that we are stopping at have been affected by family members who are ill, are low-income households, or just people who really can’t provide or spend money on a full meal for their families. We just thought of taking a conventional approach of not just giving people a plate of food but blessing individual families with a meal that they can sit in their homes and have a holiday meal…”
Very thankful, Johnson walked us out and we transported the good vibes to the second family. Our next drop off location wouldn’t be too far away from our last stop. It was a building that bore the name HESPERUS etched in stone. It was an interesting name for a Harlem building to me as Hesperus was a Greek god. Still, we opened the heavy metal door, were buzzed up, and snaked our way up the stairs to Siddiq Rashad’s crib.
We were greeted by his tiny, all-white, and fluffy canine comrade. Telling us to come in, Rashad welcomed the ASAP Foundation and when we squeezed through the tight hallway entrance the setting opened up to a room with a table ready to receive the blessings.
Rashad who walked with a cane was getting ready to have surgery. This couldn’t have come at a better time. We all know medical expenses aren’t cheap and slaving over the stove while disabled is no easy task. With the ASAP Foundation by his side, he could now enjoy his Thanksgiving meal without a worry.
“Being that I am in a situation to have surgery it’s kind of hard to get out. So, this is a blessing not having to stand up there and cook and what not. For me, it’s a blessing and I’m greatly greatly appreciative,” said Rashad.
Before we left we told Rashad to enjoy and with his thankful spirit, he wistfully replied: “Oh, I’m definitely going to enjoy.” We left and this time I went slowly down the stairs. It was hard to take in and to imagine living in a building where cigarette butts were scattered everywhere, Dutch Master Cigar skeletons were dumped, and the smell of stale beer was inhaled with every breath you took.
Finally exiting the building I reminisced on how I grew up. For those of us who’ve got it good, we all have to be more thankful for the environment we were raised in whether it be our extraordinary parents, great schooling, or just the safe environments we had to play in. Sometimes we really take that shit for granted…
The last house I was able to visit really made that resonate. It was in the BX and inside the apartment was an empty living room with one dusty white couch and a cat purring on it. Behind a closed door, you could hear children crying and through the empty room was a kitchen with a burner turned on but no pot on top.
You could tell that Sharon Moore had a stressful morning and when she came out with a scarf wrapped around her face I knew it wasn’t to protect her from the cold. It was easy to read that it’s been a tough year for Moore. She recently lost her mother and struggles with her own health issues. To reassure her ASAP Foundation board member Josephine Nunez said,
“God doesn’t throw anything your way that He doesn’t think you can handle and whatever your situation is it could always be worse. Trust me… You’re here be thankful.”
Mama Yamborghini couldn’t help but throw in a “God-bless” before we left. Moore really needed this, she really did.
It feels good to give back but most importantly it’s important to give back to the community that raised you. A longtime friend of Yams’ family, Lenny, was with the ASAP Foundation for the whole turkey tour. He knows that the community has birthed incredible artist and “every little bit counts.”
For Paulino, acts of charity help her grieve the loss of her son. Come January 2019 it’ll be four years and with every new year comes that reminder. Still, she presses on with good works and continues to spread the love.