While preparation for the burial of her murdered mother was in full swing, Ashanti Blackwood last week travelled to the Cayman Islands, where she won a gold medal in chess at the CARIFTA Games, representing her homeland – Jamaica.
Members of the winning chess team yesterday travelled to Linstead, St Catherine, to give moral support to their team-mate whose mother, Verona Slack, was being laid to rest.
Slack, 33, was shot dead close to her home at Victoria district in Linstead about 9:30PM on March 10. She was murdered moments after closing her businesses establishment in another section of Linstead known as Bynloss. The killer, who is suspected to have fled the scene with the shopkeeper’s handbag, is yet to be apprehended.
Ashanti, who was born when her mother was 15 years old, cried throughout the funeral service, and later went to the Linstead-based Commodore Cemetery for interment.
At the cemetery, she made her way through the crowd to the grave, approached the casket, stooped, touched her mother, and then broke down in tears.
She eventually was removed by friends – mainly students of Charlemont High School, where Ashanti is said to be on the honour roll.
Teacher at the institution, Latoya Scott-Mullings, said the teen, over the years, has been making her mother proud.
She told the congregation: “Ashanti is not only involved in the Drama Society [at school]; she is also involved in chess – not only at a school level, but she also represents Jamaica.
“As a matter of fact, last week, she went with the team to the CARIFTA Games. She won her [chess] match, and the team – some of the representatives sitting here, won the chess competition for Jamaica at the CARIFTA Games,” she disclosed amid a thunderous applause by the people gathered inside Linstead Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Scott-Mullings also stated that the teenager, while still mourning the death of her mother, topped St Catherine in a Speech competition hosted by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission.
She explained: “On the Wednesday after Ashanti’s mother was brutally slain, we scrapped few items from our festival folders because she was involved [in them], and we did not want to burden her…
“We encouraged her to come [to the festival competition] nonetheless. Would you believe that Ashanti came and got the highest [score] in Speech for St Catherine? This is a brilliant child; and it goes to show how her mother groomed her,” the teacher further asserted.
She stated that Ashanti is expected to be among Charlemont High’s top CXC performers this year, adding that plans are afoot to give the teenager a standing ovation during her graduation ceremony in the coming months.
Members of the Charlemont High School family, who were heavily involved in the funeral, also promised to give Ashanti the necessary support.
President of the school’s Parent Teachers Association, Karen King, told the gathering that her group will also rally around the teen. “We are here to support Ashanti in any way possible,” she declared, adding: “I know I speak for all of the teachers and all of her friends. Ashanti is loved by us.”
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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