Never Ending E-Motions

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Niam Johnson-Tate was the baby of the family. He got whatever he needed or wanted — even a car, when his two sisters scraped their money together and bought him an old Pontiac Bonneville when Niam was 18.

So when he found out that he was going to be a father, he felt unprepared for his new role.

His sister Eboni, 26, remembers that “he was really nervous. He said, ‘I can’t be a father. I’m a baby myself.’”

But becoming a father to his son Kairi, who was born in April 2017, made him grow up. He learned how to care for his child as he went along — one day he fed him six bottles in an hour, Eboni recalled with a laugh.

Then on the night of July 4, 2017, Niam went to see his girlfriend and son in West Germantown and was shot outside their home. He was 23.

Niam had a charming, persuasive personality, and he was loyal and honest, his family said. He also had a creative side and enjoyed writing poetry and lyrics. As his photos show, he also had a sparkle in his eye.

“He always had a smile on his face, a crazy smirk,” his mother Kim Kamara said. “He talked to people with his eyes. The people closest to him knew what he was saying.”

Niam was born Nov. 5, 1993 in Philadelphia. Growing up in Germantown, he was curious and asked a lot of questions. One question sparked a major change in Kim’s life.

“In the evening I’d tell them to do their homework so they can go to high school then go to college, and Niam asked me, ‘What’s your degree in, mom?’” Kim said. “At the time, I didn’t have one, and I was too embarrassed to tell him.”

So, she decided to get her degree. She’s now working on her master’s in human services.

Niam was motivated to provide for his child. He secured a job at Lord & Taylor at the King of Prussia Mall and he was also taking prerequisite courses at Community College of Philadelphia. He hadn’t yet decided what he wanted to do as a career, but he was finally on the right path.

“He wasn’t out on the street, he was taking care of his family and doing everything possible to do so,” said his other sister JaLisa Dickerson, 25. “His whole life was changing so fast. That’s the saddest part — he was making these changes, then he got killed.”

Niam was an organ donor, so seven people received his organs, including his heart, lungs and kidneys. Two recipients were babies.

Suspicious of the practice, Kim wasn’t supportive when Niam told her years earlier that he had decided to become a donor. Since his death, though, she’s become one and so have other family members.

“He said, ‘When I go, what am I going to do with my organs? I want to help someone else,’” Kim said. “He was always selfless. Always.”

JaLisa recalled a quote that her brother lived by: “Whatever you want to do, do it to the best of your ability and don’t let people stop you from being what you want to be.”

To him, she said, it meant that when your life is over, you won’t have any regrets.

A candlelight vigil was held in Niam’s memory on July 11 in Germantown followed by a memorial service at Pentecostal Bridegroom Temple on July 15.

No arrests have been made.

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