By TRISTAN SIMS
Homicide Watch Chicago
Tashanti Blanton has been in a cinematography program since second grade, but never imagined it would serve as a healing tool for getting over the death of her father, Tyshawn Blanton, murdered in 2013 in an Old Town convenience store.
The 13-year-old has already learned the basics of video, having created several short films in the Facets program. Now, she’s getting some hands-on experience as an international film ambassador at Facets’ International Youth Film Camp in Seoul, South Korea.
It’s the “opportunity of a lifetime,” her mother, Danielle Blackwell said.
But she needs help. The program covers room and board, but not airfare and additional fees, which have put the family in a financial bind. Airfare alone was almost $1,800.
In order to offset the cost of sending Tashanti to Korea, her mother created a GoFundMe account to assist with travel and necessities.
To date, 34 donations have been made and the GoFundMe page is at $1,900, almost two-thirds of the way to its goal of $3,000.
“Any donation big or small is appreciated and valued,” Blackwell said, saying the program is “doing amazing things” as far as helping her daughter excel and move forward.
Tashanti has been taking part in Facets’ film camp in the summer and working on special projects, such as being a juror for the Chicago Children’s International Film Festival—where she presented awards and spoke at the annual gala, and was even interviewed on radio for the program.
This year she applied for the international program and was selected.
Tashanti calls it a “good opportunity.” Aside from filming, she wants to gain knowledge about a new culture and learn from the people in Korea. “The main goal is to learn culture, the ultimate goal is to create a short film,” she said.
She is in Korea this week, her mother announced on the GoFundMe page, stating Tashanti arrived safely. Documentation of her journey will be on Instagram under the hashtag #TashantiGoesToKorea.
Danielle Blackwell thinks the trip would have made Tyshawn Blanton proud.
Tashanti hopes it will help her move past the death of her father. The slogan for the festival is “Keep On Going,” which Tashanti has been trying to do.
Deja Blackwell says her sister is “beating the family to the punch” as far as moving on, saying she and their mother have not. “I feel happy and inspired,” she said. “I look up to her [Tashanti].”
The girls’ father was 31 when he was fatally shot in 2013.
“I was shocked, devastated,” Tashanti said when she learned her father was killed.
She and her mother remember Tyshawn Blanton for his love of family, basketball and video games. Danielle Blackwell describes him as a “jokester” and a loving man.
But Tashanti has not gone to see her father at the cemetery.
“I feel like I would lose it,” she said. “You only get one dad.”
The father of seven was killed in a shooting which police said was gang-related, but the family states without hesitation that Tyshawn Blanton was not in a gang
“He was not gang-affiliated,” Tashanti said. “He may know people who are in a gang but he was never in a gang.”
“He had no time to be a gang-member,” Deja Blackwell said. “He was always with his kids and fiancee.”
Although not her biological father, she said Tyshawn Blanton provided for and nurtured her as if she was his own. Now 17, works with her mother at Fleetwood Restaurant and also works at Navy Pier.
Tyshawn Blanton will be also remembered for his collection of hats, tons of photos and two youngest sons. “The youngest one looks just like him,” Tashanti said.
No one has been charged with the killing.