Joseph Kitchen, president of the Young Democrats of Maryland, was found dead on Sunday after having been missing for more than a week. The Prince George’s County Police Department confirmed that the body of the 34-year-old was found in Washington, D.C., but the department didn't give additional details, CBS Baltimore reported.
Kitchen's brother, Lawrence Ramirez, said the young community leader was found dead in his own apartment but that no foul play is suspected, according to The Washington Post.
“What we want folks to remember is that Joseph was a big advocate for youth of color and that were in environments they could not control,” Ramirez told The Post. “He worked his life fighting for a change when it came to youth in underserved areas. We want people to remember him for that.”
Kitchen was seen in person at a park in Annapolis, Maryland, before he went missing on August 8, according to the New York Post. On July 22, he shared on social media that he hadn't been in a good space.
"For the past few days (possibly even weeks) I have been struggling," he wrote on Twitter. "Mostly in silence. Surviving with a jam-packed schedule of meetings, phone calls and even some Facebook live events. Last week I realized, I am not okay."
The young Democrat said he "became literally too 'sick' to get out of bed every morning for two weeks."
"Then last Friday, I couldn't get out of bed at all," he added. "It was my body's way of saying, we are not OK."
— Joseph Kitchen (@josephlkitchen) July 22, 2020
The Maryland Democratic Party expressed its condolences on social media after learning about the death of Kitchen.
"With a heavy heart, we are sad to say that Joseph Kitchen has passed," the organization wrote. "Joseph Kitchen was the President of the Young Democrats of Maryland. A kind heart that has impacted so many. Rest in peace, Joseph Kitchen."
With a heavy heart, we are sad to say that Joseph Kitchen has passed.
Joseph Kitchen was the President of the Young Democrats of Maryland. A kind heart that has impacted so many.
Rest in peace, Joseph Kitchen. pic.twitter.com/VapF0cH4SJ
— Maryland Democratic Party (@mddems) August 16, 2020
Prince George's County Councilman Calvin Hawkins also shared his condolences.
"Family and friends, it is with a heavy heart I inform you that one of our public servants, Joseph Kitchen, has transitioned to join our ancestors," Hawkins wrote. "I pray that the good that he accomplished on this side of the Jordan will be a public service legacy that we all may emulate."
Family and friends, it is with a heavy heart I inform you that one of our public servants, Joseph Kitchen, has transitioned to join our ancestors.
I pray that the good that he accomplished on this side of the Jordan will be a public service legacy that we all may emulate… pic.twitter.com/vG2K3G5p7q
— Calvin Hawkins (@Hawkins4PGC) August 17, 2020
According to NBC Washington, Kitchen's last appearance was in a Zoom meeting. Kitchen's brother said his phone went to voicemail after he went missing August 8 and that he disappeared from social media. As the search commenced during the weekend, the family of the missing man was planning to come from California to join the effort in finding him.
Former gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous is among the local and state officials who are shocked by the tragedy.
"I'm stunned," Jealous told NBC. "He was such a good public servant and so young."
Maryland State Delegate Jazz Lewis remembers Kitchen as a strong leader.
"In everything Joseph did, he advocated for young people," Lewis said. "He was fearless in calling out local, state, federal, and even party leadership if he felt young people weren't given a fair hand."
The tragic news has devastated the community during a time when social justice has been the focus of protests around the country and when community leaders have been emphasizing the significance of the upcoming election.
"I am terribly sad to learn of the loss of Joseph Kitchen," Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin said. "This is a brutal time we inhabit and the loss of this wonderful young man will be another dreadful milestone in our age of bitter hardship."
The Prince George's County native also served as director of community outreach at the Washington School for Girls, NBC reported. As president of the Young Democrats of Maryland, Kitchen was part of a nationwide organization that advocates for progressive issues.
Founded in 1932, the group describes itself as "the largest partisan, youth-led political organization in America," according to its website.