Remembering Moses – Part One in a series on Philly PoliceOct 14th, 2012 | By phillywordteam | Category: Community, Feature Story
By James Braxton Peterson
On August 18th, 2012 Officer Moses Walker, Jr. was gunned down in the streets of North Philadelphia during his “last out” overnight shift for the 22nd District. By all accounts, Moses Walker was a compassionate, spiritual man, an ordained deacon at the Unity Temple Worship Center. He is, sadly, the second of five brothers, the second of five sons, lost prematurely to senseless violence. Moses’ brother, Montague was killed in 2001. While the thought of the ways in which senseless violence in the city of Philadelphia can impact one family, one police district, one church, one community, — can be emotionally paralyzing, we must continue to remember these narratives of violence and continue to wrestle with our collective capacity to remain sensitized to our own ultra-violent urban reality. Homicide in Philadelphia is on the rise. This year alone we are averaging at least one per day.
In addition to cultivating our memories of a life well-lived and of considering the ways that we might memorialize the significance of Moses Walker’s service to our community and his family’s sacrifice to the same, we can (and should) also reflect on the ways in which our community came together around this case. While, early on in the pursuit of justice, police and political officials warned our community against perceived tendencies to not “snitch,” clearly the community cooperated with police so that both of the alleged assailants who were arrested a few days after the murder – one of whom had fled as far as Alabama before he was captured. Monetary rewards were publicized widely and tips from communal witnesses and inspired police efforts worked together to begin the long road toward justice for Moses’ murder.
In fact this collaboration is more striking than we might think initially. For decades, the relationship between the Philadelphia police forces and the communities that that they are charged with protecting has been in shambles. The wounds from the MOVE massacre, and Mumia Abu Jamal’s case, and Stop and Frisk policies, amongst so many others, have yet to heal, but these challenges were set aside for Moses Walker and in the end that is a story worth writing – a triumph worth celebrating. It cannot replace the life lost, but it should generate hope for the legacy of our community’s relationship with the police. There are many factors, rationales, and reasons for this moment, but for me, there is also something powerful in his name.
Mr. Walker is a junior so we can assume that he is named after his father. But as we continue to hold him in the light and remember the senselessness of his death, remember those whose name his name recalls. Whether you consider the biblical Moses who parted the waters to lead his people to freedom or Harriet Tubman, the “Moses” of her/our people; whether you recall “The Appeal . . .” crafted by David Walker or the classic literary genius of Alice Walker, the history of our people, the history of our struggles reside in Moses Walker’s namesake. Remember them and remember him.