April 10, 2014
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
I’ve heard the whispers of this young man Prophet Walker for some months now, so much so that I took it upon myself to track down the novice Assembly candidate for the 64th District.
Associates had told me about this fresh faced symbol of hope who hailed from the housing projects in Watts.
So, on a windy Friday I was fitted into his busy appointment schedule and met with him at his apartment complex in Carson.
After ringing the electronic bell affixed to the wall of this just built luxury-housing complex, he arrived.
Wearing a casual shirt and blue jeans, he graciously greeted me and then asked if he could be excused to go upstairs and change.
The transformation took roughly 15 minutes. I can’t do anything in that short of time.
However, there he was now outfitted in a deep navy suit with a white shirt and peppermint-laced necktie.
He was sharp, but modest. One could say this young man looked electable. Don’t they all when dressed the part?
Walker barely allowed for me to position and turn on the tape recorder before he began.
“I grew-up in South Central-Watts. My mother abandoned me in the Nickerson Gardens Housing Projects along with my sister. She was addicted to heroin. Then my dad stepped up and did the best he possibly could,” Walker explained solemnly.
There was little hesitation in his delivery, nor was there sustained sorrow. That would come, but this is the introduction.
He was a young boy at the time, around second grade and the years that would unfold after his mother went to get that fix was a duration of close to a decade but seemed like 100 years.
Navigating through the wilderness of an environment besieged with drugs, gangs and primed for criminal activity, Walker survived until the age of 16 when he was then arrested. He had a young daughter along the way.
“I got in trouble and kept getting into trouble through the years and then at 16, I got into more trouble that I could bargain for and fractured a guy’s jaw,” he explained.
That’s when he was arrested and sentenced to six years for robbery and great bodily injury and harm. He was sentenced as an adult.
If this sounds like a story that you are all too familiar with, I understand, but the significant difference to its conclusion can’t be written yet.
At the moment he was sentenced he was sitting in the courtroom that felt like his mortuary and the orange jumpsuit that he was wearing was his casket.
“Where do I go from here,” he pondered. “One of the things that I could stand on was that no matter how tough the circumstances were before me and no matter how degrading, this was not the end.”
He went to prison to serve his time, but ironically the time served him well because of what he did while incarcerated for five years and three months.
It was an ominous great beginning.
“I focused on education. Educating myself, first. I began working on college courses and what I began to quickly see was there were a lot of men around me who had untapped potential.”
While incarcerated he established a program that would allow for inmates to earn their two year accredited college degree.
Upon his released he continued his education journey at Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, studying engineering.
A day after being released from prison in 2009, Walker had an appointment with the dean of LMU engineering and against all odds he was granted an opportunity and thus two months from that dark place, a new light was burning.
“It was tough, not only was I a broke starving student like many others. I quickly learned that I didn’t have the same support that some of my peers had enjoyed.”
His mother had since died from her struggles, the grandmother who gave him the name Prophet would succumb as well.
He figured it out, obtaining one school loan after another. Struggling to keep a roof over his head. Coming from where he came it seemed like not much of a struggle at all, so Prophet Walker endured.
He was more than humbled at 22-years of age, but also more than grateful that he had another chance.
While he was in prison he was involved in a creative writing program funded by a non-profit organization, and when released he was reunited with the alumni program.
A by chance meeting with one of the teachers in the program changed his life forever.
The teacher had a nephew who had a construction development firm.
The nephew examined his resume for more than two months and subsequently sent Walker an email to inform him that he did not have a position for him.
However, Walker had yet to meet with Raymond Miller and when the two did get together, Miller told him that the company could not afford NOT to hire Walker.
Today as an accomplished engineer, Walker maintains his focus, toward where it all began for him — in Watts.
He co-founded a program Watts United Weekend that brings residents of the housing projects together to show them how to work together instead of turning to drugs and violence.
He is also a founding member of the Anti Recidivism Coalition, which offers young people a fresh start after being incarcerated.
He has since forgiven his mother who had no choice in determining the outcome of her powerful addiction.
His little sister is now a mother and he is in both their lives and his only child’s as well.
For those who don’t believe that hope is real, here is Prophet Walker. He is living proof that hope is not just real for those in the housing projects and beyond, it is internal if one just sniffs at it.