Kenneth Walker, Jr. believes the North Philadelphia community is in a crisis.
“We have schools being closed, schools being demolished for tracks, students being taught out of 10- and 20-year-old books and many blighted homes in the community,” he said. “It’s a very impoverished area … I just feel like, ‘Where are our elected officials?’”
Walker ran in 2012 in the 197th district, but after redistricting in 2013, he is now running for the 181st district’s seat in the state’s House of Representatives against Democrat Curtis Thomas, who has been representing the district since 1989.
Walker’s platform focuses on a fairer education system, raising minimum wage and adding more programs to combat recidivism for ex-offenders.
He has also attended every “Stadium Stompers” meeting, and said he stands with the community in opposing the university’s proposal.
“I feel obligated to get the message out to the residents that live directly and surrounding areas of that project,” Walker said.
He added his consistency and commitment are reasons why he believes this election cycle will be different. He plans to take over Thomas’ role through his “grassroots” campaign strategy and talking to as many people as he can.
“I’m knocking on doors, talking to people—everyone that I can talk to,” Walker said of his campaign. “My goal is to touch every door in the whole district.”
“I believe that the community is worth fighting for,” he added. “I feel that I can really make a significant change in this area.”
Walker was born and raised on Cleveland Street near 18th, and said he has strong ties with many community organizations. He holds relationships with the Church of the Advocate, “Stadium Stompers” and is a part of the Police Advisory Commission for the 22nd district.
Walker is a 2000 biological science alumnus of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, as well as the CEO of Cleveland Community Center. The nonprofit organization is for North Philadelphia boys 8-18 years old to participate in initiatives to improve the community. One of its largest initiatives is shoveling snow for elderly residents.
When asked how he would work with Temple if elected, Walker said he believes elected officials have the authority to have conversations with the Board of Trustees and President Theobald.
“I believe that sometimes the message [from Temple] is not shared and that’s where a lot of the conflict comes in,” he said. “I would make sure there’s clarity on what the residents and the community want and what any other entity may want as well and find a medium.”
Pat Simmons, a resident on Bouvier Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue, said Walker’s consistent appearance at “Stadium Stompers” influenced her to support him.
“He’s a young person,” Simmons, said. “I think we need some new blood [in office].”
Walker’s name will be on the ballot against Thomas’ on April 26.
“I’m very passionate,” Walker said. “I respect my community and I believe I have proven myself to be consistent and persistent and committed to this cause.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.