WATERLOO — “He had a heart, and it was beautiful,” said Nation of Islam Minister Michael Muhammad through tear-filled eyes during a candlelight vigil for Gregory Kent Walker Jr. Thursday night.
More than 100 members of the Waterloo community came out to remember Walker at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. Walker was shot and killed early Saturday morning in a home on Gable Street.
Muhammad, Cherie Nelson-Kabba (Chillin’ Da Conscious Poet), David Goodson, a friend of the family, LaTanya Graves, president of the NAACP chapter of Black Hawk County, and the Rev. Lovie Caldwell and Willy Campbell spoke along with Walker’s family members.
Caldwell was Walker’s pastor at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.
“We’re here to celebrate a great life,” Caldwell said as the vigil began. “We’re here to celebrate a great legacy of someone who has been well loved throughout this community and throughout this state and other states as well.”
The church’s parking lot was full of people who knew Walker and his family, all of them grieving.
Goodson gave a short speech before Graves offered a tearful address.
“When you see something stop keeping your mouths closed!” Graves said. “We can’t continue to have these vigils and laying our loved ones to rest for senselessness.”
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“My heart is heavy because that’s my family!” Graves said. “The murders are senseless.”
Nelson-Kabba read a poem to the crowd titled “Hey u black Waterloo.”
“If you be the change that I know that’s in you, leading a legacy tried and true, you’ll be the next heroes in the eyes of Waterloo,” she exhorted.
Muhammad closed the night’s speakers.
“We’ve got to stop killing each other,” Muhammad said. “Let me extend my deepest sympathies to another black grieving mother on this planet, I can’t just say Waterloo.”
Muhammad recalled Walker fondly.
“Little Greg, we called him affectionately,” Muhammad said. “We loved that soul. I loved Little Greg.”
He said Walker had a beautiful heart.
“He was respectable,” Muhammad said. “When I heard of him being harmed it pained my heart.”
During Muhammad’s speech, Walker’s brother, overcome with emotion, began to yell and had to be pulled away.
The crowd held black, red, white and silver balloons that they released at the end of the service after they lit their candles.
Several members of the crowd wore shirts bearing Walker’s face and the words, “Street Legend.”
His aunt, Linda Nash, wore one the shirts, which Walker’s brother had made.
“We just want to celebrate his death because he was such a great person,” Nash said. “Everybody has been so supportive, he was so loved.”
Before the service, children with balloons tied around their arms ran around as the adults solemnly discussed why they were present.
“It’s never a good time when tragedy hits a community because it not only hits the family, it also goes through community in a ripple effect,” Caldwell said before the vigil. “That shows the adhesiveness of the community even though there’s so much violence and crime going on.”
Services for Walker with be noon Saturday at Antioch Baptist Church. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. today at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church and for an hour before services at Antioch.
No arrests have been made in Walker’s death.