During his eulogy for the Rev. Lucius Walker Jr. last Friday morning before last at Convent Baptist Church in Harlem, the Rev. Dr. Milton Reid likened the pastor to Jesus Christ, never hesitant to tend to the suffering and “to help those in need.”
Helping those in need was indeed Rev. Walker’s way of life. His care and concern were particularly meted out to those trapped in poverty and at the mercy of U.S. imperialism.
Speaker after speaker touched on Walker’s selfless devotion to a diverse multitude of people, many of whom packed the church paying their last respects to a man who deeply respected them.
“I admired the fact that he was an international activist, but you could find him in his church in Brooklyn almost every Sunday,” commented Jitu Weusi.
“He was my inspiration. I will never forget when he said to me, ‘Imagine doing what you love to do and getting paid for it,’” expressed Dr. Tania Small of New York Presbyterian Hospital, one of Rev. Walker’s many mentees.
One of Rev. Lucius Walker’s famous sayings was “Work from 9 to Liberation,” remembered Small.
In the church’s foyer were six large panels of photos of Walker marching for the oppressed and standing with such notable leaders as Cuban President Fidel Castro. If there is one thing that underscores his remarkable legacy, it was his undying commitment to the people of Cuba and his unrelenting resolve to end the U.S. economic embargo against the island nation.
It was the Latin American Council of Churches in Cuba that sent longtime friend of Rev. Walker, the Rev. Ophelia Ortega, to express a plea to continue in Walker’s footsteps. “It is necessary to continue the Campaign of Tenderness that Rev. Walker and the Pastors of Peace maintained towards Cuba, following the example of Jose Marti’s work. It is in this spirit that we say to our friend:
“Dear Lucius, you delivered cheerfulness. You held fast to all that is good and consistently contributed to those who were in need. We honor your memory and will always love you.”
The Rev. Randolph Thompson, Walker’s lifelong friend, cited with reverence Walker’s revolutionary outlook and prayed that his “seeds of righteousness come to fruition.”
However, it was Brother Zayid Muhammad’s testament to Pastors for Peace that elicited rounds of ovation, as he wove fragments of spiritual songs together with unabashed political consciousness. “This modest and marvelous man was a heroic humanitarian,” concluded Brother Zayid Muhammad.
Far more subdued but no less comforting were words from his brother William “Mickey” Walker. “My brother cared for me and was always there for me no matter how busy his schedule was,” he said. His example of comfort and grace will always be with his family, assured Mickey.
Daughter Donna acknowledged that Rev. Walker’s children had to share their father with the world of people who were not as fortunate as they.
Indeed, Walker gave his time and service generously, founding the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) in New York City in 1967. With the support of the Convent Avenue Baptist Church, IFCO’s mission as an ecumenical agency is to help forward oppressed peoples’ struggles for justice and self-determination.
The Rev. Thomas Smith, chairman of IFCO, remembered Walker as a man of courage and integrity, a great organizer and a great humanitarian as he asked the students of the Latin American School of Medicine to stand and salute Rev. Dr. Walker.
Walker also founded Pastors for Peace in 1988 in response to a terrorist attack on a civilian passenger ferry called Mission of Peace in which Walker and 29 passengers were wounded and two passengers were killed by Nicaraguan Contra forces.
IFCO organized the National Black Economic Development Conference in 1969 and worked with organizer C.T. Vivian to organize the National Anti-Klan Network, also called the Center for Democratic Renewal, in 1970.
Rev. Walker had many accomplishments and formed numerous ministries to serve the inner city through his church, the Salvation Baptist Church. However, one of his more recent projects, which he nurtured for the past decade, was to arrange for young people from the inner city and low-income communities in the U.S. to study on full scholarships at the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba and then return to provide medical care in underserved communities.
Since Walker’s passing on September 7, the board of directors and staff of IFCO/Pastors for Peace have pledged “to honor and celebrate the rich legacy of the beloved, heroic, prophetic leader, Rev. Dr. Lucius Walker Jr., and move his work forward.”