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Brooks Walker Remembered as Scholar, Artist, Leader, Inspiration

Brooks Walker in his dorm proudly holds up an Emerson College t-shirt
Brooks Walker ’25. Photos courtesy of the family.

Brooks Maurice Walker ‘25 touched more people’s lives than he will have ever known. That was evident by the speakers and slideshows at a memorial service to celebrate his life on Wednesday, April 12.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned from these past few weeks and months is that there has never been, and will never be, anyone quite like Brooks,” said Julie Avis Rogers.

Rogers, the director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Campus Chaplain, led the service held at the Brown-Plofker Gymnasium, which was full of Brooks’ family, friends, staff, and faculty.

Brooks, 19, of East Orange, New Jersey, a Media Arts Production major, died on February 3.

Terrence Faison, Anthony Perez, and Brooks Walker, at the 2021 Montclair Film Festival
Left to right: Terrence Faison, Anthony Perez, and Brooks Walker, at the 2021 Montclair Film Festival.

Throughout the service, several videos brought tears, laughs, fond memories, and even scenes of Brooks himself providing reflections and encouragement. The first video shown, made by Brooks’ high school friends, Terrence Faison, Melvin Williams, and his former teacher Anthony Perez, highlighted one word that truly encapsulated Brooks: Legend.

“As a student, he was always a teacher’s dream. While he initially avoided it, he became a leader, inspiring others with his confidence. As a friend he was an inspiration and a voice of reason. He was compassionate and always thought about others. He was never the same every day, but always had the same sense of wonder about him,” said a narrator in the video.

At a young age, Brooks won several awards for films, including a Special Jury Prize for Cinematography from the 2021 Montclair Film Festival Emerging Filmmaker Competition for the film Freak, which he made with Faison.

Throughout the videos, Brooks was seen walking around the streets with his omnipresent camera, making people laugh and bringing people together as a resident assistant on the sixth floor of the Little Building.

“There are some people in life who make you laugh a little louder, make you smile bigger…his positive appearance shined through with every interaction, every day of his life on campus,” said Crystal Campbell, residence director.

Campbell told a story of conferring with RAs about selecting the next group of RAs when Brooks had applied.

“They began screaming when I read off his name. They said he needed to be hired,” said Campbell. “Brooks brought such a vibrant energy to our sixth floor… There are not enough words to describe the generous and kind person he was.”

Campbell said Brooks’ impact extended far past the sixth floor. After he died, many people came together and spent three hours talking about him – and his laugh.

Emily Bonilla ’04, vice principal at Payne Technical High School, where Brooks attended, said she knew about Brooks before she had ever met him because his uncle bragged about him to her. Bonilla was told that Brooks would be her best student. But she was promoted to vice principal before she had a chance to teach him in a class. That didn’t stop Walker from staying in touch with her.

Brooks Walker's high school senior graduation photo

“The thing about Brooks is he never let me go…He saw me as an artist, someone who loved film,” said Bonilla. She recalled Brooks, a member of National Honor Society, came to her office to talk about film scripts, and workshopped with her for feedback so he could grow as a scholar. “There wasn’t a teacher who didn’t love Brooks. He was our gentle giant. He was always there to give a hug, a high five, extra motivation. He was thoughtful and wise. He was always dedicated to his studies and a problem solver.”

Bonilla said that in one of her last conversations with Brooks, he told her that he had found his people at Emerson.

“Brooks was one of those people who made me a better person,” said Keri Thompson, Communication Studies senior lecturer. Brooks was in one of her public speaking classes last fall.

Thompson said she felt Brooks resembled the best of Emerson through three qualities: he was funny, he was smart, and most importantly, he was kind. She recalled laughing with him throughout the class during assignments, particularly while playing the game Taboo.

“He was thoughtful, he was a good listener and supportive friend and classmate,” said Thompson. “He very much cared about people around him. He always cared about how his classmates were doing. He just noticed people.”

Thompson said that for one class assignment competition, every student needed to get up and tell a story, and then the class secretly voted on who they each thought provided the best story. Brooks won by a wide margin, and he was surprised when he learned he had won.

Brooks with two relatives take a selfie in a car

“He was proud that his classmates voted for him. He had a lot of natural speaking talent,” said Thompson. “The students easily knew his story was the best in the class…”

Brooks’ mother, Malika Johnson, said her son started taking photos with an old school camera when he was around 7. She said he was always determined, and would accomplish what he set his sights on. Including recently getting his driver’s license.

“He wanted to go to Costa Rica for his 16th birthday. I don’t know where he got that money, but Brooks went to Costa Rica,” said Johnson.

She said Emerson College was his number one school choice because he felt he’d fit right in with the community. And hearing all of the heartfelt anecdotes and observations about her son, confirmed who he was to her.

“You got to see the best of Brooks. He was funny to us; he was funny to you guys. He was intelligent to us; he was intelligent to you guys. He was determined to us; he was determined to you guys,” said Johnson. “You can tell a beautiful soul by the tears left behind…I received a warm welcome when I got [to Emerson]. He left a mark on so many people. As a parent, I’m immensely proud to say he touched so many lives.”

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