Gee Walker

Honorary Degree, Doctorate of Laws, 2013

Founder of the Anthony Walker Foundation

Welcome by the Public Orator


Gee Walker, or “Gee” as she is almost universally known, has made a major contribution to the fight against racism, regionally and nationally, through her personal example, and through the work of the foundation she and her family have set up.

Gee was brought up in a large family, in St Thomas, Jamaica and here in the UK, in Coventry. In both places she felt herself part of a loving family and a secure, close-knit community. A key figure in her upbringing was her grandmother, a strong and deeply religious women, from whom she inherited courage and determination.

When she moved to Liverpool in 1982, Gee set about creating the same sort of loving and secure environment for her family that she herself has herself benefited from as a child. She had six children. She talks with enthusiasm of the happy family that they enjoy together and with humour and affection of all her children, none more so than her fourth child, Anthony.

Anthony was a loving and generous boy, who shared Gee’s readiness to laugh, both at absurdities and at difficulties. He was a keen sportsman; and one of Gee’s characteristic memories of him is of the noise of his basketball on the drive in the early morning. He was a diligent student and was aiming to study law. He had a strong sense of duty and of what was owed to others; he gave his wage packet from his first part-time job to his mother, to contribute to buying a new car for the family. He was, as Gee put it, “the smile in our waking up and in our problems”.

But on the 30th of July 2005, something happened that everyone here today will think of as a horror almost impossible to bear. While waiting with his girlfriend for a bus, Anthony was the victim of a brutal and senseless attack, by two young men, Paul Taylor and Micheal Burton. He died in hospital a few hours later, his mother by his side. The two mean were convicted of murder, and in sentencing them, Mr Justice Leveson said “You took from Anthony Walker his most precious possession, that is to say his life and all it held for him…You have damaged for ever the lives of those who loved him”.

Every parent here would understand if, above all else, Gee Walker wanted revenge for her son’s death. No one would be surprised if she had felt nothing but hatred for her son’s killers. But instead, something remarkable happened: she forgave them... She said at the time

“I have to forgive them. My family and I will stand by what we believe in: forgiveness”.

And later, explaining how she could find it within herself to forgive she said

“I am in enough pain. Why take on and carry about hate and anger as well? I See it as if it was a suitcase. I can take what I need, or pack it with more things that are not useful; and injure myself in the process as I lug it about”.

Not only did Gee Walker forgive her son’s murders. She began a personal crusade to overcome the racism, which she sees as the root cause of what happened to Anthony. She and her family founded the Anthony Walker Foundation to tackle racism on Merseyside and to build understanding between different communities. The Foundation undertakes a wide range of activities. It provides outreach support to people who have suffered, or are suffering, hate crimes. It delivers a programme in schools to encourage and educate youngsters to make the right choices for themselves, to promote active citizenship, and to reduce instances of bullying, anti and hate crime.

One of the Foundation’s most fruitful innovations is the creation of the Young Ambassadors programme. This gives young people the training to become the leaders of tomorrow’s charity sector. The Ambassadors learn skills in managing youth, sports and art events, and how to deliver educational programmes in schools, youth clubs and community organisations which promote the value and the ethos of the Foundation.

Despite a busy life as a mother and a grandmother, and working as a Learning Support Practitioner with young people who have learning difficulties, Gee remains very much the presiding spirit of the Foundation. Her courage, her sense of humour, and her unquenchable hope in a future where racism has been eradicated, are invaluable weapons in the work of the Foundation. She talks with great pride of the achievements of the young ambassadors, and with pleasure of the way young people who were touched by her influence will come up to her in the street and tell her of their achievements and say “I’m doing this because of you”.

She finds time, too, to inspire many people with her talks on the work of the Foundation, on learning to cope with loss, and on the importance of forgiveness, both for individuals and communities.

Through all that she has done, for our region and for the country, Gee retains a rootedness in her Christian faith and in the importance of family life. For all her achievements – honours form Downing Street and Buckingham palace and a string of awards locally and nationally – when asked what she is most proud of, she replied “Being a mum and a nan”. Family, faith and forgiveness are central to who she is and, indeed, if you Google her, the search prompt that comes up is “Gee Walker Forgiveness”.

So today we remember a boy whose life will not, ultimately, be defined by the terrible way it ended, but whose most enduring legacy will be the memory of his kindness and the joy he brought to others, and the foundation which his mother set up in his name. And we honour the work, and the courage, of a women who came bravely through a tragedy almost beyond endurance, to be an inspiring force, in a challenging world, for forgiveness, generosity and hope.

Vice-Chancellor, in the name of the Council and Senate of the University of Liverpool, I present to you for admission to the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa, in this University, Gee Walker.

Further Reading