When Abdul-Malik Walker was released from his 10-year prison stay, his mother gave him six months to live with her before he had to have a job and move into his own place.
Five months later, Walker had his first job and, in one year, he started his own business.
“When I was younger … you’re kind of like a leaf in the wind. You don’t know where you’re going to land the next day. For me that ended in me being involved in criminality,” Walker said. “My particular crime that I went to jail for involved loss of life. As a leaf in the wind, you didn’t expect to land there. But, you knew you were riding the current that would take you there.”
In 2009, Walker was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison for his role in the death of a Selinsgrove man over a drug dispute.
It was a crime and a sentence that would have ruined the lives of most people but, during his 10-year confinement, Walker was determined to push toward redemption. He spent his time taking courses and earning certificates in a variety of hands-on fields including HVAC.
“I decided that I wanted to change. So when I entered the prison system, I’d already undertaken a journey,” Walker said. “I asked myself, ‘What can you do next?’ I wanted to make sure that my next move was towards redemption.”
Walker’s childhood was not an easy one. There was no father figure in his home and it wasn’t until he was 7 that his mother, Wala Tillman, went to rehab and stopped using drugs. She has now been clean for over 30 years.
He didn’t like school and could often be found at the library reading books or at his grandma’s afterschool program where other kids worked on homework.
Walker’s first interaction with police came when he was about 6 and his mother failed to pick him up from school. Law enforcement officers arrived and one handcuffed the energetic boy to a table to keep him from running around, Walker recalled.
It was in the mid-1980s when a 7-year-old Walker witnessed the murder of his cousin on the streets of his Philadelphia neighborhood. He was shot point-blank in the face with a shotgun, Walker said.
“It was a tragedy why he was killed… He was unrecognizable,” Walker said. “At 7, that had a tremendous impact. … This was our neighborhood, this was my cousin … and I think it was a turning point.”
With that tragic event, Walker was introduced to the world of crime and continued in that vein throughout his teenage years. He moved to Williamsport as a teenager and often struggled with the drastic differences between his inner-city school district and the small town one in Loyalsock Township.
Walker’s long journey in crime ended when he and two friends traveled to Selinsgrove to confront Steven Rodriguez, 19, over a drug dispute. The conflict ended with Walker’s cousin, David Cannie Jr., 27, of Philadelphia, fatally shooting Rodriquez.
After serving his minimum sentence, Walker was paroled and will stay on parole for the remaining 10 years, of which he has served two.
“The goal is to count down on this side of the fence and not that side of the fence,” Walker said. “The stakes are high.”
Starting a business
It was Walker’s grandmother who inspired him to be an entrepreneur. After being released from prison in 2019, he decided to act on it.
Black-owned businesses were up by 400%, and Walker decided it was time to start something of his own.
He and business partner Anthony Kidd Jr. founded Kallective Wellness, a first-aid and CPR training company. Unlike many businesses, Kallective Wellness found success throughout the year of COVID-19, offering training for companies and groups that needed to stay up-to-date even through quarantine.
After holding down various part-time jobs in the HVAC field or working for Pepsi, Walker is now able to work full-time for his business. He looks forward to continuing to grow and become sustainable so that he can support himself and his family, including his 1-year-old daughter.
Keep moving forward
His family is the most important support system, Walker said. Becoming a successful reentering citizen would not have been possible without the support of his family, most importantly, Walker’s mother.
So many who leave prison have lost that support system and without proper housing or outside encouragement many are likely to fall back into a life of crime, Walker said. In Lycoming County, studies show that 47% of people released from prison will be rearrested within three years.
Walker doesn’t plan to fall into this category, he said.
“You never know if you are going to get redemption… but you keep putting one foot in front of the other and you keep moving in that direction,” he said.