Gun violence victim Shirkey Warthen honored with mural

Michelle Puriefoy said she’s numb. She’s overwhelmed. But she’s also happy.

“Because I have something I can look at all the time,” she said. “To hear all the great things he’s done. It really makes me happy.”

Puriefoy’s son Shirkey Warthen was a victim of gun violence. In April of 2012, the 22-year-old was gunned down after trying to make peace after a fight between friends. Warthen himself had a criminal record but had turned his life around and at the time of his death, had worked with the Juvenile Law Center’s advocacy program Juveniles for Justice.

Yesterday, a mural at 5550 Chester Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia was unveiled in his honor named for a poem Warthen wrote during his involvement with the city’s Mural Arts Program, who commissioned the artwork. It’s called “Paint Me Like I Am.”

Some of the poem’s lines include “Why don’t you paint me/Like I am?/Paint me light brown caramel/Five foot ten/Paint me with a different brush…Where we need 2 decrease/The violence and increase the peace.”

Warthen’s mother attended the unveiling and talked about why the community should remember her son.

“He made a difference,” she said. “He changed his life. He was one of these juveniles out there struggling but he overturned that and he started succeeding. He was just taken too soon. He made a big impact in his little bit of time here.”

Additional reporting by Charles Mostoller



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