Monrovia, KGEM-TV honor local legend Ralph Walker
Ralph Walker was a prominent figure of the Monrovia community who was “passionately committed to cleansing the deep stain of racism,” shares longtime friend Terry Miller. Whether you watched him conduct interviews on “Conversations with Ralph Walker,” “Conversations in Monrovia” or “Beyond the Headlines” for KGEM-TV, or you were simply lucky enough to have a conversation with him at a local event, you knew Walker was a stalwart of Monrovia.
Walker, who died last October after a battle with stage 4 cancer, will be honored by the city and public access station he loved so much with a bench and documentary celebrating his more than 30 years of community activism and work as a citizen journalist. On Friday, Community Media of the Foothills, home of KGEM, will host a memorial bench unveiling at Library Park at 6 p.m. The unveiling, which is free and open to the public, will be attended by local dignitaries including Mayor Becky Shevlin, CMF/KGEM Executive Director David Palomares and keynote speaker Mrs. Judy Walker.
The bench will have a plaque with Walker’s favorite saying engraved on it: “Get up and get involved.” No phrase could better encapsulate how he lived his life.
“Ralph demonstrated a fierce curiosity, an artful communication style and courageous focus on citizen journalism, civic activism and the importance of education through public media,” shares Community Media of the Foothills Board Chair Rena Delgado. “In my opinion, Ralph was a truth-teller and wise observer of spoken and unspoken sociopolitical nuance.”
In his quest to hold local leaders accountable, Walker was known for his simple but effective interview style. “Walker had more questions than anyone I had ever met,” says Miller. “Walker’s main passion was always the truth behind the headlines.”
Delgado concurs, “His interview style was well researched and calibrated to get to the true essence of the subject matter. Ralph was unafraid to ask the hard questions and to rebut answers if the interviewee evaded. He did this respectfully and faithfully.”
And Walker didn’t just concentrate on the powerful in his citizen journalism. “Walker focused on the underdog; the men and women who were marginalized and the stories that have never been accurately reported,” Miller explains. “Recognition of Black, Asian, Pacific and Latino history was Walker’s hunger and he often combined forces with noted Monrovia historian and PCC Professor Susie Ling and, of course, the late Steve Baker — Monrovia’s former historian.”
This commitment to the community remained with Walker even while battling for his life. Miller shares that while sharing cellphone images of his biweekly chemotherapy infusions via text, Walker continued asking “tough questions of community concern, particularly about the local election, the results of which he’d never read.”
While Miller says he’s “not sure Ralph would be thrilled” by a memorial bench, he believes “it is a step in keeping Monrovia’s troubled early history alive.” Miller says he and others “would love to see a bronze statue of Ralph on that bench at the library, somewhat akin the Mark Twain bench.” According to Miller, Walker himself joked that the city should replace the Mark Twain statue with one of the late Steve Baker.
In addition to the bench, KGEM has produced a feature length documentary, “The Godfather of KGEM,” chronicling Walker’s life story, his involvement with the Black Panthers and “a historical retrospect of his most notable interviews including his interview with Muhammad Ali and Rosa Parks,” shares Delgado. She says the community can expect some surprises, though she wouldn’t share more so you’ll have to watch the film.
“CMF is excited to show the relevant meaningfulness and the consequential social impact of Ralph Walker’s skillful use of KGEM’s public access media center and public airwaves to build long lasting social solidarity and outstanding civic impact,” Delgado says of the documentary. “His on-air lifework and his behind the scenes research are a testament to the integral influence media plays in society.”
“The Godfather of KGEM” will premiere at LOOK Dine-In Cinemas Monrovia on Sunday, May 7, with showings at 6 and 8 p.m. Tickets for the film can be purchased at the unveiling Friday or online at eventbrite.com.
Fittingly, proceeds from the film will help raise funds for the Ralph Walker Paid Internship fundraising campaign which aims to provide paid KGEM internships to Duarte and Monrovia high school students interested in public access television. KGEM has also set up a GoFundMe with a $5,000 goal.
Providing young people with a chance to get involved in their community is exactly the type of thing Walker would have appreciated.