Nearly 500 of Rashawn Anderson’s friends and family members packed inside St. Andrew’s Baptist Church on Wayne Avenue on Wednesday to say one final goodbye to ‘Shawnee’ from Roxborough High.
Many sported custom made sweatshirts and t-shirts with photo collages and phrases such as “Rest in Peace Shawnee,” “Abbotsford 12” and “Only the good die young.” Others quietly hid under sunglasses as tears trickled down their cheeks.
Outside, five police cars dotted the nearby intersections while officers directed traffic. The growing crowd on the sidewalk was silent as the group shuffled into the double doors to get one last look at ‘Shawnee’ surrounded by white and yellow flowers in the open casket.
Rashawn Anderson, 18, was shot and killed on Feb. 7 outside of his home in the Abbotsford public housing complex on McMichael Street in East Falls. He was a senior at Roxborough High School and the basketball team’s leading scorer.
Police say they have not yet made any arrests but Philadelphia Homicide Capt. James Clark said last week that they are looking into an ongoing feud between youth from the Abbotsford and Allegheny neighborhoods as a possible motive.
Wednesday’s service was filled with sobs, poems, songs and even a few laughs.
“I can just see Saint Peter up there now saying, ‘Rashawn, you can’t swing on those pearly gates’,” said Roxborough High Basketball Coach Terrell Burnett in reference to Rashawn’s “strong-willed” and fun-loving character.
“They were probably showing him the sleeping quarters and where you can eat at and you can hear Rashawn saying ‘but where are the basketball courts?’,” Burnett added as comic relief for the somber crowd.
Dr. Victoria Yancey, who works with grieving families through the Philadelphia School District, expressed her condolences at the podium.
“The School District is like a family. When one of us hurts, we all hurt,” Yancey said. “He was a one-of-a-kind person and the world will be a lesser place without him.”
Roxborough High Principal Stephen Brandt attended the funeral and echoed the same sentiment.
“He was a young man who was truly turning his life around,” Brandt said. “We were not going to let him not succeed in that venture.”
Lashay Boseman, Anderson’s girlfriend of more than one year, expressed her heartbreak in a letter read aloud by one of Anderson’s family members.
“He was my lover, my life, my other half, my husband and of course, my best friend,” Boseman wrote. “He will always have a place in my heart.”
The Anderson family accepted a personalized plaque for Rashawn from Lizz Brown and Melvin Figueroa of the LaToyia Figueroa Foundation. Figueroa knows what this grief feels like. His daughter, LaToyia, was murdered while she was pregnant in 2005.
“It used to be that we would bury our parents, now we are burying our children,” Figueroa said. “This violence has got to stop.”
Anderson is the second Roxborough High teen murdered since mid January. Christopher Foster, also 18, was gunned down somewhere between his house in Roxborough and Germantown on Jan. 19. His body was found on Woodlawn Street in Germantown.
Many who attended Anderson’s vigil last Friday at Abbotsford felt that the Allegheny feud was to blame for Anderson’s death. Abbotsford resident Bernard Bonds didn’t comment specifically on the feud but said the neighborhood hasn’t been the same without Anderson.
“It’s a sad situation, it’s really sad,” Bonds said. “We just need to keep [Anderson’s] memory alive and try to stop this senseless violence.”
For now, Coach Burnett encouraged everyone in the crowd to get rid of their negative feelings and honor ‘Shawnee’ the way he would have wanted to be honored.
“I want you to go outside, look up at the sky and promise him that you will do something positive in his name,” Burnett said.
A community meeting will be held at Abbotsford Thursday night to address the recent violence and to start discussing possible solutions with the residents.
Anyone with more information on Anderson’s murder can call the homicide unit at 215-686-3334.