The line stretched out the door of a t-shirt shop at the Gallery mall in Center City Friday afternoon where custom shirts were in high demand.
Young people from East Falls, mainly from the Abbotsford public housing project, were there for one reason: To pay tribute to their friend, Rashawn Anderson-Mincey, who was gunned down in their neighborhood at the beginning of the week.
The shirts say “rest in peace Shawnee,” and “only the good die young.”
One sweatshirt that several young women wore read, “12 Abbotsford” on the back. It made them look like a team and it combined two critically important things about Rashawn – Roxborough High basketball (hence the number 12), and the close community at the PHA managed Abbotsford Homes.
Most of the 300 or so people who lingered for hours at the candlelight vigil shared the Abbotsford connection. All of them had a strong tie to Shawnee.
His two younger brothers, Raquan and Trayshawn, stood in a tight squeeze as they stared at the candles in front of the makeshift shrine. Their faces glowed while their tears glistened in the flickering light.
Anderson’s younger sister Destiny, who looks to be about 5 years old, was close by. She carried a small bear to add to the collection.
“Shawnee was an inspiration to a lot of people around here, young and old,” said his father “Big Shawn” Anderson. “He was my first.”
Rashawn Anderson has six brothers and sisters. Raquan, 17, is a year younger than his big brother and lives in Delaware. Like Rashawn he loves basketball and plays for his high school team. Last summer the two of them lived together in Delaware. They woke up at 6 a.m. every day to practice.
This week, Raquan took some liberties with his uniform; his whole team went along with the idea. “My original number was one but I changed it to 12, for him,” he said.
The vigil lasted for hours. Emotions were raw.
“I’m gonna kill somebody,” one young man said, fighting through heavy tears. “He was my little brother. I’m not letting it ride.”
But many more called for peace, and an end to the cycle of violence between youth from the Abbotsford and Allegheny neighborhoods that most felt was the cause of Rashawn’s death.
“Right now the natural thing is to ride, there’s no doubt about that,” one man said to the crowd. “The easiest thing to do is to go down there and to take one of those boys out, but that ain’t nothing.”
Abbotsford resident Steven Thompson echoed the sentiment. “After he finishes hurting, he’s gonna come back and we’re all gonna do this as a community,” he said, referring to the first speaker. “We want peace in our hood that’s all.”
Just like Big Shawn, Rashawn’s mother, Tyisha Mincey, is quick to smile when asked about her son. “He started off rotten but he turned his life around,” she said with pride, and a little laugh.
Anderson did have a some trouble when he was younger. He was a tough kid, most people say. Tough, but good humored and popular. And when he got the chance to play basketball for Roxborough, that’s when things started to turn around for the better. As the team’s top scorer he led the Indians to the city playoffs this year.
His friends and family say he was aiming for a scholarship and a chance to play more basketball in college.
As the vigil went on, the older members of the Abbotsford community went inside while hundreds of young people stayed on, spread out in the street and across the hill where their friend died just days before. Some were laughing while remembering their friend, some held each other in tears, a few stared quietly at the flickering candles.
Raquan was deep in thought. When asked what his big brother would want him to do now, he didn’t hesitate: “Finish school, go to college and work hard at everything I do,” he said. “And stay out of trouble.”