The houses on Lex Street have changed since 2000, almost to the point where the tiny West Philadelphia side street is unrecognizable from the day it earned its place in city history.
But the memories of the day 20 years ago, when seven people were gunned down during a feud over a car, remain for Tameka Porter. Every anniversary since that bloody December afternoon, she has convened a memorial for her brother, George, 18, and the six other victims of the Lex Street Massacre: Calvin Helton, 19; Tyrone Long, 18; Samuel “Malik” Harris Jr., 15; Ronnette Abrams, 33; Alfred Goodwin, 54; and Edward Sudler, 44.
She continued that tradition Monday, arm-in-arm with state Sen. Vincent Hughes and City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier.
“What happened here wasn’t just black men killed from the projects,” Porter said. “They were loved, they were more than just a statistic.”
Porter’s memorial on Monday mourned the loss of her brother and the six others, now gone two decades. But it also served as a de facto celebration of life for the 489 others who were killed in Philadelphia in 2020, the deadliest year the city has recorded since the mid-1990s.
“There are more families who are affected by this every day,” she said. “There are other sisters who can’t put into words how it feels when a coward takes their brother’s life, over jealousy.”
The Lex Street Massacre, still the worst mass murder in the city’s history, became doubly infamous when prosecutors charged four innocent men in the Dec. 28, 2000, slayings. The mistake was reversed on the eve of the 2002 murder trial for the group.
Those men later received a massive payout — $1.9 million — from the city for their wrongful arrest and 20-month imprisonment, which they said was the result of lying witnesses and coerced confessions by police officers.
Months later, police arrested four new suspects: triggermen Dawud Faruqi, Khalid Faruqi, and Shihean Black, and getaway driver Bruce Veney.
The bloodshed began after George Porter traded his Dodge Intrepid for Black’s Chevrolet Corsica. But Porter didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission, witnesses testified at trial, and blew out the Corsica’s clutch.
Frustrated, Porter demanded Black return his Intrepid. When Black refused, Porter used his spare set of keys to take the car, and Black returned to the block with the others, sparking an argument that ended with seven dead and three others wounded.
Veney pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and received a term of 15 to 30 years in prison. He was paroled in March 2019, and currently resides in Delaware County, according to state records.
Black pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received seven consecutive life terms without parole. The Faruqi brothers, after an emotionally charged trial, were convicted of seven counts of first-degree murder and also received seven consecutive life sentences.
Gauthier and Hughes praised Tameka Porter for keeping the memory of the victims alive, and for drawing a spotlight on the epidemic of gun violence at the end of a violent year for the city.
They pledged to do better in 2021, not only for the memories of those lost, but for the people left behind by that violence.
“We’re still here, we’re still knit together, we’re still going to support one another no matter where we’ll be,” Hughes said, raising his hand in the air, its index finger and thumb extended into an L for Lex Street. “And it’s not this tragedy from 20 years ago that connects us, it’s the love we felt beforehand and the love we’ve felt since.”