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Gregory Brinkley, civil rights leader who protested police shootings and abuses by school security officers, dies at 62

Before joining the National Action Network, Mr. Brinkley worked for 20 years as a pharmacy technician at Hahnemann University Hospital and served on the executive board of District 1199C.

Gregory Brinkley
Gregory BrinkleyRead moreCourtesy of the Brinkley family

Gregory Brinkley, a former president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, died Saturday, Aug. 21, of kidney failure at Roxborough Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Brinkley, of Philadelphia, who was a retired hospital pharmacy technician, labor leader, and retired prison guard, was 62.

As a civil rights activist, Mr. Brinkley led protests and spoke out at School District of Philadelphia meetings about alleged beatings of students by school security officers.

He brought widespread attention to an October 2009 incident involving a 17-year-old Frankford High School football player who said he was walking to school late one morning when two school security officers tried to arrest him for truancy.

The officers followed him inside the school and began beating him, he alleged. The teenager was knocked unconscious, suffered a bruised eye, and required six stitches to his torn lip.

Mr. Brinkley also led protests outside the 39th Police District after an officer shot and killed Timothy Goode, a grandnephew of former Mayor W. Wilson Goode, said Paula Peebles, the founder and Pennsylvania state chair of the National Action Network.

The officer, who had been part of a narcotics squad, shot Goode in the back during a foot chase in Germantown on Jan. 11, 2008, court records said.

Ultimately, District Attorney Seth Williams cleared the officer of wrongdoing.

In 2021, Mr. Brinkley led a protest outside the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police headquarters, then located on Spring Garden Street. The protesters condemned the FOP for throwing a party to celebrate the reinstatement of eight police officers who had been fired or disciplined after a television news helicopter crew filmed them kicking and beating three Black men they had pulled from a car.

The Inquirer reported the officers had beaten “three shooting suspects” after the police heard gunshots in Feltonville.

“They were just three Black men riding in a car together,” Peebles said. “There was no justification for beating them. They had nothing to do with the shooting.”

She said the protest “shut down Spring Garden Street.”

Peebles praised Mr. Brinkley for having the idea to protest at the FOP party.

“He had an activist spirit and he had the courage of Moses to take his protest directly to Pharaoh, whether it be to the FOP, or the local police district, to fight for justice,” she said.

During Mr. Brinkley’s years as Philadelphia chapter president, from 2009 to 2012, the chapter won the National Justice Fighter Award from the New York headquarters, she said.

Mr. Brinkley’s daughter, Zakiyyah Bailon, described him as strict but loving.

“He was a very involved dad,” Bailon said. “He always advised us to stay in school and to take advantage of opportunities we were given.”

She said he grew up in Abbotsford Homes in East Falls and always gave back to the community he loved: “If he heard about any injustice [against anyone] he was out there trying to fight for them.”

Before joining the National Action Network, Mr. Brinkley worked for 20 years as a pharmacy technician at Hahnemann University Hospital and served on the executive board of 1199C, an affiliate of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees.

After retiring from Hahnemann, he worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as a prison guard and union representative at SCI Graterford for 10 years.

Gregory Brinkley was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 16, 1958, to William and Janie Brinkley. He was the youngest of 18 children and attended Roxborough High School.

Years later, he became president of the resident council at Abbottsford Homes, where he lived for 50 years.

As a teenager, he was a drummer in the Abbotsford Homes community band and took a special interest in one majorette, Georjean Furlow. They married in 1978 and had four children during their 43-year union.

In his spare time, Mr. Brinkley enjoyed dining out, traveling with his wife and spending time with his grandchildren.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Brinkley is survived by two sons, Sadiyq Furlow and Aziim Brinkley, nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and eight sisters and brothers. Another son, Jamal, predeceased him.

A Janazah Prayer service for Mr. Brinkley was held Saturday, Aug. 28.