The rhythmic thump, thump, TWIIING of baskets being made on the court at Duncan Park in Lexington was a happy sound for Antonio Franklin Jr., and on Saturday the freshly painted court was named in his memory.
Franklin’s mother, Anita Franklin, said the park was a favorite spot for her son, who died at age 21 after being shot at Duncan Park two years ago.
“He was a very calm, peaceful young man and that’s how I want him to be remembered,” she said. “I want this park always to symbolize what our young adults need. That’s something to do and a safe place to come.”
First District Councilman James Brown and Parks and Recreation Director Monica Conrad both said that in addition to honoring Antonio Franklin, the dedication of “Tony’s Court” is also intended to honor his mother.
“This story is a story of tragedy being changed to triumph,” Brown said. “You know, Tony lost his life here in the park, and his flame of his candle was extinguished early, but that only ignited a flame and a spark in his mother, Anita, who’s taken that flame and ignited a whole community and created a whole movement.”
Franklin organizes regular Peace Walks through the neighborhood around the park and hosts a pageant intended to boost the self-confidence of inner-city kids.
Scores of people, including the men who received Franklin’s donated heart and lungs, participated in a Peace Walk after the dedication Saturday.
Antonio Franklin was an innocent bystander to gunfire that erupted at the park involving four teenagers.
Nasheim Dixon was sentenced last fall to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter and two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.
Daymion Sanders entered an Alford plea and was sentenced to seven years in prison for second-degree manslaughter.
William Dixon, Nasheim Dixon’s cousin, and Bryan Brown each pleaded guilty to two counts of wanton endangerment and were released on time already served.
The plaque at the court reads in part: “On April 14, 2014, my passing created a movement to stop the violence. Rather than mourn the absence of the flame, let us celebrate how brightly it glowed.”