Former SIU student Mahlik Harris will be remembered by friends and family as a person filled with positivity and ambition.
“I want people to know that not every young black man that comes from Chicago is into killing and stealing. I want them to know that there are plenty of positive, aspiring black men that live and come from the South side of Chicago, Illinois, and my son is a perfect example of that,” said Trudi Washington, mother of Harris.
The body of Harris, a former SIU student, was found Thursday in the water of a Chicago beach. Harris reportedly was swimming with his family Wednesday evening when he went missing. Family members speculate a rip tide may have played a role in Harris’ death because he was an exceptional swimmer.
Harris grew up in the Woodlawn area of Chicago where he attended Kenwood High School. He was involved in football, water polo, concert choir and acted as the school mascot for the basketball team.
Washington said Harris participated in anything he could and got along with just about anyone, as she described him as a very cool and collected person.
“He did it all, he was just Mr. Everything,” Washington said.
Harris also had some success in his athletic career as he was named MVP in the 2008 season of his public football league.
When he was at SIU, he was involved in various activities on-and-off campus. He was a student life advisor and spent time playing sports with his friends. Most notably, he made a name for himself as a rap artist known as “Leek Loki.”
Crushon Loving, a close friend of Harris, said he used his music to talk about personal experiences in his life.
“That was his way that he could talk to the world, you know, a lot of rap nowadays is just nonsense, a lot of ignorance on the radio, but he talked about stuff that actually mattered to him in his life,” Loving said.
Beyond music, Harris studied advertising at SIU and was interested in pursuing a career as a musician and music producer.
Quentin Randle, friend and roommate of Harris, said when Harris left the university in 2011 because of financial issues, he worked a job to pay for his last year of school.
Washington said he worked at Community Alternative, a retirement home for adults with developmental disabilities, where he took care of disabled people he referred to as “clients.”
Dominique Collins, a co-worker of Harris, said Harris was a very determined worker who just liked to help people.
Loving said Harris worked hard to get back into school and he spent many hours each day at his job.
“He was definitely a hard worker,” Loving said. “He worked everyday and he worked long hours, it was kind of unbelievable the rate that he worked while still maintaining everything else.”
When word of Harris’ death got to Carbondale, Twitter erupted with comments regarding Harris. His sister started a donation for a funeral because Harris didn’t have insurance.
Brandon Atkin, a friend of Harris who met him sophomore year of high school, said Harris played a significant role in his life and actually convinced Atkin to attend SIU. The two remained friends and supported each other closely.
Atkin said he was one of the first people to support Mahlik in his music career and he was very progressive with his lyrics.
“He was ahead of his time as far as his music goes, I mean, to do the things with his music that he did in such a little time shows you how great he was. My friend Mahlik man,” Atkin said. “He was larger than life, he was like an icon.”
On the internet Harris’ music can be listened to by searching for “Leek Loki”.
Harris was an athlete, musician, mascot, brother and hard worker, but to Washington he was a son and best friend.
“He was the greatest to me, you know, that was my buddy,” Washington said.
Harris’ funeral is Friday in Chicago.