Hadiya Pendleton’s death has put Chicago’s gun violence in the national spotlight. Hundreds gathered for the 15-year-old’s funeral on Saturday, including First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Today was an uplifting celebration of a beautiful young life—a life gone too soon,” said Tonya Weatherly, a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools and a friend of Pendleton’s mother Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, after Saturday’s funeral. As the mother of a two-year-old son and resident of the South Side neighborhood of Chatham, Weatherly said she is “scared all the time.”
Weatherly said the four-hour funeral service, held at Greater Harvest Baptist Church, located at 5141 South State St., was not heavily politicized with talk of gun legislation or reform. Instead, “we celebrated her well,” she said.
“Now there’s a face on Chicago’s gun violence, and hopefully Hadiya’s senseless, senseless killing will motivate people to stand up against gun violence and we can finally do something about it,” she said. “We need people to speak out when they see someone doing wrong — help us help our community.”
Pendleton, a sophomore at King College Prep, was shot on January 29 in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park while avoiding rain under a canopy with a group of teens. The park, in the 4400 block of South Oakenwald Ave., is about a mile north of President Obama’s Kenwood home. According to police, a male gunman climbed over a fence, ran to the group and started firing. Two other teens were wounded.
“No mother, no father should ever have to experience this,” said Cowley-Pendleton during the funeral service.
Cowley-Pendleton and Hadiya’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton, will be attending President Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington on Tuesday, as the president urges Congress to combat gun violence. Denise Reed, the mother of Starkesia Reed, a 14-year old killed by a stray bullet from an AK-47 in 2006, will also be attending the State of the Union, under an invitation from U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D, IL-8).
Pendleton is one of 43 people murdered last month, making it the bloodiest January Chicago has seen in a decade. In all of 2012, Chicago recorded 506 homicides.
"(Hadiya) is important because all those other people who died are important," said Damon Stewart, Hadiya's godfather, during the funeral service. "She is important because all of the families who were silent, she speaks for them. She is a representative of the people across the nation who have lost their lives."
Two suspected gang members were brought in for questioning over Pendleton’s murder Sunday, just one day after the funeral.
Witnesses were brought in to the police station to see if they could identify two men, who are 18 years-old and 20 years-old, in a lineup. They were pulled over near East 67th Street and South Chicago Avenue.
“We will bring this all to closure, probably sometime this evening. We’re anticipating hopefully that we’ll have charges,” McCarthy said at a news conference Monday where Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced newly proposed gun legislation that increases minimum sentencing for the most serious gun crimes and requires offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D, IL-7) said he anticipates passing federal anti-gun legislation before the end of the year.
“We have so many people in this country who seem to have a preoccupation with guns and still use the second amendment, which was passed at a different time under a different set of circumstances, as an excuse to have a gun,” he said.
Davis and the First Lady attended the funeral along with Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Barack Obama.
“I’m one of those people who thinks we should reduce the manufacturing of guns and nobody should have access to assault weapons, except for maybe military,” Davis added.
At least one funeral attendee said members of the community play a large role in preventing gun violence.
“People need to stand up and take responsibility for their negative actions,” said James May, a friend of Pendleton’s father, after the funeral on Saturday. A resident of the South Shore neighborhood, May has a 22-year-old son. “This idea of snitching, or not snitching, is a plague on our community.”
“I’m always scared for the community but all you can do is have hope, and maybe after this tragedy people will start to speak out and things will start to get better.”