Hadiya Pendleton: Chicago Gun Violence Takes Star Teen From Inauguration To the Mortuary

Her name was Hadiya Pendleton, and she was only 15 years old. The dimples in her cheeks, the sparkle in her eyes—each of these tell the story. She was an honor student, a volley ball player and a majorette, nice enough with her studies and her drill team routines that she got the chance to perform with her school’s marching band during President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade in Washington, just days ago. Her pictures illustrate all that her friends remember of her: Hadiya was smart. Kind. Sweet. Full of light. With a potential that was limitless.

But now, Hadiya is gone from here. On Tuesday afternoon, she became the 42nd person to be killed in Chicago this month, the deadliest January in that city in more than a decade. This was not a case of Hadiya being in the wrong place at the wrong time; this child, having been released early from King College Prep High School after taking final exams, was with her friends in a park near her school, taking shelter from the rain under a canopy of trees when some coward with a gun hopped a fence and shot into the crowd of teens. Hadiya was shot in the back; she collapsed a few blocks away in front of a row of upscale condos, not too far from President Obama’s family home, and died an hour later. Another boy, too, was shot and is in serious condition at an area hospital.

And though the park was full of people who presumably had their eyes wide open when the bullets started popping, no one—not one, single, solitary person—will tell police who the shooter is.

This. Is. Madness. All of it. Hadiya’s shooting death. Chicago’s 2013 death toll. The silence of those who know who took her life, but won’t tell. The proliferation of gun violence in that mid-West city, which continues to claim the lives of young black children and teens at an alarming clip. The dismissal of their deaths as “gang-related” activity—an all-too-comfortable pronouncement that renders our babies lives irrelevant. As if kids like Hadiya and Aliyah Shell and Heaven Sutton and Ronnie Chambers had those bullets coming to them.

The victims of these shootings are not the sole victims. They have mothers and fathers and little sisters and brothers and aunties and uncles and gran-grans and friends and neighbors who loved them. Who miss them. Who saw bigger for them. Better. Dreamed some of the same dreams for their children as those of the parents of those sweet babies gunned down in Newton, Connecticut.

Where are the tears for Hadiya and all the brown babies like her? Where are the hastily-called speeches and the national groundswell of condolences and hand-drawn cards and warehouses full of teddy bears and school supplies for our children? And as the parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School cry and yell out and stand on a national stage to proclaim that their children’s right to life supercedes the Second Amendment (Amen! It does! And they have the right to say it!), why aren’t gun control advocates, Congress and CNN, the Today show, the New York Times and our most treasured, respected media organizations making the connection between the deaths of our children and the severe lack of uniformed gun control legislation and support to stop the flow of illegal guns in our communities? Why did White House spokesman Jay Carney’s shoutout of Hadiya at a press conference yesterday—”It’s a terrible tragedy any time a young person is struck down with so much of their life ahead of them, and we see it far too often. The president and first lady’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hadiya Pendleton,” he said—ring terribly hollow when juxtaposed with images of President Obama’s passionate tears as he called the children of Newtown “America’s children”?

Finally, and perhaps most important, why do we, the mothers and the fathers and the sisters and the brothers and the friends and the neighbors of brown babies, continue to collectively cloak these fools, these cowards, these animals who use their guns to flood Chicago’s streets with the blood of our children? Where is the good/God in a “no snitching” policy? Where is the police and judicial protection for those who would come forward and tell what they know? Why do these bastards get to shoot and run and hide, leaving a trail of our tears in their wake? Like this ish is normal?

I got questions. Each one of them needs to be answered. For Hadiya’s sake. For the sake of all of our babies. I’m all for the Black Youth Project’s petition calling for President Obama to address rampant gun violence in Chicago and other African American communities, and another asking that he eulogize the little sister who went from his inauguration to the mortuary in eight days. But frankly, I would rather hear that the president, who is sparing no resource or expense to stop another massacre like those that took place in Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech and Aurora and the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, add the children of Chicago to the list of Americans who deserve real, thoughtful action to stop this madness. The circumstances behind the deaths of the children of Chicago are different from those of Sandy Hook, sure. And curbing gun violence in the two vastly different communities may require different approaches. But the grief—the mothers’ tears—are all the same. It’s time we as a nation treated them as such.

Fly with the angels, Hadiya Pendleton.

RELATED POSTS:

1. If Newtown Shootings Showed Us Anything, It’s That Guns Kill People and It’s Time For Reform
2. Kudos to New York for Putting Safety above Politics with Gun Control Measures
3. Colorado Theater Shooting: A Mom Recalls Her Own “Dark Knight” Horror
4. Behind Jet Magazine’s Jordan Davis Cover: A Courageous Stand For Justice

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

20 Comments

  1. I so agree. I think it’s time for President Obama to take a stand for our Black children. Shedding tears for (mostly) little White children in front of a national audience is fine and good (and for the record, I was deeply saddened by the Sandy Hook tragedy), but we here in Chicago and other urban, minority communities across the country are living in a state of emergency daily. It’s time to for President Obama to take a stand for all children. To do anything less is not insult to the African American community, but to the voters who got him in office. I expect more from (Our) President.

  2. This truly hurts my heart. The senseless violence in Chicago is showing the structural breakdowns in our communities. May her soul rest in peace. May her family find comfort in their time of pain.

  3. This is such a said story. But, I am tired of people thinking that the president can help stop this. It is up to the state representative and senators that represent Hadiya’s neighborhood. What would Obama’s eulogy do? Nothing. That does not take a gun out of anyone’s hands. Without Obama Chicago can change. The representatives and senators do not want to. Obama cannot run a country and their states as well. There are laws at the state level that can assist in changing this. Hadiya’s story and many others is just another story to inform the community around her that their representatives they voted for are not doing anything to protect them. We as American’s can vote in the Executive Branch, but we need our Legislative Branch and State Government to assist us with issues like Hadiya’s. Hopefully, the community she lives in will work with their local officials to make this happen.

  4. I would also like to point out that President Obama specifically added the restriction and control of handguns to his gun control proposals to address the issue of violence in our cities, and he specifically mentioned the need to stop the carnage in Chicago when he made his speech introducing his gun control proposals. It’s not the same as a eulogy, of course, but he put stuff in his legislation aimed at the cities, not just the white kids in Newtown.

  5. The question is, what are we going to do ourselves? We need to take a stand in our homes and our communities. We need to check ourselves and our family members. If we have issues in our families, we have to actively seek the knowledge and help that we need. Yes, some new Gun legislation may be necessary, but we still need to look at the issues closer to home. Why the gun violence? The guns are not the problem.

  6. I’m not “blaming” the President for what is happening. My statement is in regards to his inital response to a tragedy in his hometown, as it has been reported by the media [see today's Chicago Sun-Times]. Gun control is needed, and laws are necessary…But understand this: Laws don’t mean anything to criminals…That’s why they are criminals!

    I agree that it’s up to us as parents/grandparents, familiy members, community members and citizens of the world to teach our children to have morals and standards. And it is up to the government officals to create laws and help provide resources to help better the lives of the citizens they serve. We can’t talk about gun control in a vaccum. And unless “we” [as in all of us, including the President] start having an all-inclusive conversation about this issue, we will continue to bury our loved ones, mourn the lost of out innocent, and cry many more tears.

    Everybody is accountable!

  7. Denene@MyBrownBaby

    Actually, I’m still kinda stuck on how anyone can say that we are wrong for expecting the president to do something about the rampant violence affecting the children of Chicago. When the children of Sandy Hook were so violently taken away from this Earth, the parents didn’t even have to ask for the president to do something. He went to Connecticut, gave a passionate speech about how he was going to do something about gun violence, and then sent the vice president out to make something happen. Our nation is in the middle of crafting legislation President Obama hopes will overhaul the gun laws that made it possible for gunmen to kill Sandy Hook’s babies. In other words, something happened, parents grieved and the president responded with concrete steps meant to stop that “something” from happening again.

    Is it so unreasonable, then, that we expect the man to show the same kind of passion and “get to it” as he did following Sandy Hook and Aurora? I think not. And, um, I hardly think a half a sentence about Chicago’s children in a 20 minute speech about the need for gun control constitutes the same passion the president showed for the children of Newtown. (Here is the transcript: http://bethel.patch.com/blog_posts/transcript-of-president-obamas-gun-control-speech-16-january-2013)

    I love OUR president—voted for him twice and want nothing but the best for him and his family. I’m sure he feels the same about us. But there is a difference between “feeling” and “saying” and “doing.”

    • I hear you, but I think it’s crazy to compare the death of this girl to what happened at Newtown, CT. That was a uniquely, unbelievably mindboggling event in the history of our country. To compare anything else that has ever happened to children in America to Newtown and then expect the same response from the president or ANYBODY else I think is completely unreasonable. Sure, you’re going to say the death of every child is tragic and we should expect our president to show as much compassion when a black child dies, but I gotta tell you, NOTHING in the news over the past decade (except for 9/11) shook me like Newtown, even though they were mainly rich white kids in Connecticut. So I feel it’s dangerous and heading in the wrong direction to start comparing everything to Newtown.

      • @Nick: Have you heard about/seen the murder rate in Chicago???? More than 40 murders in 2013, and it’s only January. This is not just one life we’re talking about…Chicago is a city undersiege!

      • Denene@MyBrownBaby

        I just find it curious that we only absolve our leaders of their duty to help craft solutions when black children are involved. Everyone—no matter the color—heard what happened in Sandy Hook and looked to the president to raise his voice and do something. His passion and action led to a series of proposals that would do all kinds of things to make it harder for people to have access to weapons. These were proposals that his Vice President created after taking a month to dig into the issue, talk to experts and craft legislation they think will help stop another Sandy Hook/Aurora/Colorado/Columbine etc. Why not expect the same response when, literally, hundreds of children in ONE town have ben killed over the course of five years?

        This child Hadiya was the 42nd person killed in Chicago THIS YEAR. That’s in one month. The circumstances behind her shooting death, who she is, and her excitement about her president is what makes her stand out as a symbol of a much larger issue: the repeated deaths of black children via gun violence in Chicago (and Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, etc.). If ever there was a symbol of the need for this country to include the tragic deaths of black children by gun violence into a national debate on gun control, Hadiya is it. Why shouldn’t black people be involved in this conversation? Why shouldn’t our needs be recognized and added to the mix of solutions to stop gun violence in our country? Why not NOW?

        I want to lift my voice. I want all of us to help. But I am not a gun expert. I haven’t a clue what would get guns out of the hands of criminals with bad aim. But my president sure has access to those who might have some clues. He also, as evidenced by his actions following Newtown, has the best platform to train the national lens on solutions to this complicated issue. Is it wrong, then, to expect him to lift his voice on this issue with the same passion and action that he used in the cases of Sandy Hook and Aurora? I think not.

  8. it starts with the folks in the hood. see, the unemployed, sometimes drug-dealer, stay-at-home mom, looking-for-work dad, homeless hoodie: these are the folks who saw the shooting. or one of their kids did. and guess what: snitching is still a big no-no in the black community. even when we die. someone’s half-raised child saw who did it, but their street mores and hood code of conduct dictates that the animal who did gets away instead of handing him over to da man.

  9. Completely agree with the points made for and against the Presidents action. However, I wander how many of us would have the same expectation for a white President to step in and do something. I don’t think we would. So I think it is unfair for us to expect the same from Obama. Everything starts at home. We have been killing each other for far too long. We- You, me and all of those around in every city across the country need to stand up and take charge of our communities. Just my two sense.

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