Hadiyah Pendleton Remembered on Saturday

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by Sharon Rondeau

Michelle Obama went alone to the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, and 15-year-old honor student from Chicago who had performed at Obama’s second inauguration one week before she was tragically killed

(Feb. 10, 2013) — On January 29, a talented 15-year-old young woman from Chicago who had performed at Obama’s inauguration eight days before was killed by a gunshot reportedly while she was with a group of friends in a park located about a mile away from the Obamas’ home in the Kenwood section of the city.

Vivian Gordon Harsh Park is reportedly not known for being a dangerous place.  Police have described the area as “usually very safe. Last year, there were just three crimes — two burglaries and a theft — in the two blocks bookending Harsh Park.”

A child who participated in a march protesting gun violence said that “People on the South Side, we have it worse than any other side of Chicago.”

In the wake of the teenager’s death, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn attended the funeral and called for stricter gun control, even though his state has the most stringent gun laws in the country which have failed to stop a rising tide of gun violence over the last year, particularly in Chicago.  Despite the ban, Sen. Richard Durbin described his state as “awash in guns.”

On December 11, 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals declared Illinois’s ban on concealed carrying of handguns unconstitutional, allowing the state legislature to craft a law reflecting the ruling within 180 days.

A petition was started on the White House website asking the Obamas to attend Pendleton’s funeral, although only Michelle Obama ultimately traveled to Chicago for the Saturday service.  Her husband will visit Chicago next week to discuss gun violence.

Father Michael Pfleger, who has been an opponent of the National Rifle Association and called for legislators voting against gun control as well as gun-shop owners to be “snuffed out,” has applauded Obama’s decision to visit Chicago on Friday.  Pfleger, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan are acquainted with one another, and Pfleger contends that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Obamas’ former pastor who preaches Black Liberation Theology and anger, “loves America.”

Jackson asked Obama to “bring national attention” to the problem of violence in Chicago and to attend Hadiya’s funeral.  While addressing a group of students in the neighborhood of Harsh Park, Jackson highlighted a “no-snitch” policy among student cohorts which protects people known to be breaking the law.

On his church’s website, Rev. Pfleger published a letter to Obama which reads:

Dear President Obama,

You have been a voice of consciousness for America on the rights of immigration, equality for gay and lesbian Americans, and for access to health care.  America is now suffering from an epidemic of violence.

Your presence in Tucson and in Newtown brought national attention and unity to the horrific acts of violence.  We need you to do the same in Chicago.  We need you to come home to Chicago and deliver a major urban policy speech that addresses the need for better schools, the problems of unemployment and mass incarceration, poverty and, of course, guns and violence.

We need your voice and we need the focus and resources of the Federal Government.  This is a matter of Homeland Security!

Thank you.

The church, St. Sabina, is described as a “spiritual hospital” and features videos of Dr. Cornel West, a “provocative democratic intellectual.”  West criticized Obama a year after his first inauguration for failing to do more for poor working Americans and reminded him of an occasion on which they had met in person to discuss ideas for revitalizing the economy.

St. Sabina has sponsored a petition to Gov. Quinn asking him to sign “Common Sense Gun Legislation.”  Chicago already has a ban on the purchase of guns within city limits but experienced 513 gun-related deaths in 2012.

Accompanying Michelle Obama to the funeral were Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, both of whom are from Chicago.  Rahm Emanuel, formerly White House Chief of Staff and now mayor of Chicago, also attended.

News coverage of Michelle Obama’s attendance focused on her presence there and stated that she had never met Pendleton.  An adoring editorialist wrote that Michelle’s “return home” for the funeral “has the potential for political fallout not just for the city, but also for the White House.”

Pendleton’s mother reportedly smiled and laughed at her funeral, and “mourners” at the funeral are pictured smiling.  Obama sent a handwritten note which was placed on the back of the printed funeral program.

Little has been said about the suspected perpetrator, with one report stating that the person who killed Pendleton might have “mistaken” her “identity.”  One other student was reported injured, and another report states that the student is in “serious condition.”  An article in The Chicago Tribune said that Hadiya’s death was “gang-connected.”  Chicago has a reported 70-100 gangs.

A different report stated that “a gunman ran down an alley, opened fire and fled in a white car.”

The Tribune, which has historically been favorable to Obama and Democrats, reported that “the first lady’s appearance inevitably brought attention to anti-gun efforts nationwide” even though Michelle Obama did not speak at the service.  The Washington Post stated that “her appearance carried heavy political overtones, occurring as the president is pressuring Congress to enact tougher gun laws.”

NBC reported that “The First Lady’s visit drew attention, and lots of security, to the funeral and shed light on the ongoing issue of gun violence.”  The Los Angeles Times said, “The first lady’s attendance at Saturday’s funeral placed Chicago even further into the spotlight of a national debate over gun violence that has polarized Congress and prompted the president to take his gun control initiatives on the road to garner more public support.”

The [UK] Guardian quoted a former Republican congressman as having asked, “Is she [Michelle Obama] attending this funeral to make a political point?”  The New York Times reported that Pendleton was “an unintended target” of a man who “suddenly approached, jumped a fence, ran toward the group, and began shooting.”

Why her?

A $40,000 reward for information leading to the suspect has reportedly been offered.  As of Sunday morning, two people were arrested and were being questioned about the crime.

Obama has been advocating an assault weapons ban and other stricter gun control measures since the tragic shooting of 20 first-graders and six educators on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, CT.  Hadiya’s mother will be a “guest of honor” at the State of the Union address on Tuesday, which is expected to contain a statement on gun violence.

The Guardian quoted the Rev. Jesse Jackson as having said, “There was something about Sandy Hook that was maybe a tipping point.  We were making the case, but we couldn’t make that case here until then. Then the case of Hadiya Pendleton has given us another opportunity.”

Rahm Emanuel has advised “never allowing a serious crisis to go to waste.”


Editor’s Note:  The Post & Email wishes to extend its most sincere condolences to the Pendleton family on its tragic loss.


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