Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he is “incredibly awed” by Hadiya Pendleton’s parents and their ability to turn their personal anguish into a powerful force for change.
“As a father of three, I don’t think I would have this passion. I would be so angry—turned inside with rage,” he told Nathaniel and Cleopatra Pendleton.
“We are lucky to have you and lucky that you have such a big heart and big souls.”
On Friday, the mayor found another reason to be inspired by the Pendleton’s: Hadiya’s Promise. It’s a policy and advocacy off-shoot of the Hadiya Pendleton Foundation that’s about “movement building” to stand toe-to-toe with the National Rifle Association.
“The NRA is a powerful lobby. What we want to do is to become a just-as-powerful voice, pushing back and letting people know—whether they be in state houses, in the federal government or other places–that we are demanding action,” said Angela Rudolph, executive director of Hadiya’s Promise.
“We are expecting what is happening in our communities on a regular basis get addressed, be that focusing on…illegal guns, but also making sure we’re investing in young people, so they not only will develop values themselves, but know that there are other people who value them.”
Friday’s news conference was held in the Martin Luther King Community Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove, where the city has donated two unused offices to serve as foundation headquarters.
Emanuel joined Cleopatra Pendleton in unveiling the logo for Hadiya’s Promise.
It’s a replica of the photo Hadiya took on Dec. 25, 2012, the first snow of what would be her last winter.
“We walked outside the house and she was so excited, she wrote her name and a few others and, in taking a picture of it because it was so pretty, she captured her feet in the photo,” Cleopatra Pendleton said.
“We look at that photo and we think about how much time we thought we had—how many more steps we thought she would take…Her time was cut short. [But] we are encouraged to lengthen the time that everyone else’s child has.”
A promising sophomore at King College Prep, Hadiya Pendleton was shot in the back on Jan. 29, 2013 while hanging out with friends at a park a few blocks from the high school and less than a mile from President Barack Obama’s Kenwood mansion.
Her murder shined another unflattering international spotlight on Chicago because she was an honor student, a volleyball player and a majorette who had just performed with her high school band at festivities tied to Obama’s second inauguration.
She lost her life to the very gang violence she had condemned in a 2008 public service video.
If Emanuel has his way, Hadiya’s Promise will not only focus on gun control. The group will also lobby Congress to restore a “90 percent cut” in federal funding for summer jobs for at-risk youth.
Noting that the city is providing a record, 22,000 summer jobs, the mayor said, “45,000 kids stepped forward and said, `I want a job’ where they’re gonna learn values, a paycheck, to show up on time. The exposure that comes from that will be invaluable. Where are the other [23,000] and who are taking care of them?