When the president took the stage tonight to give the State of the Union speech, there were two to three dozen people in the room who lost family members to gun violence.
The family of Hadiya Pendelton, who was gunned down about a mile from Obama’s home in Chicago one week after she attended the Presidential Inauguration, was sitting in the same box as First Lady Michelle Obama.
But there was another representative of another Chicago tragedy.
Next to U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth was Denise Reed, who knows of the violence ravaging Chicago all too well.
On March 3, it will be seven years since her daughter, Starkesia Reed, was killed.
The 14-year-old Englewood student was getting ready for school at 8 a.m. one morning when she was shot dead by a random bullet that went through a wall in her home. They were fired by a young man who was upset over a girlfriend issue and he came to Starkesia’s block and, using an AK-47, began spraying it with bullets.
“For my family and myself, she is very much alive in our hearts and in our activities. We don’t want her passing to just go away. This was a child who lost her life, to senseless violence,” Denise Reed said.
Reed was a guest of U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, (D-Ill.) who invited her
Reed helped found Purpose Over Pain, a group that works to get illegal guns off the streets, “to support young people, to give them alternatives,” as well as support the parents of children who were recently taken by gunfire.
Her daughter’s killer was sentenced to 150 years in prison.
“It will never bring my daughter back,” Reed said. Reed said she wants to spread the word that the issues of violence on the South and West sides is more complex than simply gangs and drugs.
She says she’s hoping Obama will push for gun control, saying it would work to curb inner-city violence, adding that the weapon used to kill her daughter was a so-called “assault” military-styled weapon. “It wasn’t due to gangs,” she said of the shooting. “It was due to an altercation over a girl.”
Duckworth said she initially thought to invite a wounded veteran to the speech because Duckworth, an Iraqi war vet, attended her first State of the Union as a wounded vet. Duckworth said she reconsidered as she wanted to join in an effort to put ant-gun violence high on the agenda.
“I just think about the loss to our society, to our country, to someone like Starkesia, who would have been a fabulous doctor,” Duckworth said. “There are so many of these young people whose futures are so bright. This is the cream of the crop. These were going to be the kids who were the leaders.”