Obama Presidential Center will have space named for Hadiya Pendleton, murdered South Side teen
Pendleton was caught in gang gunfire on Jan. 29, 2013, days after traveling to Washington to celebrate President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama are naming a space in their Obama Presidential Center for Hadiya Pendleton, the murdered South Side teen caught in gang gunfire in a park near their Kenwood home just days after she visited Washington to celebrate Obama’s second inauguration.
In a video released by the Obama Foundation on Friday, the day before the ninth anniversary of Pendleton’s death, the Obamas’ said the teen’s name will be on the “winter garden” space in the forum — one of the buildings on the campus under construction in Jackson Park.
The naming announcement comes as the city of Chicago continues to battle chronic, unending gun violence resulting in more than 800 victims in 2021, with seemingly endless tragic stories about bullets ending the lives of innocent youths. Obama tried, but left the White House after eight years with no lasting solutions.
Of all the heartbreaking gun deaths in Chicago during Obama’s two terms, the death of 15-year-old Pendleton was especially troubling to Michelle Obama. Raised in South Shore at 7436 S. Euclid Ave., the first lady heavily related to the Pendleton family.
Pendleton was shot and killed on Jan. 29, 2013 in Harsh Park, about a mile north of the Obama home at 5046 S. Greenwood Ave.
Days earlier — on Jan. 21, 2013 — Pendleton had been in Washington to celebrate Obama’s second inauguration with her classmates in the King College Preparatory School marching band. Pendleton, a majorette, participated in unofficial inauguration programs and activities taking place in Washington to mark the beginning of Obama’s second term.
In February, Michelle Obama returned to Chicago for Pendleton’s funeral.
Her parents were the first lady’s guests in the House chamber gallery a few days later, as Obama delivered his State of the Union address.
Looking up at the box where Pendleton’s parents were seated with the first lady, Obama said: “She was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house,” Obama said. “Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence.”
Michelle Obama felt a deep connection to the Pendleton family.
In April 10, 2013, at an anti-crime event in a downtown Chicago hotel, she talked about the honor student and her hardworking, churchgoing parents who did everything right to nurture their daughter — just as Michelle Obama’s parents did for her and her brother, Craig.
“And as I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya’s funeral, I couldn’t get over how familiar they felt to me,” Michelle Obama said.
“Because what I realized was Hadiya’s family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her. But I got to grow up, and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School, and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine.”
A few days after being a part of Obama’s inauguration festivities in Washington, Pendleton “went to a park with some friends and got shot in the back because some kid thought she was in a gang. Hadiya’s family did everything right, but she still didn’t have a chance. And that story, the story of Hadiya’s life and death — we read that story day after day, month after month, year after year in this city and around this country.
“So I’m not talking about something that’s happening in a war zone halfway around the world. I am talking about what’s happening in the city that we call home, the city where we’re raising our kids, the city where your businesses operate,” said Michelle Obama.
Words, sadly, that remain true today.
In June 2015, Michelle Obama returned home to deliver the commencement address at King College Prep, 4445 S. Drexel Ave. Pendleton, had she lived, would have graduated from King with that class.
In the foundation video, her mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, said “when I learned the “winter garden” would be named in honor of Hadiya, my heart just melted….I believe that her legacy will continue to live on, her story will continue to live on, her story will continue to be told, that makes me, her dad and her brother so honored.”