Hadiya Pendleton a 'Symbol' of Those Killed in Chicago Violence

By Kyla Gardner and Quinn Ford  on February 8, 2013 3:34pm  | Updated on February 8, 2013 6:27pm

ENGLEWOOD — At the viewing for slain teen Hadiya Pendleton Friday, dozens of family, friends and other mourners paid their respects to the slain teen being called the face of Chicago's violence.

"When you look down at her, it's like you're looking at your little sister or your little cousin, so it's very, very emotional," said Laneice Brown, 33, a student at Kennedy-King College and a Englewood resident. "When it's a child or anyone from the city of Chicago, whether I knew them or not, it's always family."

Brown said she did not know Hadiya's family but came because her own cousin was gunned down playing football in a South Side park about a year ago.

"It's just sad, because you look at the younger generation now, it's like there's no future," she said.

Hadiya's godfather, Damon Stewart, said he has come to realize Hadiya is the face of a generation lost in gun violence.

"Everybody needs a symbol," Stewart said Friday. "She's a voice for all these people who have passed that haven't had a voice, so she brings attention to their lives and all the other people who have lost their lives senselessly."

Hadiya's family arrived at Calahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted St., with the Rev. Jesse Jackson about 3 p.m. Hundreds of relatives, friends and residents came to the viewing, which started at 2 p.m. A line of mourners stretch out the door and down the street from the funeral home.

Inside the funeral home, Hadiya's body was dressed in purple and lay in an open casket. A painting of the teen greeted mourners and flowers decorated the room.

Police cars and news trucks lined Halsted Street as mourners shuffled through the funeral home.

Hadiya's cousin Shatira Wilks said outside the funeral home that she hopes her cousin's death could be a catalyst in how the city addresses its violence problem. 

"I think this can be a tipping point to something better than it was yesterday. We're already seeing some changes," she said. "The mere fact that the superintendent is pulling people from behind those desks, I think that's great."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced 200 desk cops would be reassigned to street beats after Hadiya's death attracted national attention.

Hadiya, a sophomore at King College Prep, was fatally shot Jan. 29 in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park. A gunman emerged from an alley and shot at Hadiya and about a dozen friends, police said.

Hadiya was hit in the back and another student was wounded in the leg.

Wilks said she believes the $40,000 reward being offered for information on the shooting will help bring Hadiya's killer to justice.

"For me, that's no longer a reward. That's considered a bounty," Wilks said. "I believe they will be turning them in."

Jackson used the opportunity to urge state and federal lawmakers to address gun control in the country, and he said Chicagoans need to keep Hadiya's family in their prayers.

"There's so much pain here, and they mostly need our consolation," Jackson said. "And they need our embrace, and they certainly have that."

With the teen's death garnering national attention in the past week, it was confirmed first lady Michelle Obama will attend Hadiya's funeral Saturday.

Stewart said he did not want his goddaughter's death to become a tool in a partisan political debate over guns in America.

"This is not political. This is personal," Stewart said, as he talked about taking Hadiya for walks and changing her diapers as a child.

But Stewart said he is happy Hadiya's death has taken on a greater significance. As people walked in and out of the funeral home, Stewart smiled.

"I arrogantly thought she was the first child that was raised by a village," he said. "The thing that amazes me is that I realize just how big that village was."

Joyce Ash, a grandmother from the city's Roseland neighborhood, said she didn't know the Pendleton family either but said she came to pay her respects.

She brought her granddaughter, also a high school freshman.

"I'm looking at her and this baby is laying up there," Ash said. "It's crazy."

Ash said she and others are "fighting the same fight" against gun violence in Roseland. She said the culture has changed since she grew up in Chicago.

"They losing their lives over nothing," Ash said. "If you find the people that did that, they can't even explain to you why they killed her."

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