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'Project Orange Tree' Bands Hadiya's Schoolmates Together Against Violence

By DNAinfo Staff on March 26, 2013 6:26am  | Updated on March 26, 2013 11:11am

CHICAGO — For a group of Chicago youths fed up with violence in their community, the color of change is orange.

Supporters of Project Orange Tree, a fledgling anti-violence movement started by a handful of King College Prep students, will wear orange on Monday, and some plan to fast until April 4, the 45th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death.

The color orange is a "hunter's orange," said Victor Taylor, a co-organizer of the project and a King senior. 

"You know, when people are in the wilderness, and they don't want to be shot by other hunters," Taylor said. "You don't want to be invisible."

"The fast signifies us eating with the dead," Taylor said.

It's uncertain how many people will wear orange or join the fast, both in Chicago and beyond. The Project Orange Tree Twitter account had more than 1,000 followers as of Monday afternoon.

But Project Orange Tree's organizers say they've been overwhelmed by the support they've already gotten.

They also hope the movement will go well beyond next week.

"Hopefully it ends up being big," said Rasia Khepra, the King senior who came up with the idea. "You can never know how it is going to affect people until it actually happens."

The idea of Project Orange Tree came out of a community meeting in early March at Northeastern Illinois University's Carruthers Center For Inner City Studies, 700 E. Oakwood Blvd., where teenagers talked with the likes of rapper Lupe Fiasco and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of slain King student Hadiya Pendleton, about violence.

"This was a long time coming, but the big flame came when Hadiya died," Taylor said.

Through social media, the project's organizers say they've garnered support not just on Chicago's South Side, but also throughout the world and as far as the Middle East.

The project has support from some big names, including New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson and talk show host Tavis Smiley. Both Granderson and Smiley showed their support on Twitter.

Lupe Fiasco has been involved from the start, drumming up support on his Twitter account.

"Get over to @Pro_OrangeTree!," the rapper wrote Thursday. "The youths are droppin heavy knowledge right now. #1stOfApril we fast and we wear orange! Simple but POWERFUL!"