ROSELAND — Rapper Lupe Fiasco told an orange-clad crowd united against violence in Chicago that they were part of something new that could change their city.
"We're in the zero stages of what Project Orange Tree could be — this is just the beginning, things are on the horizon," the Grammy-nominated rapper said at Chicago State University Monday night. "This is your opportunity to invest in the future of your city."
Fiasco, a West Side Chicago native whose real name is Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, spoke at a rally in front of dozens of people, including many King students who joined nearly all of their classmates at school wearing an orange-dot button on their chests.
The color is a symbol of their opposition to the violence that claimed Pendleton.
“Orange is basically the color hunters wear to signal to other hunters not to shoot them. So that’s why we’re wearing it — to say, ‘Don’t shoot me,’” said Ayisha Stanley, a junior and organizer for the Project Orange Tree anti-violence campaign.
She and others will wear orange through Thursday and fast during daylight hours in a show of solidarity with those killed in city violence.
She said about half of the student body at the selective-enrollment high school at 4445 S. Drexel Blvd. wore orange Monday, and many were fasting.
“I’m walking through the hallways, and all I’m seeing is orange,” Stanley said.
Many students said they knew about the campaign because violence has become such a central topic at the school after Pendleton was shot and killed on Jan. 29 just blocks from the school.
“Everything that has to do with Project Orange Tree we’re already discussing — it’s become a big part of the student body,” said King freshman Taylor Housing, who is supporting the rally against violence, but chose not to fast.
Many other students said they were not fasting, but knew students who were, and some were considering starting Tuesday.
“I didn’t eat much today, so I’m going to participate tomorrow,” said Alaina Davis, a sophomore at King with one of the ubiquitous orange buttons pinned to her jacket.
For those who fast, a feast is promised at sundown on Thursday. Other events, including music and food at a rally Monday night at Chicago State University are also planned.
Students said they got the idea for Project Orange Tree after a community meeting in early March at Northeastern Illinois University's Carruthers Center For Inner City Studies, 700 E. Oakwood Blvd., where they talked with Lupe Fiasco and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, Hadiya's mother, about violence.
The rapper and students involved in the movement insist Monday was just the start.
"I'm definitely going to be doing this for the rest of my life," Lupe Fiasco said.