CHICAGO — Slain teenager Hadiya Pendleton's mother is one of 13 black women who will be honored with a Phenomenal Woman Award as part of the Black Women's Expo, which begins later this week.
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton is among the women that will be honored for their community service efforts at a Thursday event at the Chicago Hilton & Towers. Other winners include Chicago Public Schools Deputy CEO Barbara Lumpkin and state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester).
"It is an honor to be among such a sophisticated group of women," said Cowley-Pendleton, 37.
Cowley-Pendleton said she won't be able to attend the award presentation on Thursday because she will be serving as a panelist on gun violence at the National Action Network Convention in New York. However, after she returns to Chicago she does plan to attend the expo, which runs Friday through Sunday at McCormick Place.
Cowley-Pendleton said attending the expo won't be the same without her daughter, a King College Prep Student who attended President Barack Obama's inauguration and who was 15 years old when she was gunned down on Jan. 29 in a murder that got international attention.
"It's been a while since I've gone, but when I did last go Hadiya went with me and we had fun," recalled the Bronzeville resident.
As a mother of a 10-year-old son and who works as a project manager for a credit bureau, Cowley-Pendleton said she is still having trouble coping with the loss of her daughter.
"At any given time I will have a moment and break down," explained Cowley-Pendleton, who sobbed as she spoke about Hadiya. "She always wanted a 'Sweet 16' birthday party. I know on her birthday, June 2, we will visit her grave site but whether we'll have a party I don't know."
The two men charged with Hadiya's murder took more than her life away, said Cowley-Pendleton.
"They took away memories I can no longer build with her and they took away grandbabies she could have given me," she added.
She was encouraged that her daughter's life has drawn attention to gun violence.
"I was glad to see her life sparked so much interest in gun violence from the White House to block clubs. And I definitely support a universal background check on anyone who wants to buy a gun. It may not be the sole solution to gun violence, but it's a start."
According to Patricia Andrews-Keenan, a spokeswoman for the Black Women's Expo, the other women set to be honored Thursday include Marshette M. Turner, national director of Programs, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; Dawn Kirk, vice president of Marketing, Coca-Cola; Yolanda Travis, Doris Boulrece and Esperanza McSwean, franchise owners and members of the Black McDonald's Operators Association; Nicole Johnson-Scales, senior vice president, Fifth-Third Bank; Esther Isabelle Brazier, First Lady Emeritus at Apostolic Church of God; Andrea Nichols-Everett, chief executive officer, D3: Dre's Diesel Dome Fitness; Vera Davis, president of the West-Side NAACP; and Fontella Long, lead consultnt, EOS Financial Services Consulting.
"The Phenomenal Woman Awards have been a staple of the Black Women Expo since its inception 19 years ago," said Andrews-Keenan.