STREETERVILLE — Hadiya Pendleton, the Kenwood teenager who was mistakenly slain two years ago in a South Side park, will now be remembered forever at another.
The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Wednesday the renaming of Buckthorn Park, 4345 S. Calumet Ave., after Pendleton, the 15-year-old whose 2013 killing personified Chicago's violence epidemic for a national audience.
The renaming had been in the works for more than a year, but Hadiya's family still was astonished by the measure.
"We are caught without words," Hadiya's father, Nathaniel, told the park board Wednesday.
Dave Matthews discusses the park's future:
With a new name, the Bronzeville park also will be expanded by nearly 2 acres beginning this fall. Plans also call for a sculpture: a stack of books, symbolizing Hadiya's love of reading.
"I know it means a lot to the family and to the friends," Hadiya's mother, Cleo, said. "Just to see a little token of [Hadiya] in there to represent her, to see kids playing and developing themselves with this new state-of-the-art park."
Hadiya, a sophomore in January 2013, had just finished her midyear exams at King College Prep when two men approached her group of friends gathered at Vivian Gordon Harsh Park in Kenwood and opened fire, killing Hadiya and wounding another. The two suspects, who allegedly mistook the group as members of a rival gang involved in a prior shooting, have since been charged with murder.
Hadiya's killing especially hit a nerve with Barack and Michelle Obama, whose Chicago home is not far from the site of the shooting. Hadiya performed as a member of King College Prep's majorettes at Obama's 2013 inauguration about a week before her death.
Though the naming is a nice gesture, Chicago Park District officials were quick to note that it also serves as a sober reminder of lost promise and the cruelty of gang violence.
"It’s a shame Hadiya Pendleton is having a park named after her because she was murdered, and not because of the things she would have accomplished," said Julia Bachrach, a Park District planning supervisor.
But when asked how Hadiya herself would take the naming, her mother smiled.
"She'd be like 'awesome,'" Cleo Pendleton said.
The park had been called Buckthorn Park since 1974, one of a number of properties named for trees and plants at the time.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: