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Slain Teen Hadiya Pendleton Remembered on Her 18th Birthday

By Sam Cholke | June 2, 2015 7:46pm
 Slain King College Prep sophmore Hadiya Pendleton was remembered by family and classmates on Tuesday, which would have been her 18th birthday.
Hadiya Pendleton Birthday
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Nearly 200 people came out to Harold Washington Park on Tuesday to remember Hadiya Pendleton, the King College Prep sophomore killed in 2013. [DNAinfo/Sam Cholke]

HYDE PARK — Hadiya Pendleton’s would have turned 18 on Tuesday and nearly 200 people dressed in orange came out to Harold Washington Park to sing Stevie Wonder’s rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

Pendleton, a 15-year-old King College Prep sophomore, was shot and killed on Jan. 29, 2013, in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park in Kenwood.

Her death sparked a wave of antiviolence movements among her classmates and neighbors that has attracted international attention, including from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to President Barack Obama.

 Hadiya Pendleton, 15, a student at King College Prep, was shot to death Tuesday at a park near the school.
Hadiya Pendleton, 15, a student at King College Prep, was shot to death Tuesday at a park near the school.
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“It’s not just about my daughter,” said Nathaniel Pendleton, Hadiya’s father. “She’s created a platform for everyone else to tell their story.”

The color of that platform is orange, adopted by Pendleton’s classmates for their antiviolence group because it’s the color hunters wear.

“When they wear orange and go into the woods, they’re saying they’re not the target,” Nza-Ari Khepra, former president of Project Orange Tree. “When we wear it, we’re saying we don’t want to be the next victim of gun violence.”

Project Orange Tree is the nonviolence organization borne out of Pendleton's death that has fought for a national day of peace.

Pendleton would have graduated this spring from King College Prep, where First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to give the commencement address.

“She would have been getting ready to graduate and getting ready for prom,” said Cleopatra Pendleton, Hadiya’s mother.

Hadiya Pendleton was made honorary prom queen at King College Prep this week, where one of her best friends, Amber Mitchell, was given a tiara in a black box, according to classmates.

Though the Tuesday afternoon event had the feel of a block party, it brought rapper Lupe Fiasco, Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina’s Parish and Mayor Rahm Emanuel out to address gun violence, which Pendleton’s classmates have fought to push onto the national stage.

“It was at the school they said they would start a national campaign to work for a national day of peace and they doubled down to bring peace to our streets,” Emanuel said.

Pendleton will soon have a permanent memorial.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said the city is finalizing the last steps to start work on Hadiya Pendleton Park, which she said would have a plaque and art honoring the teen.

“Sometimes tragedy creates some spark to create a fire,” Dowell said. “ In the case of Hadiya Pendleton, her death has been a catalyst for a lot of people and organizations to come together to address the violence in the community.”

The event organized by Everytown for Gun Safety was scheduled to run until 8 p.m. with live music and free food.

Lupe Fiasco, among the mayor and others, came out for the birthday celebration and rally against gun violence.

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