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Mother of Hadiya Pendleton continues fight to end gun violence

Photo caption: Hadiya Pendleton 

Wearing an orange T-shirt in honor of gun violence victims, including her 15-year-old daughter Hadiya Pendleton who was fatally shot in 2013, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton called for an end to the shooting and killing of innocent people and vowed never to end her fight to help reduce the violence.

Hadiya was an honor student and majorette who a week before she was killed had performed at President Obama’s second inauguration. She had just taken a final exam and joined her friends at Harsh Park in the Kenwood community when a car drove by and sprayed bullets at the students, killing Hadiya.

“People are out there shooting, robbing, looting and the question is why?” asked Pendleton, who said their actions have further depleted the resources the community once had. She vowed to continue fighting the “epidemic of gun violence” in memory of her daughter.

She was one of several people who attended a press conference on Saturday, June 3, at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition where Reverend Jesse Jackson, his son, Representative Jonathan Jackson (D-1st), Bishop Tavis Grant, acting national executive director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and others joined in calling for an end to gun violence.

Congressman Jackson referred to the 57 people shot and people killed in the double digits as of Saturday, June 3. “We know that this is not normal.” He fears with school ending in just a few weeks the acts of violence will soar even higher.

As adults, Jackson said, “We must fix this problem. These children are killing one another. We are going to drive these numbers down….We did not do this, but we have to fix it.”

Referring to the rise in shootings in the Black community, Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey 4 Justice Alliance, asked, “Who are these children who are being carjackers? Who are these children who are caught up in a life of crime? A society that does not invest in its young people betrays its young people.”

Brown said the disinvestment of the Black community is clear. While he lives in Austin, Brown said when he drives through the neighboring community of Oak Park, he can see the “deep investment in Oak Park, that is until you pass Austin, where you have a system of liquor stores.”

While many criticized the teens who overtook the Loop, exhibiting bad behavior a few weeks ago, Brown said, “We see Jackson Park as a place where they can convene peacefully. They used to have the Lake on 37th Street, but now it’s a butterfly park. Where are they supposed to go? We must do differently?”

As a victim advocate, Reverend Donovan Price told how he rushed to a home where there was a shooting and when he saw so much blood on the concrete outside the home, he got on his knees and armed with a water hose began to scrub the stains away. He said a little boy kept asking if he could play with the hose. He later found out the blood he was removing was that of the child’s father who was fatally shot.

Looking over the shooting statistics, Price said, “Every three minutes and four seconds someone is shot in Chicago, and every 13 hours and 39 minutes someone is killed in Chicago. He said one household had six shootings and, of that, five were killed. “This is real,” Price said. “It may not be real until it comes to your doorsteps.”

Pastor Ira Acree, Greater St. John Bible Church, suggests, “faith leaders should open their doors during the summer as some have already done, as safe havens so kids can have a summer camp to play and be out of harm’s way.” He said they can take the youth to supervised outings. “We can love them.”

Acree spoke of the manifestation of violence saying, “The homicide rate is too high” and suggested, “If you know someone who has killed someone, you are as guilty as the one who pulled the trigger. If you are harboring killers in your home, God forbid, it is time to form a relationship with the police or those elected officials to end “this sad state of emergency.”   He called for unity in reducing gun violence.

PUSH Excel National Executive Director, Reverend Janette Wilson, said, it’s time for parents to reinstate curfew in their homes, in their neighborhoods. “If your child is a shooter,” or is caught breaking the law, Wilson said the parents “should go to jail…. At some point, parents must assume some responsibility.”

“We are here today because our communities are caught in the captivity of cycles of victimization, trauma and retaliator violence,” said Bishop Grant. “Gun violence is also the leading cause of death for Black children in large part because of the severe burden of gun homicides on this population.”

According to Grant, Black Americans die from gun violence at nearly 2.4 times the rate of white Americans. He said on average more than 12,400 Blacks die from gun violence every year. “Nearly all forms of gun violence have been rising among Black Americans. Firearm homicides rose 61 percent.” Grant said 83 percent of all gun deaths among Blacks in America are gun homicides.

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