As of Jan. 30, police said Pendleton was one of the 157 shootings and 42 homicides Chicago had already experienced in 2013. Chicago shamefully topped 500 murders last year for the first time in four years. When Pendleton’s death hit headlines weeks later, it sparked a national conversation reaching the inner walls of the White House.
“I’m glad it did [bring national attention], unfortunately. If this is what needed to bring the attention, then now we have the attention and hopefully everybody will be vigilant and try to make our community safe,” said Cathy Dale, 53, who lives in the neighborhood and serves on the local school council at King College Prep where Pendleton attended.
Dale continued, saying, “I think it has clearly brought national attention, simply because it’s tied to being a mile away from the president’s home.”
After the murder, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said at a press conference that the Obamas were praying for Pendleton’s family. On Jan. 30, a petition was started urging the Obamas to attend Pendleton’s funeral. To receive an official response from the White House, the petition, which was filed in the “open petitions” section of the White House website, must have at least 100,000 signatures. As of early afternoon Friday, the petition was just shy of about 500 signatures to reach its goal.
“… President Obama should stand up and take advantage of a tragic opportunity to keep the anti-gun violence movement engaged,” the petition reads. The petition said if the president and his family attended the funeral, “…then maybe America will pay some attention to the everyday, routine, one-at-a-time death toll wrought by guns in this nation, instead of waiting for the next mass shooting to sit up, notice, talk, and do nothing.”
The entrenched crime issue in the city must be dealt with, local residents say.
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis issued a statement Thursday saying, “The prevalence of violence on our streets is starting to reduce the wonderful qualities that kids like Hadiya possess—qualities we all want in our children—to homicide statistics. As an educator, I empathize with the teachers for whom the aftermaths of these incidents are grave daily realities. We’re living in a society that’s completely out of kilter. Our children feel disrespected and their outsized response is violence. They’re given no methodology for learning how to cope with their anger.”
“Our community as a whole, has been working very hard to ensure the safety and security of our students,” said Marielle Sainvilus, a press secretary for the Chicago Public Schools, who did not release an official statement following Pendleton’s death. According to her, CPS meets regularly with sister agencies, including Chicago Police Department to talk about strategy and concerted efforts for different neighborhoods around the city to keep students safe.
Although the gun control issue may be highlighted in Pendleton’s death, Brown says, “the gun crisis is the shortsighted way of looking at this. We have a developing crisis, we have a humanity crisis where we treat our young people inhumanely.” He insists that lack of proper educational, developmental and employment opportunities in communities have converged to create many societal problems, including this one.
Dale agrees, saying, “All the social ills in our society, especially in our communities, are the reasons why these things happen.”
Renita D. Young is a Chicago-based multimedia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung.