Hadiya Pendleton appeared in 2008 anti-gang video
BY JON SEIDEL AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters January 31, 2013 11:24AM
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Updated: February 1, 2013 1:53AM
The King College Prep student shot to death this week less than a mile from President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home appeared in an online video four years ago to warn kids about the dangers of gangs.
It opens with the words, “Hi, my name is Hadiya.”
“This commercial is informational for you and your future children,” said 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton.
She paused to let another student introduce herself, then Hadiya went on to say, “So many children out there are in gangs.”
“And it is your job as students to say ‘no’ to gangs and ‘yes’ to a great future,” she said.
Pendleton, who performed as a majorette at Obama’s inauguration celebrations, has quickly become a national symbol of Chicago’s gun violence.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), whose South Side ward is home to the Pendleton family, said it’s heartbreaking that Hadiya lost her life to the very gang violence she condemned in the November 2008 video.
“Maybe her message holds more sway now, unfortunately, [now] that this incident had to bring that to the forefront,” Dowell said.
She added, “When I went to her house and watched her friends and her family — I mean, this is a decent and honest and good family. Mother and father, intact home. Typical teenagers. It’s heartbreaking that this tragic incident happened to her.”
The video was posted by the Digital Youth Network. The group issued a statement Thursday that described the teen as a “student, a learner and a creative voice.”
“Hadiya and her peers produced this PSA as a part of a project that sought to counter violence through youth produced media,” it said. “The project exemplifies the critical importance of empowering our youth to find and share their voice. We are inspired by the passion Hadiya and the youth of Chicago have shown for sculpting a better future for themselves and others and will continue to support these efforts in any way we can.”
Shatira Wilks, Hadiya’s cousin, said the video was made when her cousin was a sixth-grader at Carter G. Woodson School. Wilks said she first saw the video Wednesday.
“Hadiya has always been a person against violence,” Wilks said. “She didn’t even like the idea of people fighting.”
She said the death of her cousin — “a walking angel” — might have been “a mandatory request from God.”
“Maybe it was her time to be with him,” Wilks said.
A gunman fired into a group of Hadiya’s friends as they sought shelter during a rainstorm Tuesday in a park on the 4500 block of South Oakenwald in the North Kenwood neighborhood. A 16-year-old boy was shot in the leg and a teenage girl had a graze wound in her ankle.
Hadiya was shot in the back and died. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said neither Hadiya nor the friends she was with when she was shot were gang members.
McCarthy offered no specific updates on the murder investigation at a news conference with Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Thursday to announce the reassignment of 200 police officers from desk jobs to street duty,
But, McCarthy said the no-snitch policy that has impeded so many police investigations is apparently not impacting the search for Hadiya’s killer.
“Father [Michael] Pfleger and a number of us had a community meeting where the community demanded that the community help solve this crime. Well, they’re stepping up to the plate. We’re getting a lot of calls,” he said.
“We have to run down every single one of those tips now and see which one is going to prove fruitful for us. There’s nothing to report at this time.”
The outrage over Hadiya’s death has reached all the way to the White House, and a reward totaling $11,000 is being offered to anyone with information leading to the killer.
Police have encouraged anyone with information on the shooting to call (312) 747-8383.
Pfleger, of St. Sabina Church, put $5,000 toward the reward and called it “a bounty out on the head of the killer, before you kill somebody else.”