First lady Michelle Obama will attend the funeral of 15-year old Hadiya Pendelton, a Chicago high school student murdered last month, a week after performing for President Obama’s second inauguration.
Mrs. Obama will be accompanied by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Both are Chicago natives.
Pendleton's killing has brought into sharp focus Chicago’s struggle to stop rising gun and gang violence as a nationwide debate about gun control rages. The White House official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mrs. Obama’s plans had not formally been announced.
To recap: Pendleton, 15, was gunned down presumably by a gang member while seeking shelter from a rain storm. She was with about a dozen other students in a park less than a mile from the Obamas’ Kenwood home. Reportedly the gunman thought he was shooting at rival gang members. To date, there have been no arrests in this case. A reward for his capture has now reached well over $40,000.
Pendleton was an honors student and volleyball player who actually spoke out against gang violence at the tender age of 11. In a now-heartbreaking-to-watch appearance in a 2008 public service announcement, she said, “So many children out there are in gangs, and it’s your job as students to say no to gangs and yes to a great future.”
As stated above, Pendleton performed last month as a majorette in the King College Prep High School band at an inauguration party sponsored by Representative Danny K. Davis, (D-Ill.), according to The Chicago Tribune.
Hadiya's wake and funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church, which seats up to 1,000 people.
Earlier this week I was waiting for a bus at 79th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago. That is the very heart of Chicago's black south side. I overheard the following discussion (argument) between two middle-aged, well-dressed black men, also waiting for the bus:
Man 1: “You see he (Obama) ain’t comin’ to that young girl’s funeral, don’t you? Seem like he can go to Connecticut or Colorado at the drop of a hat, but he ain’t got time for us, right here in Chicago.”
Man 2: “It’s not about time, my man. It’s about numbers. Sandy Hook and Colorado and all the other mass shootings were just that – mass. This is just one little girl who really, if you think about, was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Besides, if Obama came to Chicago every time a black kid was killed, he’d have to move to White House to Chicago.”
After Pendleton’s murder there were a number of protests, both against Chicago’s continuing violence and the president’s apparent lack of concern about it. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger led marches; petitions were circulated and signed calling for the president to attend her funeral. And, as stated, the reward for her murderer’s capture is still growing, even as she is laid to rest.
By sending the first lady and his Chicago-connected staffers and Cabinet members to this funeral, Obama is bowing to this pressure by throwing a bone to the south side.
It is not enough. He should be here just as he was in Connecticut. Just as he was in Aurora, Colo. His presence, not his wife’s, would send a powerful message to the gangbangers and other assorted thugs that they have got his attention, and that he is prepared to stop them from practicing their lethal trade.
Black people have long been “second class citizens” in this nation-state. Seems the election of a “black” president has done nothing to change their status or situation.