LOS ANGELES — Friends, family and First Lady Michelle Obama gathered Saturday afternoon to remember Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago majorette who was fatally shot a week after she performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Hadiya — who was shot in a park near her school in what police believe was a case of mistaken identity involving gangs — was described by the Rev. Michael Pfleger as an “innocent victim of gun violence.” Her killing, he said, raised a question: “When did we lose our soul?”
“We must become the interrupters of funeral processions,” Pfleger said. “We must become the interrupters of this genocide.”
Hadiya’s godfather Damon Stewart made a plea: “Don’t make this about politics. This should hurt the hearts of every man.”
His goddaughter, he said, represents gun violence victims in Chicago and across the country.
Her killing came in the midst of a national debate on gun violence and gun-control issues and as Chicago grapples with its high homicide rate.
“She’s important, because all those other people who died are important,” Stewart said. People in the audience clapped and shouted, “Amen.”
Toward the end of the service, Hadiya’s friends — many clad in their black-and-yellow majorette uniforms — shared memories:
During chemistry class she would whisper help with problems. She gave them advice: “Smile, it tells your brain that everything is OK.” She always smiled, even after a bullet pierced her back and police loaded her into an ambulance on Jan. 29. Sometimes she forgot her baton, but she always remembered her lip gloss. She worked hard in school and pushed her friends to succeed. When they did, she gave them the tightest hugs.
Her funeral at Greater Harvest Baptist Church drew a host of dignitaries: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and, of course, Michelle Obama.
The back of the funeral program displayed a copy of a handwritten note from President Obama to Hadiya’s family, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Dear Cleopatra and Nathaniel, Michelle and I just wanted you to know how heartbroken we are to have heard about Hadiya’s passing. We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence. God Bless.”