47th Street: Hundreds Gather in Cold to Say Farewell to Hadiya Pendleton

Pendleton Friends Photo

 Danya Bell (left) and Artureana Terrell (right) attended grade school with
Hadiya Pendleton. Bell cries after learning they will not be allowed in the funeral
because it was overcapacity. (Photo by Josclynn Brandon)

47th IconBy Angelica Robinson and Josclynn Brandon
The Red Line Project

Posted: Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013

First Lady Michelle Obama's attendance at a funeral of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton has left Chicago residents wondering whether national attention will do anything to curb violence. 
Greater Harvest Baptist Church hit capacity Saturday monrning, well before the funeral service began, which left many mourners standing outside during the ceremony.
Pendleton was shot and killed on Jan. 29, blocks away from President Barack Obama's North Kenwood home.  Pendleton was an honor student at King College Prep and performed with her school's band at the Presidential Inauguration just a week before her death. 
Michelle Obama, Gov. Pat Quinn, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, were among the list of Chicago's well known political figures who attended the funeral Saturday. 
Cassandra Thomas and her teenage daughter attended the funeral. Thomas said the First Lady's presence underscores the prevalence of gun violence in the neighborhood Michelle Obama grew up in.
“I believe that this is going to spring-board more things happening for Chicago and for the nation," Thomas said. "Because this is a big problem for our country.”

But April Lawson, who lives in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, said having Michelle Obama there was a distraction.
“I see so many police people out here," Lawson said. "I really just want to say, are you guys going to find the little  shooter that shot her? That’s what we need you to do right now.”

Pendleton’s godfather, Damon Stewart, addressed the politicians in the audience when he stepped to the church microphone.

“Don’t let this run into a political thing,” he said. “Keep it personal.”

Her mother, Cleopatra, also addressed the politicians, who sat in a pew together on the left side of the church.

“I didn’t want any of the VIPS to touch this microphone,” said Cleopatra, who will appear at President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday in Washington D.C. “And they didn’t want to do it. “

Cleopatra also talked about dealing with the loss of her daughter.

“The first thing out of my mouth: I’m not worried about her soul,” she said. “I know where she is.

“You don’t know how hard this is. And for those who do, I’m sorry.”

Hadiya Pendleton Photo
Hadiya Pendleton, 1997-2013. (Courtesy photo)
Lance Robinson said he has been a classmate of Pendleton's since elementary school and saw Hadiya just hours before she was gunned down.
Robinson wasn't able to go in to the funeral. He said having the First Lady drew a crowd people that weren't necessarily interested in saying goodbye to Pendleton, but were interested in the politicians that attended. Robinson said he felt robbed of his last chance to say goodbye.
"She was a loving person and I think it would hurt her to know that we didn't get a chance to say goodbye to her one last time," he said.
A crowd of upset  mourners yelled at police demanding to be let in the church.  A 43-year-old man was arrested outside of Pendleton's funeral and charged with disorderly conduct. Police said it was over a parking issue outside the church.
Some of Pendleton's classmates gathered outside the church as the funeral, which lasted more than 90 minutes, took place inside. Some of the King College Prep students held their own prayer service outside in the chilly temperatures.
April Lawson said said we shouldn’t lose sight of what the funeral is about.
“It’s about the young lady and what she represents," Lawson said. "She represents us burying our future.”

Audio: WBEZ Radio's report on the funeral.

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