Sun 10 Feb, 2013 03:38 pm
Hadiya Pendleton funeral: 'I'm not worried about her soul'
February 09, 2013|
Bridget Doyle, Dahleen Glanton, John Byrne, Pete Nickeas and Rosemary Regina Sobol
Slain teen Hadiya Pendleton was remembered today as a laughing youth who brought love and happiness to all her family and friends.
Despite the heavy security because of the attendance of first lady Michelle Obama and other dignitaries, Hadiya's funeral at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church only occasionally touched on politics and the gun violence that ended Hadiya's life, instead focusing on a 15-year-old girl whose smile lit up the room.
Her mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, briefly spoke to the standing room only crowd, often with a smile and even a laugh.
“My baby did all this,’’ she said, wearing a big red flower on her chest and a sparkly scarf, and clearly enjoying the music. "This is all Hadiya.’’
“The outpouring of support has been absolutely amazing,’’ she said.
She explained that at points, “you kinda do not know how to act,’’ and some people might not understand “our sense of humor’’ or “why I have a smile on my face.’’
“But I’m not worried about her soul,’’ she said.
“I just want to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who had something to do with rounding her or having something to do with who she was,’’ she said.
Then appearing more serious, she said, “No mother, no father should ever have to experience this.’’
“I kept her living,’’ she said, saying she helped her daughter stay away from negative influences. "When your children try to talk to you, listen. Don’t judge them. This should be a judge-free zone. You made them. You deal with that."
“All right, I love you all,’’ she said before ending her remarks.
Earlier the crowd was addressed by Damon Stewart, Hadiya's godfather, who said, “I’m going to speak as if we’re family,’’ adding that he had “two spiritual thoughts’’ he wanted to stress.
“God makes no mistakes,’’ he said. “I don’t believe in coincidence; I believe in divine intervention.’’
Wearing a black suit and black shirt, he also wore purple in honor of Hadiya -- a purple tie and ribbon on his chest, and a purple handkerchief in chest pocket.
“I loved that child,’’ he said.
Stewart quoted Hadiya's father, Nathaniel Anthony Pendleton, as saying, "This isn't political, this is personal."
Then Stewart said: "This should break the hearts of everyone who has someone they love."
He said he read a Facebook post that said: "I'm not going to buy into the hype. What makes this girl so much better than the others?"
"She is important because all those other people who died are important," Stewart said. "She is important because all of the families who were silent, she speaks for them. She is a representative of the people across the nation who have lost their lives."
"Don't let this turn into a political thing. Keep it personal," he said. "A lot of politicians will try to wield it as a sword. They want to use it for votes."
While family and friends kept the focus on the 15-year-old girl who was shot dead in a South Side park, the first lady's appearance inevitably brought attention to anti-gun efforts nationwide.
The back of the funeral program has a copy of a handwritten note from President Barack Obama: "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.”
In addition to Michelle Obama, dignitaries in the crowd included Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Ill. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Barack Obama.
Prior to the service, the first lady met privately with about 30 of Hadiya's friends and classmates, and then with members of Hadiya's family, according to a White House official.
Father Michael Pfleger spoke and called Hadiya an "innocent victim of gun violence,’’ asking, “When did we lose our soul?”
He told the crowd that “we must become like Jesus’’ and become “the interrupters’’ of genocide, an evil that is killing our children.
“Welcome home, sweet Hadiya. See you on the other side," he said.
Hadiya was killed Jan. 29 at Harsh Park, in the 4400 block of South Oakenwald Avenue, not far from the Obama family home. Although Hadiya and the friends that were with her had no gang ties, a gunman fired into the park in what police said was a gang-connected shooting causing her death to become a symbol of Chicago's gun violence