Hadiya Pendleton was laid to rest today in Chicago and, though her funeral was attended by high profile politicos and community activists, her family insisted that her death should not be used for political brownie points:
“Don’t let this turn into a political thing. Keep it personal,” Damon Stewart, Hadiya’s godfather, said. “A lot of politicians will try to wield it as a sword. They want to use it for votes.”
Stewart also quoted Hadiya’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton, as saying, “This isn’t political, this is personal.”
First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett and Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson, Jr. were all in attendance. Despite strident calls for President Barack Obama to attend, he did not make the trip back to his hometown, opting, instead, to send a handwritten message that was printed on the back of Hadiya’s funeral program:
“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.”
The Chicago Tribune has more:
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.’’