Our daughter was only 15 years old when she was shot and killed while at the park with her friends in Chicago. In her honor, we launched National Gun Violence Awareness Day where we wear orange to help stop gun violence.

By Nate Pendleton and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton
June 09, 2020
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People wear orange for National Gun Violence Awareness day at Harold Washington Playlot Park in Chicago in 2017.
| Credit: Alyssa Schukar for EveryTown for Gun Safety

Our daughter, Hadiya, was funny, attentive, talented, and wise beyond her years. Hadiya had performed in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural events with her high school band as a majorette. It was an exciting time that was short-lived.

Shortly after, on January 29, 2013, Hadiya had finished her final exams and was sheltering from the rain in the park with friends when a perpetrator began shooting. No parent should ever have to get a phone call that their child has been shot—and yet that happens more readily in Black and Brown communities. Hadiya was only 15.

Hadiya’s death devastated our family and friends. We fight for her because we know it is what Hadiya would have done. After her death, Hadiya’s friends created  Project Orange Tree in her honor, which calls on young people to tackle gun violence and the structural violence behind it. On what would have been Hadiya’s 18th birthday in 2015, the first ever National Gun Violence Awareness Day was declared. The ask: to wear the color orange for gun violence awareness.

The color orange was chosen because it is bright and powerful and carries a simple message: don’t shoot. Five years later, we’re wearing orange virtually as our country stands at this powerful crossroads of change.

Hadiya Pendleton at 15.
| Credit: Courtesy of Damon Stewart

Hadiya has inspired a movement of thousands of Americans to wear orange with the belief that we can and must end gun violence. It would be awesome to share with her what has been accomplished in her absence. But when remembering our daughter, who was smart, athletic, a fierce friend, a loving sister, daughter, and much more, we are not surprised that she has had such an impact on the world. She often declared that she would be a household name—but who knew at what cost.

Soon our son, Nathaniel, will graduate virtually from high school. We wish that Hadiya could be here to help celebrate her brother's educational milestone. We know she would be so proud of him and us, just like we were always so proud of her.

And so we wear orange for Hadiya and all the other lives cut short by gun violence. We will be their voice. To join us, visit WearOrange.org.

Nathaniel and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton are the co-founders of Hadiya’s Promise and members of the Everytown Survivor Network.

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