University Hosts Forum to Seek Solutions to Chicago Street Violence
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton was among parents of slain Chicago teens who addressed the North Park audience. The shooting death of her daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, became a national story earlier this year.
Families affected by violence represented, students hold neighborhood prayer vigil
CHICAGO (March 22, 2013) – Parents of Chicago teenagers killed in acts of violence spoke about their sons and daughters to a large audience at North Park University March 20, as did activists and elected officials working to stop community violence. They were part of a daylong series of educational activities, "Creating Peace on Chicago Streets," aimed at promoting a culture of peace and nonviolence.
Richard Kohng, urban outreach coordinator, North Park University Ministries, said "Creating Peace" initiated dialogue on ways to prevent community violence. "Throughout our nation's history, students have been involved in large movements when there has been change, and I think a lot of the students really wanted to be part of this movement," he said in an interview.
A central piece of the event was a public forum in Hamming Hall which included testimony by parents and family members of murdered teenagers. Ashley Douglas, a North Park student majoring in communications, recited a poem recalling her twin brother, whom she was with when he was shot and killed at a high school basketball game in Chicago. She was 16 years old at the time. "The violence has to cease before it spreads any more like an incurable disease. Please use your resources to help our community be free and build unity," she said.
A case that attracted national attention was the shooting death in a Chicago park of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, just days after her school band performed at President Obama's inauguration. "I have not yet accepted the fact that my daughter has been murdered," said her mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, to the North Park forum. "Violence is very real. It tears families apart."
Pendleton said she was proud of her daughter, whom she said loved variety, reflected in her choices of music and interest in different cultures. In her memory, the family is creating Hadiya's Foundation, focusing on social, educational, and economic services, Pendleton said.
Klyn Jones, Hadiya's classmate and friend, was with her in the park when the shooting occurred. "It's been very hurtful for me. I can't hear her laugh. I can't see her smile. It hurts. It's probably never going to stop hurting," she told the North Park audience. Students and others performed "Never Again!" (Hadiya's Song), an original musical piece written by Asim Allakim, a student in the University's Music in Worship program, and others.
Other parents who spoke were Ron Holt, a veteran police officer, whose son, Blair, 16, was shot and killed in 2007 when a gunman fired at a city bus, and Pamela Hester Jones, mother of Lazarus, 13, who was beaten to death by strangers in 2007.
Speakers included 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar; Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., representing the city's 27th Ward; plus representatives of the Stop Concealed Carry Coalition, and Faith Rooted Chicago. Susanna Song, reporter for CBS 2, WBBM-TV was the forum's moderator.
Several students joined Dr. Mary Trujillo, professor of communication arts, in an evening prayer vigil and walk through the Albany Park community. They prayed for peace at spots in the neighborhood where people have been killed by violence, and they prayed at places of hope in the neighborhood, such as schools.
The day's activities concluded with a reception in Hamming Hall highlighting individuals and organizations using the arts to address violence. Trujillo's conflict transformation class hosted the event as a service-learning initiative.
Earlier, Rev. Corey Brooks, Sr., pastor of New Beginnings Church, Chicago, was guest speaker at the University's regular chapel service. The day before, Brooks said, he had officiated at the funeral of Jonylah Watkins, a 6-month-old girl killed while his father was changing the baby's diaper. The infant was fatally wounded by a gunman who opened fire on the minivan they were in. The father, Jonathon Watkins, was seriously wounded.
"Creating Peace" was sponsored by University Ministries, the conflict transformation class, and Faith Rooted Chicago.
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