On a weekly basis, Nathaniel Pendleton says he is jolted by the news of another wave of shootings in Chicago, often in the very South Side of the city where he and his wife lost their 15-year-old daughter to gun violence in January of this year.
“Like everyone here, I see the numbers and the level of violence that continues to be a problem in our city,” said Pendleton, in an interview with BET.com.
“But to me, the stats just put more fuel on the fire that keeps us motivated,” he added. “If we don’t do our part, nothing will happen. So, we just have to make sure we do our part.”
Pendleton’s part centers on the work he and his wife, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, are undertaking in the seven-month-old Hadiya Pendleton Foundation. It is a non-profit community organization that is named for the young honors student who was shot in a South Side playground a week after performing as a majorette at President Obama’s inauguration.
Her death drew nationwide outrage and attention to the issue of urban gun violence and Michelle Obama spoke at the funeral.
The Chicago Police Department has maintained that conditions have improved. The department has released statistics that show a decline in the murder rate of nearly 30 percent in the first six months of this year versus the same period last year. But there is a pervasive feeling among residents that the level of violence has not changed materially.
Nathaniel Pendleton said that he and his wife remain shocked by the numbers, saying they represent the lost lives of their fellow citizens, many of them young like their daughter. He added that they are intent on making an impact with their fledgling foundation, no matter how modest.
The foundation’s mission is to seek to diminish the level of gun violence in what they call “a proactive approach.” They plan to work with families on the South Side to provide mentoring and assistance for students with behavioral issues.
They also are planning programs to work along with local police, park districts and schools to help identify students “who show signs of going astray,” he said.
For now, Pendleton said, the foundation has raised money for scholarships for some South Side students and is close to finalizing plans to establish a headquarters in the neighborhood.
“We want to be at ground zero, where we feel we can have the most impact,” he said.
He said the foundation is off to a great start, but added, “things could be even better and we could reach our goal even faster if we were to get more support from the public. That would really help.”
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(Photo: Jonathan Hicks/BET)