The face of Cleopatra Pendleton, mother of the slain Chicago teen Hadiya, is a living portrait of grief. Just days after she and her husband, Nathaniel, buried their daughter, they are in Washington to join First Lady Michelle Obama for the president's State of the Union address.
Though her sadness is still so raw that it's palpable to anyone who sees her, Pendleton spent several hours leading up to the speech at a hearing and a press conference on Capitol Hill to push for gun control legislation. Pendelton, and other victims of gun violence, called on congressional lawmakers to pass the kind of measures that might have prevented her loved one's senseless death.
At the press conference hosted by House lawmakers, Pendleton described her daughter as a typical teenager, who "loved basketball, volleyball, debate and her friends." But one day, Hadiya went to the park and though she did nothing wrong, she never came home again, her mother said.
"I'm here today because my daughter never came home. I'm here today because she lost her life to gun violence. I'm here today because gun violence affected my life and has affected the rest of my life," Pendleton said. "No one should feel like we do and I'm appealing to Congress to be smarter than me. You guys signed up for the job. Do something. You can."
Pendleton was joined by dozens of others who've lost family and friends to gun violence. They included Rev. E. Winford Bell, whose son was shot nine times at point blank range in a drive-by shooting in 2009. His son lived, and Bell started Silver Lining of Hope, a faith-based anti-violence community organization in Inglewood, California.
Cleora O'Connor, lost her son Malik, 17, in 1997, when he was killed in a shooting in Providence, Rhode Island.
Sami Rahamim's father was killed last September in a workplace shooting in their Minnesota hometown.
"We come here from different parts of the country. We come here from different walks of life — different colors, different cultures, different faith traditions," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), one of the press conference's hosts. "But we're all absolutely united in our commitment to bring safety to our communities."
Many of the participants will be seated in the House gallery when Obama delivers his address. The hope is that their presence will "send a strong message that the status quo in our gun laws is unacceptable," lawmakers said.
BET Politics - Your source for the latest news, photos and videos illuminating key issues and personalities in African-American political life, plus commentary from some of our liveliest voices. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)