HYDE PARK -- Hundreds gathered at George Washington Park on Chicago’s South Side to symbolically take a stand against the city's escalating gun violence Saturday.
Among the speakers were the parents of Hadiya Pendelton, whose name has become a symbol of the senseless nature of street killings. The 15-year-old honors student was standing and listening to friends in a park four years ago when she became a victim.
Her birthday was Friday. She would have turned 20 this year.
Her parents are now advocates, attempting to raise awareness and find solutions in a city where nearly 800 people were shot and killed last year.
“We deal with it the best way we can – we go day by day,” said her father, Nate Pendelton. “It’s baby steps, and we’re getting worse before we get better."
The movement was born in Chicago, but Saturday's rally was one of 250 “wear orange events” happening around the country today.
Former U.S. education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a sobering speech, calling gun violence a national issue, but a Chicago crisis.
"When Hadiya was killed we were in D.C., and i flew back with the First Lady, Michelle Obama to attend that funeral, and I’ll never forget it,” Duncan said. “If we’re going to try to reduce violence, we have to work directly with those who engage in the violence, and unfortunately the profile of those shooting and being shot is one and the same.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx addressed the crowd, and addressed the frustrations that more shootings haven’t led to more convictions.
“That frustration is real, but we have to make sure we’re following the constitution, that we’re not violating folks rights and that we have the facts and evidence to present these cases," Foxx said.
Pendleton’s friend Nza-ari Khepra started Project Orange – the color that has been adopted as the symbol for the anti-gun violence movement.
"It’s easy to separate yourself from the violence, and the shootings and things of that sort. But when it hits home, you have to make a change," Khepra said.
In the end, for the people in the park it wasn’t just a moment of silence, but also the loud color served as a call to action against gun violence.