Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton speaks about her daughter, Wear Orange Day
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

This article shared 595 times since Sun May 28, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

On June 2, a 20-year-old girl and her family celebrates her birthday with her friends. Outgoing, selfless and gentle-hearted, she has so very many and they crowd into every corner of the family home. It's never been a quiet place but today especially the music and myriad of conversations seem to match each other in enthusiastic volume.

The kitchen is a blaze of activity. Mom has a few helping hands but they are all full trying to cater to what amounts to a combined neighborhood block party, high school reunion and college field trip.

Even so, she keeps one ear on her daughter. Despite mom's "I can handle it. Go be with your friends" objections, the girl insists on helping while, with her trademark smile, she talks triumphantly about her volleyball team, grumbles about that one Harvard professor whose lectures could put both of her adopted feral cats into a bored stupor and shrugs off questions about her plans after graduation. She instead grabs a Twizzler and chews on it; much more interested in its present joy and her friend's futures which she talks about with the pride of a parent.

The conversation and the party echo into silence.

That's all there is beyond the tormented dream of Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton whose daughter Hadiya and the better world she made for everyone who knew her was shattered after a gunman cut her down in a Chicago park when she was just 15.

There was no reason for it. She was just trying to stay out of the rain.

Cowley-Pendleton is a survivor. It's not a word she ever imagined she would have to apply to herself. Instead, Hadiya's 20th birthday was supposed to actually be happening. It's warm, blanketing dream and the cold reality of the hardened ground above Hadiya's grave will torture her mother and leave her in agony for the rest of her life—as the memories of what should have been will for the families and friends of each of the 238 people murdered in Chicago so far this year.

Instead of planning Hadiya's birthday party, Cowley-Pendleton looks ahead to an event on June 3 at Harold Washington Park in the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park beginning at 12 p.m.

There, it is hoped a multitude will arrive each wearing bright orange. When you are in a forest infested with the guns of hunters, your best hope is to wear orange. It's color says "I'm not a target."

The idea was seeded by Hadiya's friends at King College Prep. They wanted to honor her life. Now it has become a national campaign which calls upon the country to not only do the same for Hadiya but every victim of America's unremitting gun violence.

More than 200 national monuments, from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to New York's Empire State Building, will be lit in orange. It is hoped those who do not know why may ask. It is hoped the answer, even if it is just the name Hadiya and what happened to her, will inspire enough voices to drown out National Rifle Association ( NRA ) CEO Wayne La Pierre and his hordes who obediently defend a gun over a life as beautiful as Hadiya's with so much potential for the kind of goodness that enhances the entire world.

It is hoped that this year's event in Harold Washington Park may draw more people than ever before. It's not the 20th birthday party Cowley-Pendleton dreams of for her daughter but she believes Hadiya would revel in what may come of it.

In a telephone interview with Windy City Times, Cowley-Pendleton explained why.

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton: This all started because Hadiya's friends were really devastated. They wanted to do something as young people and put a lot of thought behind the idea of wearing orange.; just that simple act to symbolize 'don't shoot me.' Our city can be divided even in death but just to know that there's a movement that allows everyone to come together to recognize their loved ones who were taken too soon, to celebrate their lives and really get information out there about the various [gun violence] organizations and what they're doing takes my breath away.

Windy City Times: What kind of message do you hope it sends nationwide?

CCP: That we're fed up with senseless acts of violence. That there is more that can be done and should be done. It raises the level of consciousness for this issue. It affects such a vast majority of people who survive it and changes everyone's lives; the way that we live. My son's dealing with something that I never conceived he would as a kid. Death was the last thing on my mind. As children, we're supposed to be able to go out and play but now we have a generation of kids who just want to stay home or find the safest way to do something instead of just living.

Orange symbolizes life and that we are sick of what's happened to our families. I hope that significant change, from a community to a larger legislative standpoint, comes about so that we can get back to family and what that is without thinking that death is around every corner.

WCT: There seems to be a culpability in the media in not getting the word out. We've made murder into an everyday occurrence that rarely warrants more than a few hundred words and then is forgotten. What should the media be doing that it isn't?

CCP: The media needs to cover what is happening in the communities themselves which is making them better. There seems to be a stipulation that's put on the South and West sides that's just negative when there is such a great community of people out here who want things to be better and want things to be safer. The media needs to do a better job of highlighting what is actually happening in these areas. There are some fantastic programs on the South and West sides to try and help and there are organizations that could use additional help from the North Side.

We need to take the gun violence and violence as a whole seriously and add the humanity into that because our communities are hurt and it's not color related. Once they're shot, bullets are going to hit whoever is in front of them and it doesn't matter if it's a little Black girl or boy, Hispanic or white. Families are torn apart trying to figure out what to do next.

The forever of death. How you wrap your mind around it, the going forward and being productive is difficult. Those of us who get out and go beyond ourselves to try and communicate it, draw pictures of it, encourage people not to become what we have become; it seemingly looks easy but it is incredibly hard, incredibly hard.

WCT: And the politicians?

CCP: My first experience with the mayor was as a human, as a parent. I don't think we can lean on one individual to resolve all our issues but I do believe that there are actions that can be taken. I don't think they are in any one person's ability. I think that funding for communities would help if it's put towards something that makes sense.

We also have to own our roles. Beyond having meetings and saying 'this is what needs to happen or should happen', there needs to be an action behind it. We can talk to the police superintendent about the violence on the streets. He can agree with us and put a team together to address it but what happens next? Are we our own worst enemy? Are we blocking change ourselves because we make it difficult to implement things that are too harsh? Is it that we need to do something that may piss a few people off but will ultimately impact the greater good?

The question is 'after the meeting, then what?' The information is there but, when it's time to do the work, who's going to do it? Who's going to stand up and say 'this is what's best for our community. Let's move forward in this direction'? As long as we don't have that group of people or an organization, then we're going to stay in the circle of 'something needs to happen' and the execution never taking place.

WCT: Can more be done by the people to influence the passage of gun laws or to get more money to the South and West sides?

CCP: There's more that can be done but the issue has a lot to do with voting and understanding who we have representing us in Springfield and elsewhere. We have to start voting so that we have people in place who represent what the issues really are and who are not afraid to stand up. We've been battling with the NRA. I don't think the head of the NRA reflects the people who support that organization. Many of the people in the survivor community have guns. I'm not anti-gun. We just want people to be responsible with guns. We just want the people who purchase guns to be mentally able. It's really important that we stop making it easy to just go online and order a firearm. There should be greater consequences around the purchase of [illegal] firearms but there are some voices which are louder than others.

Unfortunately, we are a growing community of survivors because nothing is being done. As long as nothing is done, the bigger our community gets.

WCT: Yet your stories often get lost. Can you paint a picture of the life of a survivor?

CCP: It's difficult to fully express what life is like. Many of us respond differently. We don't know what someone's life was, what the relationship was, what they were planning to do. To have to go the rest of your life with the loss of memories … . I mean right now we're in a phase where my daughter's friends are about to graduate from college and build careers. They started driving, went to prom. They are leading the way for their younger siblings. My son [and Hadiya] were best friends and, now she's gone, my son stays away from crowds because he thinks about the possibility of there being an issue instead of it just being fun to go and hang out. He's been robbed of being carefree as a young person.

For me, my heart aches every day and I think it does for every mother who has to live a day without their child. We try to go forward with our lives. We try to bring good to others, try to protect them. We raise issues because we're angry. We look at commercials and cry. If I'm on the street and I see what I believe to be an older sister with a younger brother, I tear up because I think about my children. Every day we constantly think 'why us? Why did it happen?' It's so hard to draw a clear picture of what heart ache looks like but we live it every day and we live it under the umbrella of not being victims of what happened to us but surviving it. I am me. I am not what happened to me. Every day, you remember what happened. Every day, you look at how differently the picture of life is colored.

After Hadiya was gone, I went through guilt because I didn't know if it was OK to be happy. I don't have someone that I loved so dearly anymore; someone who helped define the 'who' that I am. One day I have to accept the fact that there are some things about me that I like and just build from there. That is part of how we cope. All of us have to find something about ourselves that keep us moving forward and it's a struggle every single day. We want to be conscious of it because it's never going away. There's a whole life that I brought into this world who I thought was going to bury me. I see myself burying her. It's unimaginable and it's devastating.

WCT: It seems like the Wear Orange Project is something Hadiya would have wanted to organize herself.

CCP: Absolutely. That's how she was. She always wanted to help people. She would try to find the good in everyone and push them forward to be the best them that they could be. June 3 is the coming together of many different people and that's how my daughter was. The fact that there is a movement that brings people together regardless of their background but who share a common goal to be a part of community would really warm her heart. Not everyone believes in therapy. They just want to be around people who understand. There's something so powerful in knowing that you're not alone.

WCT: The LGBTQ community, when motivated, can accomplish an awful lot. Our community came under attack on June 12 almost one year ago. How powerful a voice could we be if we unified with survivors?

CCP: I think together we would be extremely powerful. There's a lot of attention that survivors are bringing to the issue of gun violence. Now imagine the voice of the LGBT community alongside. It would speak volumes. Once we remove the lines of separation and come together that would be a powerful voice. It's difficult to get survivors to even come outside. But we need to define the space as a safe environment for all to come out and just be. There's no demand on anyone but to come out and be a part of that space. This year, at the Wear Orange event, we have table spaces for different organizations to talk about what they do. There are places for people to go and get information.

Right now, it's a city divided. If we have events in unity there is a possibility for a growth of interest and getting the word out.

There is a great deal of humanity out there who want to help. There are a great many people in the survivor community who are not victims of gun violence; they just care and they help lift-up the voices of the survivor community. There are people in the LGBT community who are friends and just want to help. If we really focused on helping each other instead of on our differences, we will get further.

For more information about Wear Orange nationwide, visit: .

For more information about the Chicago Wear Orange event, visit: .

For Hadiya's Foundation, visit: .

This article shared 595 times since Sun May 28, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

Texas judge strikes down ACA provision that affects 100 million people
On March 30, Judge Reed O'Connor of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas struck down a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that requires insurers and employers to cover preventive ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Trans Health Equity Act, financial report, male model dies, book news
In Maryland, both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly passed The Trans Health Equity Act, which would require state Medicaid to cover gender-affirming care and procedures for transgender patients, The Baltimore Banner reported. The bill is ...

Gay News

Biden declares March 31 as the Transgender Day of Visibility
President Joe Biden issued a statement proclaiming Friday, March 31, as the Transgender Day of Visibility. He said, "Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates the joy, strength, and absolute courage of some of the bravest people I ...

Gay News

Knudsen looks ahead to April 4 runoff election
The following is part of Windy City Times' coverage of openly LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2023 municipal election. Ald. Timmy Knudsen narrowly came in first in the Feb. 28 general election, and is facing Brian Comer ...

Gay News

Quigley, Torres, Sorensen lead letter to FDA on updated blood donation guidance
--From a press release - Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), and Eric Sorensen (IL-17) led 23 members in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration ...

Gay News

GLAD statement: Order by federal judge in Texas stands to increase HIV transmission
--From a press release - Today a federal judge in Texas issued an order in Braidwood v. Becerra blocking a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that all preventive healthcare services given an A or B rating by United States Preventive ...

Gay News

Kentucky legislators override governor's veto to push anti-trans youth bill
On March 29, Republican lawmakers in Kentucky overturned Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of a bill to ban transgender youths from gender-affirming healthcare and restrict which toilets they use in public schools, media outlets reported. Both ...

Gay News

Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson visits Sidetrack
Mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson headlined a fundraiser for his campaign at Sidetrack Video Bar on March 25. The standing room only event drew a wide array of LGBTQ activists and community leaders, as well as supporters ...

Gay News

ELECTIONS 2023: Rep. Lamont Robinson discusses LGBTQ+ issues and his plans for the 4th Ward
The following is part of Windy City Times' series of interviews with LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2023 Chicago municipal elections. Among the 14 aldermanic races to be decided in the runoff election on April 4, Illinois ...

Gay News

Biden appoints Laura Ricketts to Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition
President Joe Biden has appointed Laura Ricketts—the lesbian co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, board chair of Chicago Cubs Charities and board chair of LPAC, which works to elect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer women and ...

Gay News

Michaela Jae Rodriguez honored at HRC dinner
On March 25, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hosted its Los Angeles dinner at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE—and honored Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated trans actress Michaela Jae Rodriguez, per a press release. Human ...

Gay News

ALA: 2022 saw record demand of censorship of library books
On March 22, the American Library Association (ALA) released new data documenting 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022—the highest number of attempted book bans since the ALA began compiling data about censorship ...

Gay News

WORLD Venezuela code, Oxfam, Bosnia items, 'Brokeback,' Pope Francis
Venezuela's Supreme Court annulled a controversial part of the military justice code that had criminalized same-sex relations within the armed forces, the outlet Punch noted. The court annulled the provision, which had provided for a penalty ...

Gay News

NATIONAL 'Don't Say Gay,' anti-trans bills, gay Irish leader visits, gay Calif. mayor
In Indiana, approximately 100 students from the Center For Inquiry School 27 held a walk-out to protest the state's "Don't Say Gay" bill, which would restrict how teachers are able to discuss sexual orientation or gender ...

Gay News

Baldwin leads 22 colleagues in calling on FDA to end discriminatory blood donation policy
--From a press release - WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has headed up a group of 22 colleagues in sending a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf expressing support for the agency's ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.