WOODLAWN — The winter garden at the Obama Presidential Center will be named after Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old shot and killed in a North Kenwood park eight days after performing at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony.
The indoor garden will be a public gathering space “full of freshness and light” and serve as a welcome center for the Obama Center’s forum, former First Lady Michelle Obama announced in a video message Friday.
Pendleton, a sophomore at King College Prep, was hanging out with about a dozen teens at Harsh Park on Jan. 29, 2013. School was let out early that day, and the group was under a canopy trying to stay out of the rain.
Pendleton was shot in the back and killed by Micheail Ward, who was sentenced in 2019 to 84 years in prison. Ward also shot and seriously wounded another King College Prep student. Getaway driver Kenneth Williams was sentenced in 2021 to 42 years in prison.
Just one week prior, Pendleton performed with a majorette squad at President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. She had a “gift” for baton twirling and was “absolutely excited” over the opportunity to show off her skills with her friends at such a high-profile event, her mother Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton said in Friday’s video.
“To this day, I carry Hadiya’s story with me everywhere I go,” Obama said. “As Barack and I have been planning the Obama Presidential Center, we knew that we wanted Hadiya’s story to be present in the campus itself.”
“My heart just melted” upon learning of the winter garden’s naming, Cowley-Pendleton said. “I was at a loss for words because I knew people would be saying her name.”
“Hadiya’s name means a gift from God,” Cowley-Pendleton said. “She had a way with people, caring for and listening to individuals, and also having a way of making people feel supported.”
Pendleton returned from the 2013 inauguration with a budding interest in journalism and politics, but “we didn’t have that much time with her, unfortunately, after attending the inauguration, so I don’t know which way she would’ve gone.”
The WearOrange movement began in rememberance of Pendleton, as her friends wore orange to remember her and to raise awareness about gun violence. The color is now used as a symbol in anti-gun violence movements around the country.
“Orange is basically the color hunters wear to signal to other hunters not to shoot them. So that’s why we’re wearing it — to say, ‘Don’t shoot me,’” Ayisha Stanley, a student and organizer for the Project Orange Tree anti-violence campaign, told DNAinfo in 2013.
Cowley-Pendleton and Pendleton’s father Nathaniel founded the nonprofit Hadiya’s Promise in 2014.
The organization, based out of the Dr. Martin Luther King Center Service Center at 4314 S. Cottage Grove Ave., works to address gun violence with a focus on “those who are often the perpetrators of gun violence — disaffected youth.”
“Hadiya’s Promise is a commitment to help individuals where they are,” Cowley-Pendleton said Friday. “If you’re without clothes and we have clothes to give, we’d love to give them to you. If you’re unfed, we’d love to feed you.”
The former Buckthorn Park, 4345 S. Calumet Ave., was renamed after Pendleton in early 2015.
“It’s going to be beautiful to see” how the winter garden will serve as another reminder of the value of Pendleton’s life — and of all lives, Cowley-Pendleton said.
“I believe that her legacy will continue to live on, and her story will continue to be told,” she said. “That makes me, her dad and her brother [Nathaniel Pendleton, Jr.] so honored.”
The $830 million Obama Center project is under construction in Jackson Park and is set for completion in 2025. The center’s plaza will be named for late Congressman John Lewis after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos donated $100 million to the Obama Foundation in November.
The foundation will give donors the option to dedicate public spaces at the center in honor of “civil rights icons, social justice heroes and changemakers,” foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett said.
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