Chicago, Illinois, July 20, 2021 - Today, Sustain Equity Group and Brady reacted to the sentencing of Kenneth Williams for 2013 the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, calling for the ruling to serve as a wake up call for leaders, activists, and organizations to protect and prioritize Black women in the work to prevent violence and gun violence. Black women are uniquely and disproportionately affected by gun violence, particularly violence against them perpetrated by males, while remaining on the front lines and center of work to sustain and heal their communities. The sentencing of one of Hadiya Pendleton’s murderers must remind all Americans of this reality and galvanize them to take action to listen to and support Black women leaders nationwide. While it is too late for Hadiya and this sentencing will not bring her back, it can spur effective action to stop gun violence in her name.

Kayla Hicks President and Chief Executive Officer of Sustain Equity Group (SEG) explained:

As a mother, an advocate, and a Black woman, witnessing today’s sentencing and Hadiya’s families grief, particularly of her mother, Cleopatra, was difficult to bear knowing that thousands of other families are and have gone through the same trauma and that thousands more will until advocates and gun violence prevention organizations invest in Black women.

Today’s sentencing may provide a measure of closure, but the fact remains that Hadiya’s family will have to live the rest of their lives without her. A sentencing cannot bring her back. It cannot heal her community. It cannot break the systems and the cycles of pain and trauma that fuel violence and that disproportionately impact Black women and girls like Hadiya. Black women are shot and shot and killed at higher rates than their peers in other demographics. It is why we are at the center of gun violence prevention - but, Black women are the least visible when it comes to power, inclusion, and equity. Today’s sentencing must serve as a reminder that we need to protect Black women and girls like Hadiya, but we must also protect Black women like her mother who will live without her daughter for the rest of her days. We must protect and uplift the Black women leaders in her community.

It is essential that all organizations support and respect Black women leaders in all they do, from academia, to the private sector, and yes to gun violence prevention advocacy. I am calling on all organizations and individuals to listen to Black women, to partner with us, to be there for us and to help put an end to the violence that kills us in our homes and communities.”

Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH and Deputy Director, Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy shared:

“Today’s ruling should serve as a reminder that we need to work together to address the trauma impacted communities face every day and ensure that those bearing the brunt of gun violence have an equal voice in the solution.”

Brady President Kris Brown added:

“Hadiya Pendleton’s story has been told many times to demonstrate the toll of gun violence, but this sentencing must serve as a call for all of us and all organizations to act to end gun violence, which disproportionately affects Black women. Particularly following the surge in shootings and homicides over the last year, the need to partner with and follow the example and leadership of community leaders who are calling for the resources and support to heal their communities has never been clearer. We cannot allow the violence that claims over 100 people everyday to continue to traumatize and hurt communities. Solving this crisis means listening to those most affected, namely Black and Brown Americans and Black women in particular. Today’s sentencing is a reminder of the need to take action now to stop years of trauma and pain for families like Hadiya’s and for her community.”

About Today’s Sentencing in the Murder of Hadiya Pendleton:

Today, a man found guilty of first-degree murder as the getaway driver in the 2013 murder of Hadiya Pendleton was sentenced to 42 years in prison, 35 years for the murder and seven years for aggravated battery. The individual was found guilty in 2018, while another individual was found guilty and sentenced to 84 years in prison for Pendleton’s murder in 2019.

About the Murder of Hadiya Pendleton:

In February 2013, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was killed in the South Side of Chicago, when she and her friends were in a neighborhood park after school. The shooting attracted national attention, as Pendleton had performed at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration only three weeks before being shot and killed, while the park in which she was killed was only one mile from President Obama’s Chicago residence. First Lady Michelle Obama attended her funeral and has spoken subsequently about her murder, while President Obama spoke about Pendleton and her murder in his 2013 State of the Union Address.

About Gun Violence in Black and Brown Communities:

Black and Brown communities are disproportionately affected by gun violence. The gun homicide rate for Black men is 30.7 per 100,000, while for white men it is 2.4 per 100,000 nationwide. In Illinois, that rate is 58.54 compared to 2.63 for white men.

Black women face rates of firearm homicide above their white or Hispanic peers. The rate of firearm homicide for Black women from 20 to 24 is almost five times higher than for their Hispanic peers and seven times higher than for their white peers.

Black children face the highest rate of gun homicide of any of their peers. Black children are ten times more likely to die from gun-related homicide than their white peers. In Illinois this rate is even higher; Black youth 21 and under die from gun homicide at a rate 21 times as high as their white counterparts.

Read More About Gun Violence and Racial Justice

Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.


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