National organization holds gun violence memorial event in Milwaukee

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National anti-gun violence organization Wear Orange will host a memorial event in Milwaukee on June 5.

When Hadiya Pendleton was 15 years old, she performed at President Obama’s second inaugural parade. A talented musician, Pendleton and her majorette team at King College Preparatory in Chicago attended the weekend’s festivities in Washington, D.C.

A week later, Pendleton was dead.

While spending time with her friends after school in Harsh Park, Chicago, Pendleton was caught in the crossfire of a gang conflict, making her one of over 3,000 child victims of gun violence every year. However, Pendleton’s death did not go unforgotten. Her friends and family wore orange shirts to raise awareness about the gun violence epidemic, and asked the country to do the same. From their efforts was born the Wear Orange movement.

The Wear Orange Organization, founded on what would have been Pendleton’s eighteenth birthday, seeks to memorialize gun violence victims while calling national attention to rising death tolls at the hands of deadly weapons.

“Before this happened to my child, I said, ‘I can’t imagine dropping my baby off at school and not being able to pick her up.’ Then, unfortunately, I said goodbye to my teenager for the day, and it was for a lifetime,” Cleopatra Crowley-Pendleton, Pendleton’s mother, said in a 2013 interview with National Public Radio (NPR). “[We must] change the law so that we stop focusing on “the good guy” and start thinking about the penalties for those that are disobeying the law.”

Wear Orange Weekend is being held this year between June 4 and June 6. The organization calls for people nationwide to wear their trademark color in honor of gun violence survivors and victims. In select cities, drive-through events are being held to raise awareness and memorialize victims, including one on June 5 in Milwaukee.

The Wear Orange event is especially meaningful to many Homestead students this year, after the sudden loss of Jacob Howard, sophomore, in May. Many who are attending the event on Saturday are doing so in honor of their friend.

“Jacob was one of my close friends,” Zane Jacobsen, junior, said. “He never failed to make me smile, and he brought a certain light into every room that not everyone could.”

More children and teens are killed by firearms than any other cause of death in the US. Organizations like Wear Orange seek to memorialize those victims and work to reduce their number, allowing the families of kids like Hadiya Pendleton and Jacob Howard to know that their losses will not go unnoticed or forgotten.

To learn more about Wear Orange and the Milwaukee drive-through event on June 5, visit wearorange.org.

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