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Hadiya Pendleton Didn’t Have To Die: An Open Letter To Our Children


Hadiya Pendleton Didn’t Have To Die: An Open Letter To Our Children

Hadiya Pendleton

Hadiya Pendleton

The death of Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton is a reminder of how severe gang violence is. Hadiya was only 15 years old when she was shot to death in a Chicago park on Tuesday and I haven’t stopped thinking about this young lady or this story since I heard about it. Despite growing up in Detroit, MI, as a child I never felt threatened. I never felt like my life was in danger because my parents and the adults in my life shielded me from such fear.  I’m sure there was a time when Hadiya and her peers felt safe as well but that time has been cut short with the recent increase of children being murdered due to gun and gang violence.

In 2008 Hadiya and friends participated in an anti-gang PSA. In the video she says, “So many children out there are in gangs, and it is your job as students to say no to gangs and yes to a great future.” But her future was cut short.

Seeing Hadiya speak in this anti-gang PSA was a reminder that we let this young woman down. When I say we, I’m referring to adults. Not only have we let Hadiya down by not protecting her, we’ve let other children down. Unable to sleep last night, I wrote this open letter to today’s youth offering my sincerest apologies and pledging to do better.

Dear Youth of Today,

We’ve let you down and for that I apologize. You’re a child and you should be allowed to do childish things without worries of death, murder and mayhem entering your space.  You should be allowed to go to parks, visit with friends, laugh and play without fearing for your life.  This is not what I envision when a see the life of a child. This is not what my childhood was like.  You should not have to endure feelings of hurt and pain at the hands of complete strangers because we’re supposed to protect you.  Sadly, we’ve dropped the ball in that department.

We’ve failed you and I don’t have an explanation to give you. We brought you into this world when we weren’t ready to be parents so some of the things that we do are done because we’re selfish while other things are done because we don’t know any better; but that’s no excuse. There is no reason for you to be victimized by your peers or anyone else. There is nothing that I can say that will undo the damage that we’ve done. I want you to know that you have done nothing wrong and everything right. This attack on you is no fault of your own.  Don’t blame yourself, blame me.  I grew up in a time where I felt safe because I knew the adults in my life would keep me safe from harm and unfortunately that’s not your reality.

I know my apology cannot bring back you childhood or the lives lost at the hand of gun violence but I am so sorry little one. I’m sorry for not fully committing to the role of an adult. I’m sorry for not protecting you from dangerous men, women, boys and girls as they walk the streets looking for their latest prey. Most of all I’m sorry for letting you down and not protecting your future.

Please find it in your heart to forgive me and my peers. I promise to do better because you deserve better from all of us.


Stephanie Penn, Editor-In-Chief of

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