NNPA Honors Parents of Slain Black Teens

Margaret Summers | 3/21/2014, 12:29 a.m.
The parents of slain teens Hadiya Pendleton and Jordan Davis were honored at an awards dinner Thursday by the National ...
Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton, the parents of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, accept the National Newspaper Publishers Association's 2014 Newsmaker of the Year award on March 20 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown D.C. Photo by Roy Lewis

The parents of slain teens Hadiya Pendleton and Jordan Davis were honored at an awards dinner Thursday by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) for their efforts to eradicate gun violence in the wake of their children's deaths.

Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton, parents of Hadiya, and Lucia K. McBath and Ron Davis, parents of Jordan, were given the organization's Newsmaker of the Year award during the event at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown D.C.

Hadiya was 15 when she was killed in a random shooting in a Chicago park on Jan. 29, 2013.

Jordan, a 17-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla., was shot and killed Nov. 23, 2012, at a convenience store by Michael Dunn, a white software developer who was upset about loud music coming from the vehicle of Jordan and his friends.

"These parents have shown how to turn a tragic situation into an opportunity," said NNPA chair Cloves C. Campbell Jr.

The teens' parents have spoken out nationally against gun violence, calling for stricter gun laws. The Pendletons also started a foundation in their daughter's name, aiming to unite police, schools and after-school programs to combat gun violence among youths.

"The mentality that youth have now is unconscionable," Nathaniel Pendleton said. "But we will continue to help at-risk youth. And we have to help bridge the gap in understanding between young people and older folk."

His wife, Cleopatra, expressed gratitude for NNPA newspapers calling attention to the incident.

"The Black press has helped us raise awareness and put the spotlight on violence in Chicago," she said before the dinner.

In accepting the award, she warned the audience that the violence that claimed her daughter is "coming to a neighborhood near you."

"We raised our daughter with good values and kept her away from the [bad] element, but it wasn't enough," she said. "The element found us."

Jordan's parents said they were grateful to NNPA for acknowledging the efforts to end "stand your ground" laws, which give individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves without first trying to retreat.

"It's not enough to come up to parents [like us] and say you're sorry for their loss," Ron Davis said. "Try to change the laws. Do something."

Campbell said the event indicates the continuing need for African-American newspapers.

"If it wasn't for the NNPA, incidents like those of Hadiya Pendleton and Jordan Davis" wouldn't be publicized, he said. "And people say the Black press isn't relevant anymore. Our job is to speak up for justice and for the voiceless. The Black press is not dying. The Black press is not dead."

The NNPA is an association of more than 200 black-owned newspapers in the U.S. and the Virgin Islands.

The dinner was part of the organization's annual Black Press Week, which this year included a White House visit, a meeting with the Republican National Committee's African-American Outreach Program, and a luncheon panel discussion on the state of the Black press.

Federal Housing Finance Agency director Melvin Watt was also honored at the event with the association's Torch award.

Watt, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2013 to direct the finance agency, was recognized for his legacy of legislative achievements as a member of the U.S. House and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"I am deeply honored to accept this award from an organization for which I've had so much respect over the years," Watt said.

Mary Denson, chair of the NNPA Foundation, said the Torch award is the organization's most prestigious honor.

"The torch symbolizes the Black press lighting the torch of freedom," she said.