Hadiya Pendleton was just 15 years old when she marched in President Obama’s second inaugural parade on January 21, 2013. Just one week later, she was tragically shot and killed on a playground in her hometown of Chicago.
To commemorate Hadiya’s life, her family and friends wore orange, the color that hunters traditionally wear to keep themselves and others safe. Two years later, on what would’ve been Hadiya’s 18th birthday, this tradition grew into a national initiative to fight against gun violence, known as “Wear Orange,” where the color orange is now used to honor the 110 lives lost to gun violence each day.
Wear Orange is a three-day event that coincides with Gun Violence Awareness Day, which occurs on the first Friday of June each year, and is followed up with the Wear Orange weekend. Organizers of the Wear Orange initiative partner with other Gun Violence prevention organizations across the nation to host various events throughout the weekend. This year, Wear Orange has partnered with Public Health Madison & Dane County, Moms Demand Action, Focused Interruption Coalition, and Dane County Human Services to bring events to the Madison area, including the Wear Orange Walk and Rally taking place on Friday, June 3 at 6:00 pm.
Within the first half of 2022, there have been over 200 mass shootings in the U.S., including the tragedies in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and more recently, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Morgan Finke, the communications coordinator for Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC), speaks on the effects this violence and loss have affected our communities, her organization’s work to fight against Gun Violence, and how community members could get involved.
“It of course has a deep impact on health, and opportunity, and just general well-being throughout life,” Finke said. “That affects everyone, of course, the people involved in the violence, and it has a ripple effect on our whole community.”
In response to its impact on the overall community, gun violence prevention organizations constantly work toward coming up with potential solutions to the problem or pushing for legislative change. For PHMDC, this includes the creation of a roadmap to reducing violence in Madison and Dane County through long and short-term initiatives, which was unveiled last Spring.
“At Public Health, we believe that because violence is such a widespread and complicated issue we find that it’s important to take a public health approach to prevent violence,” Finke said. “We’re doing that in a variety of ways. First, by looking at some of the data on violent crime in Dane County, and identifying some of the root causes of violence, and also collaborating with our community partners. We also address and acknowledge that violence requires us to address these inequities and the underlying drivers of violence. So some of those can be structural racism, generational trauma, poverty, and mental health.”
Part of the short-term plans on PHMDC’s roadmap includes collaborating or hosting events like the Wear Orange Walk and Rally that will start at the Villager Mall parking lot, 2300 South Park Street, at 6 pm. It will arrive at Penn Park at around 6:45, where there will be speakers and various organizations on hand to share information about what’s being done in our local community to prevent gun violence until wrapping up at 8 pm.
Organizers hope this event will help towards the roadmap’s goals of supporting community engagement, fostering strong neighborhoods, and having the opportunity to talk about gun violence prevention and what is being done in our own Dane County communities to achieve this goal.
“Of course, we’re thinking about the families in Uvalde, and thinking about the families in Buffalo and Tulsa,” Finke said. “But we also want to make sure that here in our own community, that there’s knowledge, and there’s information, so that people can be aware. Yes, this kind of violence happens in our own backyard as well.”