On a route that took them snaking through the streets of the South Side of Chicago, a group of more than 30 funeral home directors drove their hearses to offer the most unusual of demonstrations. They rode in solidarity to protest the high level of gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city.
“We don’t like to bury our young people,” said Dorothy Hudson, the treasurer of an association of largely African-American funeral directors in Chicago, in an interview with BET.com.
“We want to get the message out to people that the violence has got to end. A lot of people think it helps us because we get money from this,” she said. “But for us, it’s not about the money. We’re burying too many of our young people.”
For an hour, there was a procession along the streets of Chicago on Sunday, including a stop in an area near the site of the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old honors student who was killed a week after performing as a majorette during President Obama’s inauguration.
Chicago has been beset by an epidemic of gun violence so intense that President Obama came to address the issue in his hometown recently. Indeed, the recent death by gun violence of a six-month-old child who was shot five times has again ratcheted up yet another outcry from citizens.
Willie B. Cochran, a Chicago alderman, said that the reaction to the death of the baby, Jonylah Watkins, had caused people on the streets of Chicago to speak out forcefully against the high level of gun violence.
“There is an urgency that people feel now,” Cochran said, in an interview with BET.com. “I wound up having a press conference that was prompted by the leadership of street organizations who simply feel that enough is enough. Similarly, the funeral homes were expressing the message that the violence has to stop.”
Leaders of the demonstration by the funeral directors said they wanted to engage in a bold and uncommon method of raising consciousness about the epidemic of gun violence.
“We wanted to create a shock value for the community, by seeing so many hearses,” said Rory Momon, who is a district leader with the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association in Chicago, in an interview with BET.com. He added that his funeral home was called shortly afterward about another Chicago youth who was killed by gun violence.
“We did it to honor Hadiya Pendleton. We did it for all the young people who die too early,” he said. “We did it because gun violence has simply become out of control.”