The wheels of justice turn slowly, but a grass-roots call for gun violence awareness wasted no time. A group of Hadiya’s high school friends honored her and organized action against structural violence by forming a group they named Project Orange Tree. Wearing orange was a small act with a big message: Don’t Shoot Me!—or anyone else.
The project’s past president Nza-Ari Khepra explained,
We initially came together to share our feelings about losing someone that was really close to us, and that first event ended up being something totally beyond our imagination. The question then was ‘What’s the next step?’ We brainstormed. Someone said we should use orange because that’s the color hunters wear to alert other hunters they’re not the targets. And someone else came up with the idea of a tree, which equals growth and protection and life. We asked people to wear orange to show they don’t want to be the next victim and also support those who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
When Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco learned of the project, his Foundation supported a social media campaign urging people to wear orange on April 1, 2013.
Fiasco helped the youth group organize local events for two years, gaining the attention of Everytown for Gun Safety’s cultural engagement director Jason Rzepka who proposed a Wear Orange campaign to solicit nationwide participation. “They were 100 percent the inspiration for this. I was absolutely captivated, fascinated and inspired by what these young people in Chicago started with Project Orange Tree,” said Rzepka.
According to Newsweek Magazine, the campaign was picked up by Amnesty International, followed by other organizations including Giffords PAC and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
A decade later, the first Friday in June is now widely observed as National Wear Orange Day with activities throughout the following weekend. June is now recognized in the U.S. as National Gun Violence Awareness Month.