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CHICAGO – When Pastor Corey Brooks heard that the northern Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown was intent on hiring private security to patrol its streets, the news troubled him.
He could not put his finger on why. He understood the neighborhood’s desire to do something to counter the rise in carjackings, home invasions and shootings. After all, he has been fighting that same violence for the last 20 years in his South Side neighborhood of Woodlawn.
On the 28th day of his 100-day rooftop vigil to raise funds to build a community center designed to reduce the violence in the neighborhood, he said he woke up “thinking about, of all things, cancer.”
The pastor continued: “I thought about the fact that my mom is dealing with a real serious cancer situation. And I never will forget when they first found the cancer, what they told her, if they had been able to find it sooner or dealt with it sooner, they could have removed it and dealt with it. But because they didn’t, it spread, and it’s spreading continually throughout her whole body.”
For the pastor, this was the precise analogy for the South Side. Cancer was “a lot like violence,” he said. If it is not treated, it grows.
“The violence started out in these pockets … these impoverished places in our community, like the South Side and West Side of Chicago,” the pastor said. “And because we didn’t deal with it properly … because we didn’t come alongside and give it everything it needed to be annihilated in Chicago, you see it spreading.”
The reason why this piece of news troubled the pastor from the beginning was because he had warned Chicagoans outside his own neighborhood about it for years. They ignored him, and now the violence has disturbed them to the point they don’t believe the Chicago Police Department is effective enough.
“What a sad commentary. Here we are in America, here we are in Chicago, where we’re already paying taxpayer money for security, for the police,” he said. “And now these citizens have to take extra funds, extra money … it’s gonna cost, just for this little small community, up north $190,000 or more per year.”
The pastor continued: “No neighborhood should have to be patrolled with extra security here in America. No neighborhood should have to go through all of those things just to keep their people safe. But when you don’t deal with the violence, when you don’t handle it like it should be handled, it continues to spread. And not only is it spreading in Chicago, but it’s spreading in St. Louis, Memphis, Philadelphia, New Orleans, all of these places that we see every single day.”
Fighting violence has been the pastor’s passion from the beginning. It is the very foundation of the community center he will build one day because a child cannot grow and thrive in a violent neighborhood. The neighbors that make up Bucktown may be able to afford private security, but that fails to address the root causes of the problem.
The pastor said he prays that those folks will “try to do something about the violence, to try to intervene in people’s lives before they start down a pathway toward destruction.”
For more information, please visit Project H.O.O.D.
Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.
Camera by Terrell Allen.