As of November 20, 2021, Rev. Corey B. Brooks lives on a rooftop on the south side of Chicago. He won’t come down until he receives $35 million in donations to build a new 84,000-square-foot community center across from his New Beginnings Church, which he founded 20 years ago as a place of worship where local youth receive an education can receive training for professions. A leader in fighting violence on Chicago’s South Side for nearly three decades, Bach, 53, had hoped Black Lives Matter, which raised $66 million in donations following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, would help him out with some funding. But despite reaching out to the group, he said he never received a response. Here Brooks tells The Post’s Dana Kennedy his story…
I live on the roof to raise awareness of the violence that is so commonplace in Chicago. I want people to know what’s going on here.
I stay up here 24/7. I’m on the phone I sleep in a tent and do pretty much everything on Zoom. I have a baby bath that I fill with water to clean myself. I use a five gallon paint can with trash can bags to relieve myself. For groceries, we either have restaurants that donate or we order from UberEats. I get by in layers during the cold months, but winter feels like the arctic up here.
We fight to change the mindset. It’s about getting people to take responsibility for their actions and not blame others. I also hope to raise some money so we can build a community center here across from the church.
We deal with many in our immediate vicinity. First, a bad education system. Primary school has 4% reading literacy, 6% math literacy. So we have a lot of young men growing up who can’t read and drop out in ninth grade because they’re so frustrated. Second, our region has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, particularly among young black men. Then when you add the fact that we have so many gangs from block to block these problems are exacerbated. We’re dealing with the Gangster Disciples, the Black Disciples and the Black P Stones, among others.
This year alone, 90 children were shot in Chicago. About 25 of them were killed. It’s tough for many of these mothers, especially single mothers who are trying to do their best to raise their children in such an abusive environment. The stress these families face is overwhelming.
I would never walk around here at night. You could be mistaken for a gang member and shot. But since we got here, we’ve gotten rid of a sex-trafficking, drug-trafficking motel. We could get people hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.
In 2000 we first found the building for our church and it was a demolished ice rink called Route 66 that had been used for ice skating parties and raves. The building was pretty much demolished and was a big junk. We bought it and renovated it and put $5 million into it. We planted a church that was contemporary, credible, and creative in a community that had many needs.
Now we have a charter school for 16-21 year olds who got expelled from Chicago public schools. We get them involved in education and we get them to graduate. We also have a trade school. We offer mentoring and advice. We have a wellness component and we also have a Violence Prevention Team of 15 full-time staff working in our neighborhood.
We need another building because we have a building program where we recruit men and women in gangs or who have been marginalized or are just re-entering society from prison. We train them and then we give them jobs. So far we have trained over 160 people with a placement rate of 80%. We just had our first all-female electrician course! So we’re doing a lot of great work. We just need more space.
This new building will house all of our programs including our commercial, school and corporate programs. To date we’ve raised $12 million — about 80 percent of that comes from small donors across America, with the rest from Chicago and corporate donors. People can donate to the Get Pastor Brooks Off the Roof fund.
That’s because I lived on the roof for 170 days. I only came down once – to visit my mother, Evelyn Wyatt, in Indiana, where she was dying of cancer. I stayed with her for the last three weeks of her life and then came back on the roof.
We’ve had CEOs come to us from all over the country, including the CEO of the McCormick Foundation. We invited the mayor of Chicago so hopefully she will be here. We invited Eric Adams over when he was in town, but his schedule didn’t allow him to come over. There are no toilets up here, but when people come to stay, we tell them we’ll give them a pot and a cot.
I’ve always kept my politics to myself. For the first 14 years with my church, I didn’t really think about politics at all. And it’s only been six years since I finally told people I was a Republican. I’ve been a Republican since I was 20.
(then Mayor) Rahm Emanuel was everything to me until he found out I was a Conservative. He tried to shut down everything we were trying to do. So we decided that we would not rely on the government in any way and stopped asking. We’re traveling alone, trying to find people who aren’t worried about our political affiliations. But we were definitely ostracized for our conservative views.
In late 2020, I emailed the director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation for the first time on the website saying you can request donations. I kept writing emails asking: How are you trying to get money for your Black Lives Matter organization? I kept waiting for a human response, or any response at all. I tried again in the summer of 2021. I never heard from anyone.
We were about to try a third time when we started hearing about all the problems they were having. My attorney and I explored the possibility of taking over the organization, but one of the biggest obstacles we encountered was that there was literally no one at the helm. There was no infrastructure.
There’s a Black Lives Matter chapter in Chicago, but they’re like a secret. No one has seen them work for the community, has any dates, or heard anything about them. So if they exist, then only on paper.
It honestly infuriates me that people who have supported Black Lives Matter have been abused by an organization that gave money to people or organizations that are not doing the work that is needed in our communities. Whenever people take advantage of black pain for their own benefit, it infuriates me. I have long said that Black Lives Matter does not benefit the black community in any way.
My goal was to stay here until we raised the money needed to build the center. I still feel this way But I have to admit that it’s starting to wear me down physically. At least it’s almost summer and not that cold anymore. So I’m staying as long as I can. And hopefully that won’t last much longer.
The block where our church is located is called “O Block” after a young man who was shot here. His name was Odee Perry. He was a member of the gang The Black Disciples, and the gang took the “O” in his name and called it O Block. Since I’ve been here, I’ve decided that we’re going to keep the O, but we’re going to make it O for Opportunity, the Opportunity Block.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/28/chicago-pastor-lives-on-roof-raises-cash-for-black-youthbut-blm-wont-help/ A Chicago pastor lives on the roof, raises money for black youth – but BLM is not helping