Reverend Corey Brooks is walking from coast to coast to raise money for Project HOOD.
The south Chicago pastor is making a concerted effort to stop the bloodshed and violence in his neighborhood. HOOD stands for Helping Others Obtain Destiny. He and his church are raising $15 million to create a youth center that will help the young people in the area to move away from guns and violence and focus on education.
Brooks was in Fort Wayne on Tuesday and described the goals of his undertaking during a news conference at IPFW. The new center has a three-pronged mission to target economic, spiritual and social issues. He plans on having educational opportunities for the kids so they can finish their GEDs, as well as providing arts, recreation and counseling services.
In addition, there are plans for encouraging entrepreneurs with an onsite business incubator. Currently, the south-side neighborhood has nothing like this, and kids die from gun violence in the street everyday. It has become so common, Brooks said, that the newspapers don't even bother reporting it.
After Brooks buried the fourth young man in his neighborhood and someone tried to shoot up the funeral, he knew things had to change. For 96 days he camped on the roof of a vacant hotel to get the money to buy it and tear it down for a youth center. He got the money, the building has been torn down and now he is walking to raise the money to build the new center.
Brooks started his trip June 5 in New York City on NBC's "Today" show. His final destination, nearly 3,000 miles from the start, is Los Angeles. He plans on reaching L.A. by Oct. 14; he also plans to have raised all the money at that time. Brooks asks the people he meets along the way to do three things for him: Pray for his project, spread the word about it and, if possible, donate.
Although Brooks believes there needs to be more gun control, he said laws alone will not stop the violence.
“It takes heart and minds to make a change,” Brooks said.
Tuesday afternoon, he took his message to the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, 2609 Fairfield Avenue. In front of a group of nearly 300 children, he explained the importance of having a place for the kids in his neighborhood to go, like the club.
He asked the kids age 11 and up in the audience to stand. Once they did, he explained how every day in his south-side Chicago neighborhood, a child in their age group loses his or her life to gunfire.
After Brooks finished speaking, he answered some questions from the kids, explaining he sleeps in an RV and walks every day, but when he gets to a city, people drive him around.
One child asked how could they get people to change.
“Through awareness and communication.” Brooks said.
He encouraged all the children to speak up if they see someone misusing a firearm.
For more information about the journey, go to projecthood.org.