A pastor, businessman, philanthropist, songwriter, mentor and spiritual coach, Pastor Corey Brooks Sr. answered his call to the ministry at the age of 19 and received his first pastorship at the age of 23 at Mt. Moriah Church in Richmond, Indiana. At 27, he went on to pastor West Point Church before founding New Beginnings Church of Chicago, an urban, non-denominational Purpose Driven Church in the year 2000.
In 2012, Brooks gained additional notoriety when he spent 94 days in protest atop the roof of a south side motel that was a magnet for crime. He soon founded Project HOOD, an organization that seeks to equip youth, adults, and families with the resources, skills, tools and experiences that are needed to be successful, healthy, and upwardly mobile members of society. Additionally, the group seeks to be at the forefront of innovation and transformation on the South Side of Chicago and specifically within the Englewood and Woodlawn communities.
Brooks latest endeavor is the upcoming Hip-Hop Summer Fest, a jam packed family friendly weekend featuring some of the best Hip Hop artists and DJs in the game including Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Dana Dane, Slick Rick and a slew of Chicago based talent. A portion of the proceeds from Hip-Hop Summer Fest will go towards the NFP Foundations: The Chicago Peace Organization, Project Hood, The Circle Foundation, and Youth Connections Charter School. All of the above organizations work directly with the youth in Chicago, building them up and encouraging them to reach for a better future.
What did you dream of growing up to be when you were a child?
I came from a single parent household and although my mother took us to church regularly, I did not come from a religious family or a family of preachers. As a child, I dreamed of being an attorney. I always wanted to go to law school to be a corporate lawyer.
How did you come to be called to the ministry?
I knew I was called to the ministry at 14 years old but, I did not submit to it until later. I first pursued my dream of being an attorney by graduating from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana with a degree in political science and then going on to law school at the University of Florida. But, after my first year in law school, I decided to stop running from the path God had set me on and went to Dallas Theological Seminary in Texas.
Your 94 day sleep-in on the roof of an old motel in 2012 brought you to the attention of a lot people, can you go back and tell me about your thought process throughout the more than three-month protest?
The owner of the motel would not cooperate with our requests to stop the drug-dealing and prostitution taking place at his property. Finally, on my last visit to him he said, “There’s a church on that corner, a church on that corner and now your church. That makes three churches. Those churches haven’t done anything. What makes you think your church is going to do something?” With that, he kind of threw down the gauntlet and I took that as a challenge to my faith, a challenge to my commitment and a challenge to my belief that we could stop the violence and decay going on in our neighborhood. I took that challenge on full throttle.
What is Project Hood?
Project HOOD was born out of my protest on that motel roof. We could not take on the motel with combating the rampant gun violence ravaging our communities so I did the protest to bring awareness to the low quality of life that had taken hold in our neighborhood. We took two names that are usually deemed negative, “Projects and Hood,” and made them a positive. “HOOD” now stands for, “Helping Others Obtain Destiny.” Our goal is to build a community center with a learning environment in the same place where that motel once stood.
What can you tell us about your upcoming Hip Hop Summer Fest?
We decided to something no one else is doing and that is bringing the Hip Hop Community together to show that it is not all violence and materialism and that the artists truly care about what is going on in Chicago’s streets. The artists want to do all that they can to stop the violence and that’s why they are coming together for the festival to promote positivity and peace. A lot of artists have also lost loved ones, family members and managers to gun violence and they wanted an opportunity to show that they care deeply about this.
In retrospect, any regrets in your decision to back Governor Rauner during his bid for office?
As I look back on supporting Governor Rauner, I still believe that was something I should have done. I may not agree with every policy that he puts forth but I continue to support him. I agree with his Turn-Around Agenda because I think that is the only way that African American males will get the jobs we rightfully deserve. Illinois is going in the wrong direction and unless someone turns that around we will continue to see high levels of unemployment, bad schools and the economic condition in our communities will continue to be deplorable. I support his efforts to turn those things around.
What are some of the positive effects his administration can/will have on the African-American community?
His administration is trying to help build the capacity of African American companies to have access to contracts that they have been locked out of, especially on the state level, and making sure that there are opportunities where these businesses can be enhanced. I think when we focus more on businesses in our community and establishing economic development in our communities, things will be a lot better for a lot of people. Historically, African American companies have been getting less than 1% of state contracts and during these years, the state has been primarily run by Democratic policies. This is totally unfair and it does not represent the racial make-up of the state. There is no way we should be so loyal to a party and then that same party is not loyal to us. I supported the governor to make sure that I did everything in my power to change that number for the better. I want African American companies to be able to get opportunities to compete and to be able to get contracts that they rightfully deserve. I want to be sure that we have a place at the table.
In your opinion, how do we begin to heal the fractured relationship between our community and the police?
There has to be more engagement. We cannot be divided to the point where there is no communication and no engagement. We have to have more opportunities for both, the community and the police, to come together to express themselves in order to move forward together. If we do that, build and establish trust, then our relationship will be a lot better.
What’s your take on our current presidential election?
It leaves a lot to be desired. The approval ratings for both candidates are extremely low which means that, either way the election goes, there will be a lot of people in America who are dissatisfied.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I am a basketball fanatic who loves to cook and loves to fish.
Favorite quote or affirmation?
“We must pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on us.”
What’s next for Corey Brooks?
Three things are next for me. One is to focus on my family and help them to become the best that they can possibly be. Two, to focus on my church to make sure it is the type of church that is pleasing to God. And three, to focus on my nonprofit organization Project HOOD to solve the issue of violence and to make sure our community is a much better place.
The Hip-Hop Summer Fest will take place Friday September 9th – Sunday September 11th at Addams/Medill Park (14th & Loomis). For more information please visit. www.hiphopsummerfest.com
For more information on Project HOOD, please visit www.projecthood.org.