Project Hood: Roadside Revelations

In 11 days, we have walked 205 miles! Starting in New York from Times Square the team is resting in the historical city Gettysburg, PA. The place of the American civil war, the North versus the South, the Union versus the Confederates… This is such a surreal moment for me.

Abraham Lincoln was president at the time and the “Battle of Gettysburg” was described as the bloodiest of the major Civil War battles. The 3-day battle took place from July 1-3, 1863 in this small Pennsylvanian town, right where we are resting and I am writing from. The Union was victorious and it was apparent, after the Battle at Gettysburg that the Confederates couldn’t penetrate the North.

I’m afraid, even though that victory was won, there is a new war on the horizon aimed at America’s youth – This enemy is called Violence and it has no intention of surrendering – it must be subdued!

The Brady Campaign reports children in the U. S. are at much higher risk of gun death than children in other high-income countries. Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S. (NCIPC)

• U. S. children ages 5 to 14 are killed with guns at a rate 11 times higher than the combined rates of 22 other populous, high-income countries (Richardson, p. 1).
• In 2007, 3,067 children and teens ages 0-19 were killed by firearms in the U.S. (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)
• In 2007, every day, an average of 8 young people ages 0-19 were killed by a firearm in the United States (NCIPC).
• African-American children and teens are almost five times as likely as their white peers to be killed by firearms (11.30 per 100,000 African-American kids vs. 2.31 per 100,000 white kids) (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)
• From 1979 to 2007, the annual number of firearm deaths of black children and teens increased by 61 percent, while the annual number of firearm deaths of white children decreased 54 percent (Childrens Defense Fund, p. 8).
• 82% of murder victims’ ages 12 to 24 years old are killed with a firearm (Puzzancherra, 2009).
• Community violence, including gun violence, has the equivalent emotional impact on children as war or natural disaster (Fowler, p. 227).

If we are going to win this war against gun violence in our country, we must be strategic and we must be radical enough to take a stand against a formidable enemy that doesn’t eat or sleep, but does kill. We must become as radical as one of my hero’s that faced this same giant in her day and WON – Jane Addams Hull.

Jane Addams is remembered primarily as a founder of the Settlement House Movement. She and her friend Ellen Starr founded Hull House in the slums of Chicago in 1889 in an effort to eradicate violence being played out by young white European immigrants.

She had studied child behavior and painfully concluded that “children robbed of childhood were likely to become dull, sullen men and women working mindless jobs, or criminals for whom the adventure of crime became the only way to break out of the bleakness of their lives.” Today, we have the same issues, just different people!

Project H.O.O.D. is utilizing a contemporary version of some of Jane Addams Hull’s principles to eliminate violence one block at a time and to empower people with the guidance, information and tools necessary to become peacemakers, problem solvers, leaders, and entrepreneurs in their communities.

It’s going to take $15M, but I BELIEVE! It’s going to take a collaborative effort by the private sector, public sector and the faith based organizations, but I BELIEVE! It’s going to take a major commitment, but I BELIEVE! I know it seems as impossible as these hills are to climb, but BELIEVE with me, as we walk across America; It’s a matter of life and death!

Corey B Brooks

In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “I am Praying with my Feet!”

On June 5, 2012, I embarked upon on the most grueling assignment of my life. I started my walk across America in NYC’s Times Square with 10 other people. Before the team arrived, I ventured over to Brooklyn, NY to visit one of the worst communities in the area, Bed-Stuy. I met with Pastor Robert Waterman and several other young people and ministers and talked about the importance of them starting a Project HOOD campaign in their community; they agreed! As I looked around, I was reminded how much outside of Chicago, our country is in need of much prayer, resources and compassion.

When I left Brooklyn, I headed back to Times Square to do an interview with CNN. Everyday, young men are dying and it seems as though no one cares. It seems like everybody is talking about the problems, government and church, yet seldom do you hear about the solutions. When you look at the inner cities of America, you see the same four giants over and over again… spiritual, social, educational, economical deprivation!

All of this is breeding hopelessness! From the first few miles, it was easily recognizable. Leaving Times Square in NY, going straight to Harlem only helps to confirm what I really do believe. The violence in America is going to escalate if we don’t choose to turn things around.

We must find the compassion, strength and tenacity to make the inner city a better place.Violence is the ignored terrorist that plagues our communities, while preying on our children. I’m a pastor, and I know, we can pray until we are blue in the face, but when we get up off our knees, there must be some work! Oft times, I’ve been asked, “how are you feeling, how are you guys holding up?” Because it seems as if not enough people care, my heart is hurting more than my feet…violence has been accepted as a way of life – BUT only in certain neighborhoods.

It reminds me of the bible parable found in Luke 10:25-37, where the story asked a provoking question that challenges each one of us, who is my neighbor? It goes on to detail how a man fell victim to thieves (violence), was lying in the street hurt and a priest came by, looked at him and kept on walking, a Levite, came by, looked over him and kept on walking, but a Samaritan came by and looked after him. The one person who was least likely to help saw past all of the sociological and cultural boundaries, recognized another human being in trouble and HELPED!

We are living out this biblical story right now. What we need in America, is people who will not just look at, not just look over, but who will look AFTER another person’s problems… WHY? It’s the right thing to do… HOW?

1. Having a sense of compassion that stirs in their innermost being and drives them to action.

2. Spread the word about Project HOOD’s agenda to eliminate spiritual, social, educational, and economic ills present in inner cities and replace them sustainable models of urban renewal.

3. Give financially towards the building of this center in Chicago that goes beyond basketball and babysitting, but offers cutting edge life changing alternatives that…

– Address spiritual ills by creating a violence refuge to seek healing,

– Address social ills by creating a conflict resolution clinic to negotiate peace, strengthen character and build 

–  Address educational ills by 
Arts/music Initiatives (arts & music are no longer in our schools – studies show a correlation to arts and increased ability to learn) Technology Initiatives (Reducing technological divide by providing computers, training and e-networking);

– Address economic ills by forming a business incubator and creating jobs. Additionally, Project H.O.O.D. will have Green Initiatives never before seen in urban communities with the use of rooftop gardens and grey water.

When we do build this community and economic development center, lives will be changed. Why wait? Go right now, go to the website and give, go to your Twitter and Facebook pages and encourage others to help, call somebody, whatever you do, please, in the name of hope and peace, do something.

Corey B Brooks