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Woodlawn community plans summer patrols, festivals

The Rev. Corey Brooks New Beginnings Church.

The Rev. Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church.

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Updated: May 24, 2012 8:27AM

With the goal of preventing violence from claiming any lives this summer in Woodlawn, a “Summer HOODvasion” is coming to the South Side Chicago community.

The campaign, to include watchmen patrolling the neighborhood weekend nights, Saturday daytime festivals for youth and Thursday prayer corners, is an effort of the New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn.

The program was unveiled Sunday by church pastor the Rev. Corey Brooks, who recently made headlines for spending 94 days in a tent on top of an abandoned motel to raise money to buy the blighted property and build a community and economic development center for the Woodlawn and Englewood communities.

As the Sun-Times reported Saturday, Brooks also plans to walk 2,700 miles across America to help raise $15 million to build the center and draw attention to the need to combat urban violence here and around the United States.

Homicides are up 60 percent in Chicago for the first three months of this year, compared to last year, Brooks told church attendees Sunday. Through April 1, there were 120 homicides citywide, most of those gang-related, according to the Chicago Police Department. That compares to 75 murders during the same period last year.

“I believe that one of the things that God has put me on earth for is … to bring attention and awareness to the gun violence that is so prevalent in not just Chicago but every inner city in America,” Brooks said from the church at 6620 S. King Drive. “Kids are being shot down and killed before they have a chance to graduate from middle school, graduate from high school … go to a prom … go to college ... get married.

“If we don’t bring attention and awareness to it, it’s just going to be a part of our life. I believe that violence … that gun deaths can be eradicated. They can be eliminated when people start caring.”

Brooks is relying on church supporters and volunteers to aid the summer campaign, and also receiving help from churches, synagogues, nonprofts and public parks here and across the country. Among them is Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago, whose Senior Rabbi Michael Siegel delivered the sermon to attendees at New Beginnings Sunday morning.

Given the high homicide rate here, he told the congregation, “It’s time to pray with our feet. When we pray with our feet we can change the world.

“The Jewish community will be your partner in this quest. We will walk with you in spirit. We will walk with you in prayers, and we will help you create the change that is needed here in the city of Chicago and across this country.”

Seventeen-year-old Antwan Barner, who attended church Sunday, said the campaign is needed and shared he recently lost his best friend to gun violence.

“I think it will make a difference,” he said.

“It’s really not just one man’s fight,” said church attendee Leori Moore, whose son was shot and killed in 1993. “But it has to begin somewhere.”

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