NEW YORK -- Starting from New York City Tuesday, Illinois Pastor Corey Brooks has embarked on a several-months-long journey across the U.S. to raise $15 million to fund his ongoing battle against the staggering levels of gun violence that plague the predominantly black youth of inner-city Chicago and others across the country.
"We all know that violence is a terrible thing and anytime a young person's life is taken prematurely by guns that is something that we cannot tolerate, nor is that something that we should be used to," Brooks said Tuesday at a press conference in New York City. "This is a sounding alarm for not just black America, but for America at large because anytime that children are affected it's not just a black issue, or a white issue; a Christian issue, or a Jewish issue; it's a humanitarian issue."
Pastor Brooks' initiative, known as "Project HOOD's Walk Across America to End Violence," started from Times Square directly after the press conference at The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Brooks hopes his nationwide walk will help finance the building of a much needed community and economic development center on the south side of Chicago – directly across the street from his church.
New Beginnings Church was founded 11 years ago by Brooks and although the congregation has been community-oriented since its inception, the pastor said that he had not been extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence until it came knocking on his own door.
It was when 16-year-old Carlton Archer, a son of two faithful members of New Beginnings Church, was shot dead a mere four miles away from the church – and gun shots went off during the teen's funeral – that the pastor felt that he was being called to a stand against gun violence.
"It was at that moment that I thought something needed to be done," the pastor said at the press conference.
"Any time people start shooting at a church and at a funeral and no one is saying anything about it – at that very moment I made up my mind that I was going to start taking a stand and I was going to do whatever it was going to take to bring attention and awareness to this issue."
In late November, Pastor Brooks captured national attention after camping out for 94 days in the dead of a Chicago winter on the roof of an abandoned motel across the street from his church. The 94-day camp out raised awareness of the issues surrounding gun violence, but also enabled the pastor to raise the necessary funds to purchase the lot where the abandoned motel stands.
Pastor Brooks is going even further, and on Tuesday he took the first of thousands of steps to maintain awareness and raise funds to build a community center on the abandoned motel lot that he hopes will serve as a model for other community centers dealing with similar issues around the country. As he travels from New York to Los Angeles by foot, Brooks will be meeting with other church leaders, rabbis, civic organizations, parents, and politicians to sound an alarm about growing violence in inner cities. He also plans to work with local leaders to develop solutions to stem violence and build strong, vibrant communities.
"I tell people I have two motives in life. My first motive is I really believe that there is God and I want to hear Him say 'well-done good and faithful servant;' and my second goal is I really want to see people's lives be transformed," the pastor told The Christian Post Tuesday.
"We're in an area and we live in an area where people are at the bottom, and I believe that the local church and Christ is the hope of the world. Because I believe that, I want to display that in everything I say, everything I do, and all of my actions," he added.
Although the pastor only begun his journey today out of New York City, Brooks' faith has already brought him to Los Angeles and raised the funds to build a model community center that can transform the lives of millions of Americans.
"FAITH has already walked across America, raised $15M, & built a building to change lives. You & his feet are just catching up!" the pastor tweeted on Tuesday.
Brooks told CP that he hopes to see all members of the Christian community become involved in the initiative and has faith that through the trials and tribulations of his journey, the necessary resources and strength will follow as people spread the world about "Project HOOD's Walk Across America to End Violence."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the initiative had raised $102,640, according to Brooks' website, which also provides a contact form for those interested in walking, sponsoring or keeping track of the pastor's journey across America.