Rooftop minister comes down for teen's funeral

January 5, 2012 3:48:30 PM PST
A Chicago minister who has been living on the roof of a vacant motel on the city's South Side for over a month came down Thursday.

Reverend Corey Brooks put his rooftop vigil on hold to preside over the funeral of Jawan Ross, a teenager killed at a South Side restaurant last week.

Rev. Brooks has endured 43 cold winter nights and survived a night of celebratory semi-automatic gunfire on New Year's Eve. He took to the rooftop to draw attention to ways to fight violence in the community.

"We got to keep constantly bringing awareness that this is a humanitarian issue," said Rev. Brooks.

Brooks started a campaign to buy a building to create a community development and economic center called Project 'Hood.

"We no longer want to preach funerals. We want to make sure that these young men graduate from high school. We want to make sure they graduate from college. We want to make sure that they establish businesses and get jobs," said Rev. Brooks.

Last week, Jawan Ross, 16, was shot and killed at a Church's Chicken on 66th and Halsted in the Englewood neighborhood. A fight apparently broke out outside the restaurant and a gunman chased someone into the restaurant and opened fire. Dantril Brown, 17, a student at Prosser Career Academy, was also killed. Five others were wounded.

Ross's parents had heard about Rev. Brooks' rooftop mission and wanted the funeral to be at his church, New Beginnings.

"It is time for us all to come together and put an end to all the madness," said Juanita Craig.

Ross was a student and football player at Robeson High School. Relatives spoke of his good sense of humor.

But much of the service was a message to the surviving young people to choose other options in the streets and to commit to living a better life.

"Now, God, I pray that Jawan's death will not be in vain. I pray that because of his death that today someone will live," said Rev. Brooks.

Ross's uncle, Michael Howard, says they hope today's lesson will prevent other families from this grief.

"We need to stick together and help each other and love each other, people in the community and all over the world," said Howard.

Rev. Brooks planned to go back to the roof after Thursday's service. He will come down again Friday for the funeral of another young man who was also killed by gun violence.

Brooks plans to keep going back to the roof until he raises $450,000 for the center. So far he has about half that amount.