By Wendell Hutson, Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader –
On a day when the nation paused to recognize civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Black church denied the Crusader access to a South Side public event.
Governor Pat Quinn met Monday with Corey Brooks, Sr., pastor of New Beginnings Church, 6625 South King Drive, who has been sleeping on top of the shuttered Super Motel since November until his church can raise $450,000 to buy the motel’s land. The church plans to demolish the building and redevelop it into a $10 million community center, according to Brooks, whose 2,500 members are predominately Black. As of December 31, the church had raised nearly $200,000, according to Danielle Willis, a spokeswoman for New Beginnings Church.
The Crusader received the same media advisory about the event from Willis just as all other media. But around 2:50 p.m. when the Crusader arrived at the event, which was held in front of the church, the Crusader reporter was told by church volunteers, acting as security guards, to leave the ‘media’ section and instead stand across the street on the sidewalk where about 100 people were also standing and cheering.
And every other reporter and TV cameraman was taken on top of the roof to interview Brooks but the Crusader was not allowed because “these are the media outlets that confirmed they were attending,” Willis said.
But the Crusader also confirmed via e-mail to Willis. “Please stand on the sidewalk my brother until we get further instructions for you,” said one church security guard, who did not give his name.
But when the Crusader began asking why was it the only media outlet not allowed in the media section, which was set up on the street, no one gave a straight answer. The U.S. Constitution affords the media the right to cover events held on public property, such as streets, once identified as a journalist, one Chicago police officer at the event told the Crusader. In Chicago, all government media credentials are issued by the Chicago Police Department, which conducts background checks on all individual journalists. The Crusader had its police issued media pass displayed and even showed it to Willis and church security guards.
Afterwards, Willis implied that the Crusader was also not granted the same ‘convenient’ access as other reporters, who coincidently were all white, because of a January 5 story it ran on the pastor. “Why would you expect things not to be contentious with the stories you have written about Pastor Brooks?” Willis said in a phone interview. “And you not cooperating only made things worse.”
The January 5 story reported that Brooks had refused to sign a promotional release form that would have allowed a previous Crusader story on him to be entered into the “America Inspired” contest sponsored on the website examiner.com. On Feb. 1 the website will award $50,000 to five stories in five different categories that received the most online votes between January 9 through 27. For the Sacrifice category, which is where the story on Brooks would have appeared, the story must show how a person is making a sacrifice to benefit others or for a worthy cause. And the person featured in the story (in this case Brooks) would receive $50,000.
Brooks said he declined to sign the release on the advice of his attorney, who was unavailable for comment. Despite the story Willis alleges that the Crusader spoke to her in a disrespectful manner.
“What you call talking loud I call yelling and screaming,” she added. No Crusader staff members yelled at Willis or any other church member. When the Crusader contacted Brooks he said he had not yet spoken to Willis so he could not comment on an incident he was unaware took place.
“My focus is on young, Black males being murdered. The focus is not you or I. The focus is them and that’s all I care about,” Brooks said. “I am sacrificing everything being on this roof. I am sacrificing my family and my life and I do not have time for foolishness.” And Brooks’ Executive Assistant Pastor Steve Bozeman, who was in Atlanta and did not attend the event, told the Crusader in a phone interview that Willis was following his instructions. “Feel free to write whatever you want. I do not have time to get into this right now but know that whatever Danielle did she did so at my direction,” Bozeman said.
And just prior to the Crusader voluntarily leaving the event Brooks came down from the rooftop temporarily along with Quinn to thank everyone for their support and asked for their continued prayers.