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CHICAGO – Four years before parent protests at schools took America by a storm in 2021, Beth Feeley and her concerned neighbors led a protest at New Trier High School in northern Chicago. The high school had planned an all-school seminar day titled “Understanding Today’s Struggle for Civil Rights.” What alarmed Feeley was how politically biased the material was. The course catalog included “Blackenomics 101” and “Microaggressions: Not So Small” and the list of speakers skewed far left. Feeley protested, not to cancel the seminar day, but to demand an intellectually diverse array of materials and speakers. One of the speakers that she proposed was Pastor Corey Brooks who traveled up from the South Side of Chicago to support her efforts.
Both the pastor and Feeley united over their desire to make America a better nation for all. They became fast friends. On the 122nd day of his rooftop vigil to build a transformative community, the pastor invited Feeley to the roof for a campfire chat. He opened up by describing Feeley’s character as “courageous, outspoken and organized.”
“I want to read you a couple of quotes by Alexander de Tocqueville,” the pastor said. “He says, ‘I have often seen Americans make large and genuine sacrifices to the public good, and I have noted on countless occasions that when necessary, they almost never fail to lend one another a helping hand.’ He also says, ‘American morals do not hold that a man should sacrifice himself for his fellow man because it is a great thing to do. They boldly assert rather that such sacrifices are as necessary to the man who makes them as to the man who profits from them.’ What do you think about those quotes that I just read?”
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors to solve problems. And that was something that is so central to life in America where we looked to each other, not necessarily to a force of government or to an outsider. That is really the social fabric,” Feeley said. “I think in some cases you’re seeing that erode somewhat, and it’s something that we need to pay more attention to.”
“Without a doubt,” the pastor replied.
Feeley added that she felt that Project H.O.O.D. and her organization, New Trier Neighbors, were the kinds of grassroots organizations that make American life better for many. After all, nobody knows the communities better than the locals.
“What was it that made you step up and fight for diversity of thought for all of these kids in New Trier?” the pastor asked.
“I think I saw something going on, and once I realized what was going on, I couldn’t unsee it. It was something that I knew was leaving kids with only one side of the story, and the school’s job was to educate them. And I think that’s been a trend for a while in our schools,” Feeley said.
“When you speak out, sometimes people love to label you. And how do you feel about being called a racist because you’re trying to give these kids diversity of thought?” the pastor asked.
“It’s a terrible term, but it’s been hurled around so much that it’s kind of lost some of its meaning,” Feeley said. “When it’s hurled incorrectly at somebody who is not a racist, who loves people and cares deeply about all people, regardless of what they look like, you have to let it slide off your back. And I think it says more about the ugliness of the people hurling it than anything about me.”
“How do we get people to be more active citizens, like you’re taking a stand, like I’m taking a stand?” the pastor asked.
“I do think courage is contagious. And so the one thing you cannot do is stay silent,” Feeley said. “I do find once people take that first step, it does kind of take on a life of its own.”
“One of the things that I’ve noticed is that a lot of politicians, a lot of government officials, they think they know what’s best for us, and so they try to impose their will on us as if they know what’s best for us. Why do you think that is?” the pastor queried.
“I think that some people like having that type of power over others,” Feeley answered. “At the end of the day, though, I think that you need to be really close to a problem in order to understand how to solve a problem, and oftentimes [government officials] don’t have that insight. They don’t have really the capacity to really make that much of a change. And I think the more you can expose that, the better.”
“Do you think we’ve given them too much power?”
“Yes. I think a lot of people should probably start going to more local school board meetings, community meetings, visiting their local officials to get to know them as people,” Feely said. “If you think things can be better, speak up, and even put your hat in the ring.”
“Whenever I come out to the North Shore area, I’ve noticed BLM signs everywhere, almost every other yard, if not every yard,” the pastor said. “Why are they so focused on supporting BLM, when we have organizations like Project H.O.O.D. right here in their backyard?”
“I’ll be charitable. I think people care. I think they are expressing something. And I think that Black Lives Matter took on a life of its own over the last couple years, and that people perhaps were deceived into thinking that supporting an organization was actually going to make a difference in the lives of the people that Black Lives Matter claimed that they were going to help,” Feeley said. “I don’t think that money has made its way into communities like Woodlawn … I think perhaps they should take a second look, and then they would see that it’s actually people that are on the ground, closest to the problem, that have the best ideas for the solution, and that’s where real change can take place.”
“We haven’t raised all the monies yet for this endeavor. That’s why we’re still on this rooftop,” the pastor said. “It’s a testament about how difficult it is to fight a system that is entrenched in place. But it’s also a testament to how our citizens have grown complacent and laid back and not fighting enough. What do we do about that?”
“I was one of those citizens, I’ll be honest, until a few years ago when an issue came across in my life that woke me up. So I think it’s a matter of waking people up. It’s definitely getting the word out and these great opportunities that you have, to tell people what you’re doing and raising awareness about the problem,” Feeley said.
“As you look at America and the landscape across America, and you think about our community and your community, where you live, where I live, what is your hope?” the pastor asked.
“I would love to restore just that neighbor-by-neighbor social fabric, and then have that build up into community across community and have those be places where people are valued, where people are able to reach their full potential,” Feeley said. “I think it can be done — that’s what I’m trying to instill in my kids.”
“You’re doing a great job.”
“You are as well.”
“I know your community should be very proud of having you, and I know we’re proud to have you as a friend, as a sister, as a partner with us. So thank you so much.”
“Likewise, God bless.”
Follow along as Fox News checks in Pastor Corey Brooks each day with a new Rooftop Revelation.
For more information, please visit Project H.O.O.D.
Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.
Camera by Terrell Allen.