Rooftop Revelations: Pastor Brooks and Bob Woodson on the state of conservatism
ROOFTOP REVELATIONS: Day 121 with Pastor Corey Brooks
CHICAGO – In the documentary, “How Jack Became Black,” I visited Watts and Compton in Southern California and asked the residents if they knew where the local office for the Republican Party was. The reactions ranged from the sincere “Oh, I don’t know” to outright laughter. These residents were not hostile to conservative politics — several told me they loved Ronald Reagan — but they know that the Republican Party chose to lecture from afar instead of the far more difficult work of planting seeds and nurturing them to life. A top Republican consultant in Los Angeles told me in blunt terms that it was not worth the party’s time and money to invest in these communities. But aren’t they Americans, too?
That is what makes the achievements of Pastor Corey Brooks and Bob Woodson all the more remarkable. Both men looked past the political and racial strife of their times for the best principles that would serve their communities and they happened to be within the realm of conservatism. Personal responsibility, accountability, investment, development, and capitalism became their message. They ignored the naysayers and the insults of “race-traitor” and worse. However, they operated alone for long periods of time where they felt what Shelby Steele has called “the loneliness of the black conservative.”
On the 121st day of his rooftop vigil to raise funds to build a transformative community center on the South Side of Chicago, the pastor hosted Woodson for a virtual conversation on conservatism.
“I want to ask you why have conservatives not put their roots down in problem areas like Philly and Harlem and New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago. Why the absence of conservatives?” the pastor asked.
“I think that the biggest challenge you face is elitism from both the left and the right. The whole notion that only well-educated, well-tutored people are wise enough to design solutions for people and they parachute them in. And so many of them don’t have the kind of respect for local wisdom and local knowledge, but that’s the only way that works,” Woodson explained.
“The conservatives who are serious have been the ones who understand that the solutions of the problem are not outside, they’re inside. But, in order to do that, you got to respect the local wisdom and knowledge of people like yourself, who are indigenous to the community.
“In their market economy, they understand that 3% of the people are entrepreneurs and they generate 70% of the jobs. Well, the same appears in the social marketplace. The solutions are with a small number of social entrepreneurs that have the trust and confidence of people in the community and we ought to invest in them — people like yourself and others.”
“Absolutely,” the pastor agreed. “I know you were part of the 60s Civil Rights Movement and can you just talk a little bit about your own transition, how you got to believing the conservative point of view?”
“I was a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement in Westchester, Pennsylvania, the home of Bayard Rustin, and I led demonstrations,” Woodson said. “I left the movement when I realized that we spent months picking outside of a pharmaceutical company and they hired nine black PhD chemists. They wouldn’t join our movement because they said they got these jobs because they were qualified.
“When that happened to me, two or three times, I realized I was in the wrong movement and that a lot of middle class and elite blacks were using low-income blacks as the bait and the switch. And so I realized that my responsibility was to go into low-income communities and work to attract money and resources, to support solutions coming from within.”
Woodson then brought up how he met Leon Watkins out in the Los Angeles neighborhood of South Central who was living in a gang-infested neighborhood. Leon was the one member of his community who took action and arranged a sit-down with the notorious East Side Crips.
“And Leon boldly came in, and to them, said, ‘I want to talk to you about your life.’ He had (several of them) in Bible study in two days. And in a week he had all 26 gang members in Bible study and they went from predatory, preying on the community, to serving and protecting the community. And so when I saw and met indigenous leaders like that all over the country, I realized that the solutions really are within the areas with the problem.”
“I want to ask you a question as it relates to something that you said about how you moved away from the Civil Rights Movement and moved into grassroots work and providing resources,” the pastor said. “How can we get conservatives to stop preaching from afar?”
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“I just think we have to do it by demonstrating to them that our approach works,” Woodson said. “That’s what we did 25 years ago in Washington DC (when) we had 53 murders in the five square block area called Benning Terrace and the police were afraid to go in…After a 12-year-old boy was killed, I said, ‘God has chosen the area, so go in.’ (Six ex-offenders that had the trust and confidence of the police and the authorities and the kids) brought these warring factions to my office. We had a meal waiting for them, we negotiated the truce.
“Time won’t permit me to go into details, but we transformed them from predators to ambassadors of peace. And they went in and rebuilt the very community that they were tearing up because they were led by trusted mentors. And so we ended up having not a single crew-related murder for 12 years.
“We learned enough to export the principles to other cities. And we’ve been just as effective, but no one is stepping up. Conservatives are not there. They should be rushing in and providing support, but only a handful did. So if conservatives really want to stand by and support policies that are in power people, they have to invest.”
“When you talk about investing, Dr. Woodson, it seems as if a lot of conservatives invest in figures like Candace Owens,” the pastor said. “But they very seldom invest in conservative projects like Project H.O.O.D. and some of the grassroots efforts that you’re talking about. Why are they more apt to support a Candace Owens and not support the work?”
“I think a lot of times conservatives like to support black folks who can provide entertainment as opposed to substance,” Woodson answered. “They celebrate the fact that as long as you are opposed to what the Left is doing, that’s synonymous with promoting what’s right. And my message to conservatives is that it is not enough to be in opposition to what the Left is doing. If you want people to embrace conservative principles, we must demonstrate that these principles have the consequence of improving the quality of life. But a lot of conservatives are interested in winning the argument, but not improving a condition. And the way you convict people to your principles is to support those that demonstrate in their actions that these principles have the consequence of improving the quality of life.”
“Absolutely, Dr. Woodson,” the pastor said. “You have been a mentor and a guiding light to many young conservatives, who are trying to get the work in. So I want to say thank you so very much.”
“And thank you for having me, Corey.”
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.
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