THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE
Martin Luther King famously noted that violence “destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue.” This week’s violent looting has produced a deafening monologue. On the south side of Chicago, where I pastor a church and lead a ministry, Project H.O.O.D., we are in the business of building dialogue as the way of rebuilding our community. We help build community leaders and we equip our neighbors—especially young black men who are exiting gangs—to build their own character and to help rebuild the streets. We build self-esteem and respect for our fellow man. And we build stronger families with firmer foundations. The destructive violence, rioting, and looting of the last few days, however, have quickly erased years of our dialogue. When I began New Beginnings Church on the south side of Chicago, the neighborhood held the sad distinction of having one of the nation’s highest homicide rates. Over the years, we have changed that statistic. We have built a thriving church with an average of 600 to 750 people at our services each Sunday. We have a community center with a free gym, a career center that offers advice and assistance with interviews, and a high-impact jobs training program that has helped people build successful careers in fields such as construction or landscaping. Our work has paid off, and we have witnessed the power of a changed life. I have seen the excitement of young men who have turned away from violent gangs to embark on their own new beginning and get fitted for construction boots for their new jobs. Where despair once reigned, we have replaced it with hope and opportunity.