A couple of months ago, Brother Willie Brooks came up with an idea early this summer and talked about taking boys to DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. But he didn’t stop at talking. He runs the concession stand in Shiloh Park, connects with the kids and sees their needs.
With a lot of help from the community, Brother Willie took a tour bus full of boys on Aug. 20 to the museum as well as a tour of 50 spots in Chicago that are historically important to African Americans. Thirty-one boys had signed up and eight men accompanied them, including Det. Kenneth Vaughn of the Zion Police Department and Chief Vincent Nelson of the Z-BTHS NJROTC .
Brother Willie planned it down to the smallest detail. On the way to Chicago he showed the movie 'The Barbershop' and had snacks galore for everyone to eat. They had a tour guide who helped at the museum and then told them about the places they drove past.
The museum was the first stop and their first walk-through was narrated by the tour guide. They went through again in small groups led by one of the accompanying men and discussed what they saw. They learned were the Underground Railway and the problems that were brought on by the projects. “They packed the people in on a few acres and that bred gangs,” Brother Willie said.
Timothy Gwinn brought his two sons and his nephew on the trip and said it was a positive way for them to learn about their ancestors and history. He went around the museum with boys and they looked at each artifact. “I had them hold a chain and visualize what it was like,” he said. “It woke up something inside of them.” He said the boys told him they couldn’t have handled that pain and suffering. He thinks they respect life a little more. From what he observed, the other boys on the trip had similar reactions.
Among the spots they saw in Chicago was President Obama's house and they went through west and south sides of Chicago. When the tour was over, it was time to eat.
Brother Willie took them to Dusty's Soul Food restaurant in Matteson where they could eat their fill. “It's good food and it's safe,” Brother Willie said.
Brother Willie was pleased and impressed by the community effort that brought this idea to fruition. The trip began with a request for 20 men in the community to donate $100 each. The donations came in many different amounts, and Brother Willie found a way to make it work.
“It wasn't one church or one organization, although they helped. But it was the community that came together,” he said.
“This happened because of the love of the people in this region who supported us,” Brother Willie said. “There are a lot of good people and good things here. You can't define our city by one person who committed murder.
“These kids are going to do great because we have a positive city. Speak positive,” he said. “We're not talking negative, but doing positive things and getting positive things out of life,”Brother Willie said.
James Snowden, who accompanied boys on the trip, was impressed by the trip and the support from the community. “There are many good things in Zion that just don't get the publicity. The exciting part is this gesture shows we need to do more things like this,” he said. “More of us need to get involved and start speaking up. We could stop all of this (negative behavior). When we stick together, we're strong.”
Brother Willie said he's letting God make a plan for following up on this and letting him know what he should do next to help the boys.