#Member Monday- Jonathan Brooks

Posted: September 30, 2019 in Member Monday
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Origins: West Englewood

Photo by Tonika Johnson for #EnglewoodRising Member Profiles

This Member Monday we have the pleasure of profiling RAGE member Jonathan Brooks. Brooks is the Pastor of Canaan Community Church, an artist, educator, activist, and community developer. Known as “Pastah J”, Brooks uses his diverse portfolio of talents and his international platform as a public speaker to advocate for transformative change. Brooks contributions to Greater Englewood is amplified by joining RAGE, yet what was his path to our resident association?

Brooks is a Chicago native who grew up mostly living on 64th and South Wolcott.  He and his mother moved frequently but in his book, Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods, he states in the first chapter “I always called myself an Englewood resident”. He graduated from Hubbard High School in West Lawn and went to Alabama to attend Tuskegee University studying architecture and grounding himself in Christianity. This is where he met Sho Baraka, started rapping, and became more serious about faith. In his book, he jokes, “It’s hard to move to Alabama and not come back a Christian!”

Career: Back Home and to The Pulpit

In 2002, his mother suffered a stroke while teaching her pre-K class. He had recently graduated and was making the decision on what he was going to do with his life and coming back to Chicago seemed to be a no-brainer at that moment. Moving back to Chicago he found himself working in education, married to his wife Miche’al with his first child, and in the role of youth minister at Canaan Missionary Baptist Church near where he grew up. He was also active with his hip-hop group Out-World and finished their first album, “Undivided Attention”, during this time. In late 2005 his Senior Pastor, Lacy Simpson Jr, asked him if he had ever considered being a pastor and by March 2006 he was pressed to take the position at Canaan. He and his family were living in Bronzeville and this decision to become a pastor led to him moving back to Englewood.

Now the senior pastor of Canaan Community Church, a traveling presenter for Christian Community Development Association, an established writer, a professor at Chicago Semester, and an established vocalist Brooks is an asset to Greater Englewood. When he moved back he originally lived on 72nd and Honore before moving directly next to his church and supports community organizations like Teamwork Englewood, Kusanya Cafe, Growing Home, amongst many others. With his degrees from Tuskegee University for architecture, National Louis for a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Masters of Divinity from Northern Seminary in Christian Community Development he uses his talents and skills to change the narrative of Greater Englewood.

RAGE, Englewood, and Life

Brooks found out about RAGE through our president’s, Asiaha Butler, blog The Life of Mrs. Englewood. This was during the time of the school closings during Rahm’s administration and after reading her words he wondered, “Who is this?” He then found out about a RAGE meeting at the Kelly Branch library and attended. He says of this moment, “I went and I just sat and listened I didn’t bother anyone I just wanted to hear what was going on; It was here I met Asiaha, Demond, Corrinn and Phil after just walking up and saying, “’Hey my name is Jay and I appreciate what you all are doing’. That’s how I found out about RAGE just reading about Englewood, going to a meeting and leaving saying, ‘Wow, that’s deep”. This has led him to become an active member taking part in the Englewood Quality of Life Plan‘s Education Task Force and Public Safety Task Force as well as using his platform to promote the work being done in the community. He is also on the Board of Directors for Englewood’s very own Kusanya Cafe and working with Phil Sipka, from his very first RAGE meeting.

Photo from pastaj.com

His favorite RAGE moment was a moment that inspired him to work harder within the faith-based community. He did an episode on CAN TV about why churches should be connected more to the community. They accepted callers and one of the callers retweeted the episode to RAGE’s twitter and stated, “Churches should be more connected to the community; Pastah J is the exception and should be the rule”. Though this was a compliment it made Brooks realize that he had spent years making his church exceptional, yet to the community, “It was a rule that churches don’t care”. He later adds, “It really has changed the trajectory of my life”, as he now spends more of his energy speaking and writing on churches practicing presence within their community. Being part of RAGE has helped him not only hold himself and the faith-based community accountable, but he even states” if I can pick a model of what it looks like to make transformation happen RAGE is going to be it”.

As mentioned earlier, Brooks is married To Miche’al Newman-Brooks and has two daughters, Jasmine and Jade. Brooks has a love for music and he has a partnership with the Chicago Children’s Choir of which he is an alum. His love of service led him to become the city director of Mission Year; his church runs 5 Loaves Co-Op to increase healthy food options for the nearby community, as well as Canaan Community Redevelopment Corporation. His passion for hip-hop has fully crossed over into his ministry as he is a leader in hip-hop worship. Brooks believes that freestyling is his most natural form of praise adding, “Somebody in this audience right now is being liberated today by the fact that the main speaker is a black man from the south side of Chicago that’s gonna rap and he’s rocking Jordans, jeans, and a snapback”. 

Picture from his Daystar school of Hip-Hop worship

Brooks favorite quote is from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s sermon called Knowing Your Enemies. King’s quote is, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that, hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that”, which Brooks uses as a reminder of how change is made in the neighborhood. Brooks states, “It’s not about decreasing violence it’s about increasing peace; The more good we do will drown out the negative. That’s what drew me to RAGE, it wasn’t about getting together to sit around figuring out who to blame.” RAGE is proud to continue to create good in Greater Englewood with Pastah J!

Thank you, Pastah J, for serving Greater Englewood!

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