Project H.O.O.D., a Chicago group targeting poverty and violence, says his group has many of the ingredients of what experts consider an equitable organization. The organization’s staff and leadership are racially diverse and include residents from the Woodlawn and Englewood neighborhoods on the South Side that it serves. A dozen former gang members work full time for the group’s violence-prevention program — community residents aiming to solve problems facing neighbors and friends. Recently, the organization was hailed for a gender-equity success: The first all-female class graduated from one of its construction-trade programs, preparing would-be electricians for jobs in the male-dominated field.
Still, Pastor Corey Brooks, the group’s founder and CEO, is cool to rhetoric about racial equity or equity programs targeted at race. “The moment we start allowing race to be in the forefront of everything, it’s going to always divide us,” says Brooks, who’s also the founder and senior pastor of New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn. “We can’t always make things about race.”
Too often, he says, equity campaigns are built on the assumption that equity can only be won when it is granted. He points to an effort to force Chicago’s trade unions to diversify training programs, a drive he sees as a distraction. Better to stick to his organization’s core work: training men and women in construction trades, coding, and other skills to earn a good living, become entrepreneurs, and take care of their families and communities.