I was glad to get this responce to the Chicago Sun-Times. I have worked alongside Dr. Benton Cook on a campaign for Dorothy Brown and know him to be an honest and intelligent man who is concerned about our community. --Toure Muhammad, publisher
Following is a letter to the people, clarifying the March 10, 2014, Chicago Sun-Times article on me, Dr. Benton Cook III, and my wife and my work for the Illinois Violence Prevention Program. I write this letter to address recent articles published related to my work in 2011 and 2012 for the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative Program. While I appreciated the photo on the front page of the Sun-Times of me and my wife, Dorothy Brown-Cook, showing our love and affection for one another, the caption, which read: "Love and Clout," "a sweetheart deal", was totally inaccurate and a derisive commentary on my work in my community.
In 2011, I was invited by my Pastor, Marshall Hatch, to attend a meeting at our West Garfield Park church with him, Mr. David Whitaker and Mr. Howard Lathan of the Chicago Area Project (CAP). Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Lathan expressed that the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, initiated by Gov. Quinn, needed to be placed in the West Garfield area.
At the meeting, after I shared my thoughts on what a Neighborhood Recovery Initiative Program should entail, I was asked by Mr. Whitaker if I would be interested in being the Director of the Program in West Garfield, since it's the community where I was born and chose to come back to serve.
At the time I was working as a consultant for a national corporation, so when he offered me a job, I thanked him for the interest, but I told him no thanks. However, after a week of consideration and soul-searching, I decided to interview for the position. I was then given a formal job offer, which I accepted. For full disclosure, I told Mr. Whitaker that I was married to Dorothy Brown, Circuit Court Clerk, and asked him whether that made a difference.
Mr. Whitaker said that it didn't matter to him. He said he was hiring me based upon my credentials and my heart for the community. During the two years that I directed the program, we received awards as the top program in efficiency and program development out of the 23 Chicago offices. Also, I was recognized as top director for both years. As reported to us by Chicago Police officials for our district, the homicide rate dropped during those two years.
We were recognized by CPS for creating a community-based program that could be used as a school-based counseling program. In that program we developed an empirical data study that showed that 60% of our children suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to their experiences of street and domestic violence. We were able to assess the children's needs and provide therapeutic counseling for their life improvement.
I am not sure from where the article derived the $146,000 amount, because my W-2 forms, received from CAP, for those two years, indicate that I was paid far less than that. If I had been given the opportunity to tell the true story in the article people would know that I was not given the position because of who I married. The article did not state the many times I gave money to children who said they were eating hot dogs for dinner every night; nor does it mention the many times I bought shoes and clothing for children who were being teased at school for wearing ragged and faded clothes.
The article does not mention all the times I spent visiting children's homes asking parents to allow their children to continue in the program; nor does it tell of the times I spent encouraging parents and guardians who were suffering from ill health, depression or social anxiety because they couldn't provide for their children.
It's very condescending for the Sun-Times to imply that a person with my education, and years of experience working with young people as a clinical psychologist, is not eminently qualified to work in my community for my people. The attack by the Sun-Times is not only vicious but also misdirected at an African-American couple who continue to have the heart, talent and compassion to try to help right the wrongs that continue to plague the Black community.
NOTE: As a result of the article in question, on March 6 state Representative David Reis introduced a bill - House Bill 6011- to immediately freeze the funding of the Chicago Anti Violence State Funds, which will gut ALL such job training programs. This media muckracking will be extremely harmful to the community's urgent interests.
The article was grossly distorted and included erroneous and misleading information and does not mention the benefits to the many teens trained by the program. The lawmaker's response is an irresponsible over-reaction.
We are urging the Community to speak up against any attempts to cut these much needed funds.
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