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Chicago minister says anti-violence vigil worth it

Published: Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

A Chicago pastor said Sunday that it was worth living in a tent on the icy roof of an abandoned motel for three months to draw attention to gun violence, despite the long hours of loneliness and cold winter nights punctuated by the pop of gunfire.

The Rev. Corey Brooks ended his 94-day vigil on Friday after a $100,000 donation from movie mogul Tyler Perry put him over the top in his goal to raise $450,000 to buy and demolish the dilapidated Super Motel on Chicago's South Side. The building had become a haven for prostitution and drug dealing. Now, Brooks is seeking to raise money to build a community center on the site.

While on the roof, the 43-year-old father of four fasted at times and missed important family occasions, including birthdays. But he said the hardest part was enduring the loneliness at night, when he said he was often woken by gunfire. He would listen for ambulance and police sirens and pray that no one had been hit.

"Those were probably the toughest moments in the whole thing. You know, being up there by yourself, that was tough," he said.

Brooks began his vigil in November after presiding over 10 funerals last year for slain young men, all of them younger than 25.

The last was for 17-year-old Carlton King Archer, who was killed in a gang-related shooting. A rival gang opened fire outside the church where his funeral was being held, and while no one was hurt, Brooks said it was his breaking point.

"I would call it very depressing and frustrating that we're living in such a great city but yet we still experience violence and gunfire on a day-to-day basis," he said. "It breaks your heart because there's so much hopelessness."

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