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CHICAGO – In several of the past Rooftop Revelations, Pastor Corey Brooks interviewed young men on what it was like to live and grow up on the South Side of Chicago. What about the young women? Are their lives and stories different? Do they face challenges that many outsiders may not know about?
To answer these questions, the pastor invited Jemiah Johnson to the rooftop on the 78th day of his 100-day rooftop vigil to raise funds for a transformative community center.
“I want to jump right in and ask you some questions,” the pastor said. “First of all, how difficult is it being a girl in Chicago…growing up in these tough areas?
“It’s very difficult. When you have family members, that’s in gangs and it’s like you just can’t do certain stuff with them because they ops, as you want to call it, ops see you,” Johnson said. “And if they can’t get them (family members), they’ll be out to hurt you. So, it’s certain things that you have to watch out for when you in Chicago.”
“When you say ops, you’re talking about people who are in a rival gang, right? Somebody else in a different gang?” the pastor asked.
“Yeah. Somebody in a different gang.”
“So when you’re out as a girl, you have to be conscious of your surroundings,” the pastor said. “Because if these rival gangs can’t get your brother or another person that you’re connected to they’ll shoot even a girl.”
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“You may not know this, but (in 2021) we’ve had 30 women be shot. Seven of them be killed. Two of them were pregnant and the babies got killed too. So it’s this whole new phenomenon with girls getting shot,” the pastor said. “I want to ask you something else: social media and stuff. Do you feel like there’s a lot of tension and a lot of beefs getting started on social media with girls and how that spills over to the boys?”
“Yes,” Johnson said. “I feel like most females out here in Chicago want to be the guys. So they do what the guys do, but not knowing they can be after you. You not knowing who after you, who they ops is, they see you, they might do something to you. So you got to watch what you do.”
“Are some of the girls in gangs, carrying guns and stuff too?”
“Most of them, but yeah.”
“Wow. That’s dangerous,” the pastor said. “I’m proud of you because I know you were in some tough environments, but you made it through and you got through school. It was tough on you, but you ended up graduating. Where’d you graduate from?”
“I graduated from Progressive Leadership Academy (PLA) as salutatorian.”
“Oh shoot. So you graduated from the school that’s inside our church. Ms. Kirksey was your principal?”
“How was that school so important for what you needed, compared to all the other schools?”
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“I went to a CPS school and it was just too many people in the classroom,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t focus because all my friends was there. And I transferred to PLA. It was a smaller environment and my cousin and all of them graduated from PLA and they were telling me how good the school was…They helped me get a job. They helped me to be who I am today.”
“They hired you and your focus is to do what?”
“I mentor the students. Basically I got hired because how good I was, how excellent I was, how they seen me progress,” Johnson said. “And not just the girls, the males too. Because some of the males, they listen to me. I tell them not to do this. You do that. I want to see them graduate. I want to see them become better men. I want them out of the streets. I don’t want to see them on the news, them in jail. I don’t want to see them like that. I want to see them graduate, succeed with life.”
“I think that’s what makes you so special,” the pastor said. “Because people like me and you who have a heart for wanting to make sure people don’t go to jail, making sure people don’t get shot, I think God has special work for us to do. So, I want to commend you and thank you for giving back because a lot of people your age, they gone and they get whatever they get and then they’re done. But the fact that you’re giving back speaks a lot about your character. I just believe some great things in store for you.”
Jemiah Johnson hugged the pastor goodbye. Then she took the lift down from the rooftop and returned to the streets, a courageous force of positivity moving through her neighborhood.
Follow along as Fox News checks in Pastor Corey Brooks each day with a new Rooftop Revelation.
For more information, please visit Project H.O.O.D.
Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.
Camera by Terrell Allen.