People Profiles|Jonathan “PASTAH J” Brooks

When asked to pick a word that best characterizes Englewood, Jonathan “PASTAH J” Brooks chooses “resilience.”

As senior pastor of Canaan Community Church and Chicago city director for Mission Year, Jonathan encounters resilience in his community on a daily basis and encourages Englewood’s residents to work towards peaceful solutions to their problems.

An example? When he returned home to Englewood after studying at Alabama’s Tuskegee University, Jonathan found an issue with the lack of available healthy food in his neighborhood.

“All of the stores would just sell junk food,” he says. “We’d have to travel for miles to get to healthy fruits and vegetables. There were food pantries, but they weren’t owned by the neighborhood. So we changed that.” After carefully listening to his fellow residents, Jonathan and his wife Miche’al helped to create the 5 Loaves Food co-op out of the Canaan Community Church which now offers healthy alternatives, some even locally grown, to dozens of community members.

“You should never characterize any person or place by its worst mistakes. When communities are characterized by an incomplete narrative and people only hear the tough stuff that happens and they don’t see the beauty, even people in that community start to believe it,” he says. “We need to encourage the neighbors on the front lines to show that beauty. Hope comes from people. So come and see. Come and see the resilience and the amazing residents that are here in Englewood.”

This is #EnglewoodRising.

Photography by Tonika Johnson