Dr. Benton Cook III, Ph.D.
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.
To the People of Chicagoland:
I write this letter to address recent articles written by the Chicago Sun-Times related to my work in 2011 and 2012 for the Illinois Violence Prevention – 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 with the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.
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 is the community where I was born and chose to come back to serve. When he found out I have a Ph.D. and have been volunteering for years in my community, he asked me to submit my resume’ to his office for review and consideration.
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 he was not aware of who my wife was, but it didn’t matter to him. He said he was hiring me based upon my credentials and my heart for the community. The fact is, during the summer of 2010, there were at least 30 youth murdered in West Garfield, and as an associate minister in our church, I participated in at least 10 of the funeral services.
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. Unfortunately, the Sun-Times articles has not reported the breakthroughs and successes this program.
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. Although, I was reimbursed for my expenditures, some of which were used to purchase supplies for the NRI office and some used to feed our children in the program.
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 time 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 as they would like.
It is 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.