VIDEO: Group takes on role of fathers, ‘paving the way’ in Englewood

Community members participate in Chicago's "Summer of Faith and Action" in Englewood. (Daniel Brown/Medill)

By Daniel Brown

Chicago’s second annual “Summer of Faith and Action,” a citywide violence prevention initiative designed to promote safety during the summer, kicked-off May 22nd. Participants hosted barbeques, block parties, rallies, prayers and more.

One of the participants was Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church on East 53rd Street, and its non-violence group, “Paving the Way.” Together the two organizations held a free barbecue for the neighborhood on their block. It was the only meal some of the attendants had that day, said Antonio Davis, founder and director of Paving the Way.

Davis, 27, started Paving the Way in December of last year. The group’s main focus is mentoring kids who do not have fathers, but they also have programs on how to safely deal with police, get out of gangs and more.

Antonio Davis reflects on his work with Paving the Way. (Daniel Brown/Medill)
Antonio Davis reflects on his work with Paving the Way. (Daniel Brown/Medill)

“Whether its gang banging, drug addiction, early parenting – whatever – it always starts with your father,” said Davis. “That’s one of the reasons I created [Paving the Way] because I didn’t have my father. And so, the life I lived was a result of that.”

Davis is a native Chicagoan, and grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes. After getting repeatedly jumped and harassed, he joined a gang around the age of six years old. He delivered drugs and held guns before his tenth birthday. “I use to be out here gang banging,” he said. “I sold drugs, robbed people, jumped people…I’ve been jumped. I’ve been stabbed. You know, I’ve been shot at.”

Two things happened that changed his life: the birth of his son, and the murder of his best friend. “When it’s like your best friend…it’s a different feeling,” Davis said. “Me and my son went up to the casket together, and I just looked at him, and was like ‘this could be me, you know, and my son looking at me.’ And {I was} like, ‘no, I can’t do this anymore.”

One of the main differences between Paving the Way and other non-violence groups is that Paving the Way strives for kids to have as much say and power as possible. “I’m going to have some older people on my staff, but I want mainly the youth to run it,” Davis said. “Give them a sense of running a company, running a business.”

Davis ardently stresses this point. “I want people that are experienced, that’s the only way you’ll get to the youth…if you grew up without a father, then you need to talk to someone that didn’t have a father.”

Their next forum — on police education — will be held June 6th.

Photo at top: East Pershing Road on the South Side. (Daniel Brown/Medill)


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