ENGLEWOOD — Pastor Dwayne Grant gripped a megaphone as he walked up and down the sidewalk, greeting new faces, inviting them to take a bag of groceries.
It was his first time throwing a cookout in this particular part of Englewood, though his church, Xperience Church Chicago, is around the corner.
Grant is one of several faith leaders and activists working to keep the neighborhood safe as part of the Hit the Hood initiative during a holiday weekend notorious for violence. With shootings already on par to exceed last year’s numbers, a global pandemic still raging across the country and weeks of civil unrest, organizations on the ground are taking a collaborative approach to helping their neighbors.
Which is why Grant, known as the “Trap Pastor,” was at the intersection of 66th and Halsted streets Thursday evening, holding court as his wife and a small group of volunteers packed two tables with groceries and masks while a DJ stationed a few feet away played Crucial Conflict and Slick Rick.
“We were slow to start. People don’t know me around here,” said Grant, who set up shop in a vacant lot, one of the violence “hotspots” Ald. Rod Sawyer (6th) told him he was struggling with. “We’re usually at 57th and Racine, and people always come out around there because they know me.”
With Ald. Stephanie Coleman’s (16th) blessing, Grant takes over a space near Moran Park, 5700 S. Racine Ave., every summer for the last three years, feeding the block and spreading The Word. It took a year before he gained the trust of the neighborhood — Grant recalls one man who greeted him with an expletive the first time he came around — but a few weeks later that man was helping him set up for the next cookout.
“You can’t just drop in, serve a few hotdogs, and leave. You’ve gotta be consistent,” said Grant, who received a grant from My Block My Hood My City to help with his efforts this summer. “It’s a slow process. When they see that you really love them, and that you’re here, that’s when they let you in.”
The Trap Pastor will return to his outpost on Racine Avenue on Friday at 3:30 p.m., where he and his team will be giving out more hot dogs, hamburgers, groceries, masks and baby items for those in need of diapers and formula.
“We’ll be out here every weekend,” he said.
For more information on how to help, contact Pastor Dwayne Grant at 312-576-2391.
Other Hit the Hood events include a march and caravan organized by My Block, My Hood, My City Friday.
Everyone is welcome to attend and bring a sign, shirt or flag to promote unity and peace. The march starts at 5 p.m. at Yards Plaza at 47th Street and Damen Avenue. Get the route and RSVP here.
If you’d rather stay in your car, the caravan will start at 9 p.m. on the corner of 71st and Jeffery and end at the Discount Mall parking lot on 26th Street and Albany Avenue. You can RSVP and find that route here.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.