CLEVELAND — Hank Davis has always called the streets of Glenville, on Cleveland’s East Side, home.
“We started gangs in the city of Cleveland, here right on 105th street, when I was 15 or 16-years-old,” he said.
After serving 12 years in prison for gang-related crimes, he was called right back to that home, but this time, to run the streets in a different way.
“To try and correct some of the mistakes and correct some of the things that we have done,” said Davis. “It’s only people like me that these kids will listen to.”
He started ICONS, or Individuals Overcoming Negative Situations, for kids in Cleveland. It’s a mentoring and life coaching organization.
“We get calls from probation departments, we get calls from schools, from parents,” he said. “We are doing intervention prevention at a younger age.”
But he said there are not enough resources or organizations like his and COVID-19 has only made a bad situation, worse.
“They don’t have anywhere to go, they cut the hours for the rec. centers, they took the basketball courts away outside. An idle mind is a devil’s playground,” said Davis.
In Cleveland Division of Police's year-end report, it showed the city saw 176 criminal homicides in 2020 vs. 2019, that’s a 43% increase. But some neighborhoods, like Glenville in district 5, bear the brunt more than others. Forty-four of those criminal homicides were in the 5th district.
“It’s heartbreaking because I know that I’ve put so much work in to try and save these kids and teach them,” he said.
But Davis said it should not be looked at as just a neighborhood issue and more as a regional issue.
“We have to become more of a community we can’t continue to function as a hood,” he said.
Bringing people together as a community is something Pastor Micah Sims of Lee Memorial AME Church does best. His church is in the heart of Glenville and he said every day he prays for the people that make up that heart.
“It’s good to pray but what are we going to do as a follow-up to that prayer,” he said. “At what point do we look at violence as we do as COVID-19?”
He said it’s time for stakeholders from various sectors in the city to come together to create a comprehensive solution.
“Where is the ‘Cleveland Addressing Anti-Violence Program' plan?” he said. “It is going to take leadership at the government level, it’s going to take the faith community, it’s going to take the businesses community all to partner together and really say this is how we can work to help stem the tide of violence.”
And while both Sims and Davis agree there’s no one right answer, there is a right first step, to not ignore the violence.
“We have to do something more than just talk about it,” said Davis.