If you walk down the 900 block of Glover Street and Ashland Avenue you might find neighbors, both young and old, playing chess on a human sized chess board painted by local artist Genevia Rogers or families eating together in the Garden of Eden. This is because local community leaders, such as Paul Dixson, known as Brother Paul to most, have been keeping their community together for over 30 years.
Brother Paul has lived in East Baltimore all his life and has witnessed both tragedy and triumph in his neighborhood. Having once been a part of some of the more tragic moments, including selling drugs and surviving gun violence, Brother Paul now spends his days feeding families, enriching the minds of children, and providing community members a safe place to connect and learn. He credits his relationship with God and witnessing the plight of people in his neighborhood for his transformation from drug dealer to community leader.
“I thought to myself if I can do criminal stuff there then why can’t I go back and be a beacon of light to that neighborhood to show that change is possible.”, said Paul. Teaming up with a group of caring and concerned neighbors 30 years ago, including Christopher Elroy also known as Big Chris, Brother Paul has dedicated his life to help put the pieces of his community back together and be a resource to families.
What started as a desire to put vacant land to use for children to play has since grown to feeding up to 500 families during the holidays, teaching youth how to read, running summer programs for adolescents, clothing people, giving out free books, mediating gang altercations, connecting families to resources throughout Baltimore, and so much more!
“We feel it is our obligation to love humanity. If we just consider each other in God’s love, we can make a difference and be a good example.”
Many of the activities are run by those involved in the Covant Community Association and their loving families but with the help of their village --- which include community organizations, health professionals, institutions such as Johns Hopkins, and neighbors, they are able to serve hundreds of men, women, and children year round. Brother Paul strongly believes in partnering with people from all walks of life and shares how even those who break the law contribute to help enhance the health and well-being of their community, “I believe in underdogs because I was once an underdog myself”.
All efforts are made possible through love, donations, and volunteers. Brother Paul and his family cook many of the meals for families throughout the year and most activities are run out of their local community garden, the Garden of Eden. “We do it out of the garden to show how simple it is to love people. Everything comes out of that garden, hot meals, summer programs (etc.)”
Aside from caring for his community, Brother Paul also sees himself as an advocate and urges political leaders and big corporations to get involved and do more for the people in this City.
Using his life of growing up without a father, living a life of crime, and turning it around for good as an example, Brother Paul shares this message with people often, “change is simple you just have go out and love somebody".