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OneGoal’s Pam Johnson Davis Says Chicago Is Deeply Human …

Written by on February 17, 2020


Pam Johnson Davis is the Director of Fellow Support at OneGoal.

Pam coaches students with a focus on educational equity and building pathways to personal wellness, academic success, and career fulfillment.

She describes herself as a social justice advocate, a believer in educational equity, a writer of truth and a lover of people.

Pam stopped by Vocalo to talk finding connection, living in Uptown and being unapologetically you.



What drew you to Chicago? Where do you live now? Describe your neighborhood.

I moved to Chicago from Arkansas in 2012 to go to graduate school at Loyola University. And after graduation, I stayed because I fell in love with the people. I love the diversity of Chicago. And with that diversity comes incredible food. And there’s literally nothing in the world quite like summertime in Chicago. I know this sounds cliché, but my biggest challenge moving to Chicago was the winter coming from the south. We don’t have winters like this. And my first polar vortex in 2013 was quite the experience. But I lived, I lived to tell the tale. And here I am still.

Currently I live in Uptown, and I would describe the neighborhood as eclectic. There’s no one type of person that you’ll find in Uptown. Instead, you’ll find a beautiful mosaic of a lot of different kinds of people when you walk the streets. I remember when I first moved to Chicago, walking down the street, and hearing all of these different languages and seeing all of these different family dynamics from native Chicagoans to people who had moved from other cities or states and people who move from other countries, so many different languages. It just blew my mind and it was so inspiring. I knew within a week that I was going to stay here because I fell in love with having this type of proximity to so many different people.


What has it been like living in Chicago? Talk about your work with OneGoal and how that plays into your experience living here in the city.

At the core of who I am, I am a connector who believes deeply in humanity. And I seek to draw out the inherent strengths of the people around me so that they can shine. I love seeing people stand in their shine. And I feel very fortunate that I get to connect to others in so many different ways.

For example, in my work at OneGoal, I serve as a coach, mentor and guide to young adults who have graduated from high school, and I support them in identifying what it is that they want to do next in life. And it is such a privilege. It’s an immense privilege to be able to speak with students and their families about all of the incredible educational opportunities available in Chicago. And to be the person to walk alongside them as they navigate all of the hurdles that come with trying to pursue your dreams has been beautiful for me.

And I live out my belief in connection outside of work as well. I’m a singer and songwriter for a local band called Paper Cranes. And we seek to create music not to achieve fame or fortune, but to truly connect to our shared humanity to create music that makes people feel something that taps into hope that brings people together in a new way. So if I’m singing a song at a paper crane show about unrequited love, and you look out in the audience and you see people looking at each other like, been there. That’s that shared humanity and that connection that I seek to draw out.


How has the city shaped you and your art, career, mission, etc.?

It was in Chicago that I learned that coaching, singing and writing were not just things that I enjoy, but they were things that are part of who I am and part of my purpose. So I found myself here in Chicago, musically and creatively with my writing, the experiences that I’ve had in the city have shaped the best work that I’ve done thus far, by far. And I think it’s because that work was about growing up and becoming myself and doing so without apology.

So, for example, on Unapologetically Pam, I blog about learning who Pam is, and becoming that person and the journey to being who I am. And also learning to not apologize about it. My hope in writing about life and work in love is that someone else listening to that or reading that would also find their freedom and their journey to becoming themselves without apology.


At the end of the day, what would you like to give back to the community?

It would have to be the hope and the freedom and the opportunities that it gave to me.


Listen to What Pam Davis’ Chicago Sounds Like:

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Shot by Tom Gavin

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