As for me, if there’s one thing I love about Chicago, it is the diversity. Jahmal Cole, a wise South Sider often says that you can travel the world without ever leaving Chicago.
You might not know him by his name, but I’d be willing to bet you know him by his work. He cofounded Chicago’s fastest growing social impact organization, My Block My Hood My City. Jahmal believes that authentic change starts organically and through My Block My Hood My City he aims to do bring the city together. His organization’s goal is simple but profound: to build a more interconnected Chicago on the pillars of service and education by providing opportunities for Chicago youth to explore new communities, cultures, and cuisines to gain a greater understanding of the world.
I have lived, worked, and played in neighborhoods across the city. One of my goals as a parent volunteer at Stand and now as the Regional Organizing Director is to be of service in the city that I’ve grown to love. I first met Jahmal and learned about his organization when I volunteered to shovel snow in 2016. Despite the inclement weather folks from all over the city pitched in to assist Englewood’s elderly population by clearing their steps and walkways. This one experience made me a believer in Jahmal’s mission and organization.
I love how My Block My Hood My City works to build community and fosters interconnectedness through subversive, service-oriented ways. Want to build community? Sure, grab a shovel and help clear the sidewalks in your neighborhood after a big snowfall. Want to build community? Sure, grab a bag and some work gloves and help pick up trash around the neighborhood. Actively participate in any of these activities, but I urge you to follow Jahmal’s lead and step out of your comfort zone and help a fellow Chicagoan in a different zip code than your own. Seek out service opportunities and bring about some authentic change by fostering the tenet of interconnectedness that Jahmal Cole and My Block My Hood My City do every day.
When you work together and empathize with your neighbor, good things can happen. You find common ground and see that we all have more in common than anything that separates us. That’s at the bedrock of Jahmal’s work. I’m thankful for organizations like My Block My Hood My City, and I’m thankful that Chicago has Jahmal Cole. His vision is one of hope for our city and our state.
It’s time we all buy into that hope to make the world a better place.