Jahmal Cole is the founder of My Block, My Hood, My City, a nonprofit that encourages the exploration of Chicago neighborhoods.
Its flagship Explorers Program takes teenagers from underserved communities on citywide trips to expose them to different cultures and cuisines and make them aware of opportunities they don’t see in their own neighborhoods.
He got the idea as a volunteer at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, where he encountered detainees from the South and West sides of the city who had never been downtown.
“Segregation promotes social economic isolation and exclusion,” he told Blue Sky in 2016. “A lot of what they think is possible is shaped by a few blocks.”
Money from apparel sales on the website helps fund the educational field trips. Cole’s program has received a $50,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation and $30,000 in goods and services from the Mazda Drive for Good campaign.
Cole is also big on volunteerism. During a February 2018 snowstorm, he used social media to recruit volunteers to shovel for seniors on Chicago’s South Side. The effort drew national attention and got 65 volunteers from 40 neighborhoods.