CHICAGO (WLS) -- When activist Jahmal Cole was volunteering at the Cook County Jail, the students did not want to hear him speak. In order to connect with them he started asking what neighborhood they were from.
"Kids would be like my block is 21st Street or my hood is the Low End," Cole said.
He wondered, and went on to ask them, why they say "my block" and "my hood" like they owned something, but not beyond that.
"Why don't you say my city?" he wanted to know.
"This ain't my city," the kids told him. "Ain't no Black people downtown."
Cole asked the students who among them had actually been downtown. No one answered.
Sitting inside the Cook County Jail, able to see the Sears Tower from where he was, Cole had an epiphany: If he could show students a world that exists outside their block, they won't get caught up in the wrong circles and eventually end up in jail.
That's when Cole started his organization, My Block My Hood My City.
ABC 7 Chicago spent a day with Cole in the Chatham neighborhood to see how he believes we can change Chicago for the better one block at a time.
Cole starts each morning by running through his South Side neighborhood to see how he needs to organize, clean up or change. Whether it's picking up trash, shoveling for seniors or donating PPE during COVID-19, Cole lives his life by these 15 words: "What's something simple I can do that will have a positive impact on my block?"
"If you do something simple in Pilsen, I do something simple in Chatham, somebody do something simple in Uptown, we're all creating these ripples and they can come together and create a wave of hope in Chicago," Cole said.
For more information on My Block My Hood My City visit their website www.formyblock.org.
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