Home  /  Chicago   /  Jahmal Cole: Transforming Chicago’s Neighborhoods One Block at a Time

Jahmal Cole: Transforming Chicago’s Neighborhoods One Block at a Time

By Courtney Alexander 

Chicago native and trailblazer Jahmal Cole discussed the adversities in his life that inspired his activism journey, revitalizing Black communities in Chicago, and his social impact organization, which transforms and renews the lives of the youth and elderly.

The mission statement of the notable Chicagoland non-profit organization My, Block, My Hood, My City is to inspire the youth, empower communities, and build a better world one block at a time.

My Block, My Hood, My City is a social impact organization founded in 2013 by Jahmal Cole, a devoted social justice advocate committed to building a more interconnected Chicago through service and education.

A Dream That Started Out In The Park

Cole is originally from the Northside of Chicago and grew up experiencing rough times during his childhood.

“I’m from a place called north Chicago, and I grew up on food stamps, so my mom would give me a food stamp, my brother a food stamp, my sister a food stamp,” Cole said. “And she would say, spend 10 cents each and bring $2.70 so I can buy some bleach.”

Basketball was a part of Cole’s upbringing, and he had hopes and dreams of playing in a pro league.

“I grew up loving the basketball courts because this is my place of refuge. I slept with my basketball, saying, ‘I’m going to the league, I’m going to the NBA,’ and getting out the hood. I grew up like most kids, wanting to play basketball or rap.” Cole said.

Playing basketball during college in Nebraska at Wayne State College was a life-changing experience for Cole.

“I went to college in Nebraska playing basketball. It took me around the world, and it all started in the park.” Cole said.

Despite experiencing difficult times, Cole was devoted to shaping a brighter future for himself and his community.  His life experiences inspired him to start his activism journey.

“I used to be homeless, so I lived in a shelter and ate with the volunteers. So, when I got older, I said when I have something to give back, I’m going to do it. If you do what you love, you start growing relationships with other people and walking in purpose,” Cole said.

M3: The Neighborhood’s Red Cross

M3, as his organization is also called, assists not only the youth in Chicago but also the senior community.

“My Block, My Hood, My City, we’re like the Red Cross of the neighborhood. Our mission is to take care of people no matter what. If there’s a snowstorm, we shovel the snow for seniors. If there’s a heatwave, we deliver water and fans to seniors,” Cole said.

“If there’s a rim being taken down in the neighborhood, we bring portable rims for kids to hoop. We’re all about being nimble and helping people however we can.”

Saving Streetball

Jahmal Cole with portable basketball hoops that he will employ for M3's "Save Streetball" campaign

Jahmal Cole with portable basketball hoops that he will employ for M3’s “Save Streetball” campaign (Credit: Facebook).

The City of Chicago has taken down basketball rims in various neighborhoods over the years, so the number of basketball courts has decreased.

“Some people feel if you take the basketball hoops down, then the community will be safer. Some neighborhoods put steering wheel locks on the rims, and some neighborhoods, like Cole Park, take the whole hoop off the backboard. Some neighborhoods take the pole out of the ground completely.” Cole said.

Cole’s “Save Streetball” campaign provides portable basketball hoops to youth who don’t have access to basketball courts in their neighborhood.

“The SaveStreetball campaign is if they’re taking down basketball rims in your area, we’ll bring portable hoops for your basketball. We’ll set up everything and barbecue for that community,” he said. “This summer, we’re setting up barbecues in Englewood, Roseland, Chatham, South Shore and anywhere rims are being taken down.”

Showing Chicago Teens Other Worlds And Cultures

M3 also strives to expose under-resourced youth to gain new life experiences in different environments.

“A lot of kids in Chicago have never been downtown. They have never waved for a taxi. They have never been on an elevator. They see Lake Michigan, and they say, ‘What ocean is that?’” Cole said. “What we do is take teenagers from under-resourced communities on educational field trips and expose them to different cultures, professions and cuisines.

Exposing the youth to different careers is vital to expanding their options. If you show kids better, they do better, Cole said.


“If there’s fifteen currency exchanges in your neighborhood and there are no banks, if you ask a kid, ‘What’s a job at a bank?’ They don’t know. We take those kids to banks, so they see all the jobs,” he said.


The youth participating in M3 programs also have the experience of traveling out of the state and gaining new life experiences.

“One of the most notable field trips is taking the kids to Traverse City, Michigan. A lot of kids have never left Chicago, but we take 15 students to Traverse City every year,” Cole said. When they get out there, they say, […] if you go somewhere you don’t have to look over your shoulder, you can actually be a kid and start riding the bike, playing volleyball, and having fun.”

Leaving ‘The Block’ In A Better Place

Cole is no stranger to accolades and accomplishments. He’s been featured in various publications and has received several awards, but receiving love from his community and empowering them is vital to him.

“The best accomplishment for me is when I’m at the gas station, and someone pulls out their cell phone and says, ‘Jahmal, can you talk to my son?’ He’s in a gang in the wrong direction. Just talk to him or text message him. That’s the biggest accomplishment for me.” Cole said.

Social justice is a driving factor for Cole, and he has a mission to do the right thing in his community by being a positive mentor and spreading light to others.

“My personal goal is to leave the block a better place than it was when I came,” Cole said. “To not wait for someone’s permission, not ask for permission to be a leader, and to try. […] I’m trying to be right when it comes to exposing kids, I’m trying to be right when it comes to forming block clubs, I’m trying to be right when it comes to hanging holiday lights. I’m trying to be right when it comes to being a positive mentor.”

Cole’s Other Mission: Becoming A Future Chicago Mayor

In his personal life, Cole strives to accomplish various goals, from his staff members’ reaching their goals at M3 to his legacy in Chicago.

“I want to see my team members win multiple awards. I want to be the Mayor of Chicago. I’ve been saying that for a while since I was young,” Cole said. “Not only do I want to be a mayor, I want to be a great mayor. I want to be the type of mayor that would go to middle and high schools […] speaking at those schools.”

Encouraging the youth and the Chicago community is the driving force for Cole.

“I want to arouse enthusiasm in the city. I want kids to look at me and say that dude came from a homeless shelter, so I know I can do it. I just hope God keeps a battery in my back giving me the energy. That’s my goal,” he said.

To Cole, a better and reformed Chicago is attainable by the community working together to make small changes that create something even bigger and more significant.

“Instead of waiting for big city government to fix things, I’d like them to ask themselves, what’s something simple I can do to make a difference? What could you do to make a difference on your block?” Cole said.

“Start small; if there’s 15 houses on this side of the street and 16 houses on that side of the street, can you form a block club? Can you pick up the trash? Can you clean up the alley?”

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.