CHATHAM — A new push for interconnectivity is bringing together the city while promoting local businesses at the same time.
Jahmal Cole, the founder of the My Block, My Hood, My City group, is planning a rally in the Pilsen neighborhood for Dec. 13. His group takes young people from poorer neighborhoods to more affluent communities. In October, a group from Pullman and Roseland visited Edgewater.
Cole is encouraging residents from all over Chicago to come to the rally and connect with others. The group will meet at Plaza Tenochtitlan at 18th and S. Loomis Streets at 11 a.m. and walk west to Cafe Jumping Bean for coffee then eat lunch at LA Fogata Village, 1820 S. Ashland Ave. Free lunch will be given to the first 50 people who attend the rally.
“The goal is to open doors between communities, rally for a more interconnected Chicago,” Cole said.
A previous rally kicked off in the Chatham community Nov. 7. Participants met in the Pride Cleaners parking lot, 558 E. 79th St. and spoke about unity. They marched east from St. Lawrence to Cottage Grove avenues. People held signs with a neighborhood name on the front. As they marched, they chanted, “My Block, My Hood, My City.”
After the rally, the group ate lunch at Captain Hard Times Dining, 436 East 79th St. The business has been in the neighborhood for almost 50 years.
Pilsen resident, Louis Uhler, 27, who came out Nov 7, said he supports Cole’s mission and wanted to be a part of the movement.
“If you really care about your city, you should go to all the different areas,” Uhler said. “It’ll give you a better understanding.”
He said people might care more about residents in other communities if they’re exposed to them. “If you care more about it, maybe you’re going to do something,” he said.
Jefferson Park resident Magdalena Huk marched with the group in Pilsen and, as the owner of Dzika Fitness Ltd., said she wants to do whatever she can to help Cole’s mission. She has plans to bring a group to her studio and then introduce them to Polish food.
Huk came to the U.S. in 1989 unable to speak English. After working hard she was able to get her business started. She also produces Dzika Mania, a Polish radio show that plays on 1030AM WNVR.
“I came to this country and I know it’s possible to have a regular life,” she said. “It’s not necessary to have a rich life.”
Huk said it’s important for youth to be exposed to new neighborhoods and meet business owners because it shows them that they can have a different life if they choose.
City Treasurer Kurt Summers made an appearance and said he has been following Cole’s work and wanted to show support.
“The strength of Chicago is in the neighborhoods and I think what [Cole is] doing here, in trying to highlight that and highlight neighborhood businesses, well, I couldn’t support more,” he said.
Summers, who grew up in Bronzeville, said he is exploring ways that the city can help Cole.
“I want to help him figure out how to make this sustainable,” Summers said. “I think young people are getting excited about it. Neighborhoods are getting excited about it, so it’s our obligation when we see programs like this working, to find ways to support them.”
Takala Welch, 60, of Bronzeville, believes that becoming a more connected city will help reduce gun violence.
“I support anything that will help bring some peace to Chicago and help our children to feel safe,” she said. “Who knows, this march may end up in Springfield fighting legislation.”
Cole said his movement is a way to eliminate the city’s violence.
“Somebody has to stand up,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m superman. I’m just trying to arouse the enthusiasm of my community and the people here. I think that’s the first step towards making change is standing up and saying, 'I want change.' I’m tired of talking about it. This march is about doing, so that’s what we’re trying to show.”
After Pilsen, Cole is looking at other neighborhoods such as Englewood.
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