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Chicago Homeless Rally Hosted by 'My Block, My Hood, My City' Group Sunday

By Josh McGhee | February 1, 2016 8:34am
 The rally was Sunday at the Wilson Avenue viaduct near Lake Shore Drive.
The rally was Sunday at the Wilson Avenue viaduct near Lake Shore Drive.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — Mark Coffee's perception of the North Side changed as he rallied, shared hoodies, and ate with the homeless in Uptown Sunday.

The 14-year-old traveled from Roseland to the viaduct near Lake Shore Drive and Wilson Avenue with the youth advocacy group My Block, My Hood, My City. The program, which was founded by Jahmal Cole, takes teens from the South and West sides to visit neighborhoods they normally wouldn't.

"I thought you had to be at least middle-class to be up here, but there's a whole bunch of homeless people people living right there," Coffee said, standing a few feet from where the homeless sleep under the viaduct known as Tent City. "It makes me feel bad because it's like there's not enough people who care. It's new to me because I've never been up here."

Normally, the trips showcase different cultures of neighborhoods, but Sunday's "interconnectivity" rally was about serving the underserved in the community. In October, the group took about 20 kids from Pullman and Roseland to Edgewater to make jewelry, visit a frozen custard shop and eat Ethiopian food. And in December, the group explored Pilsen.

"A lot of times in Chicago, we see people who are isolated. They have an illusion of security. If you live on the North Side of Chicago, it's assumed that you have money. Well, this is the North Side, and there’s a homeless epidemic going on. And it should matter to you if you live in Roseland," said Cole, who spent parts of his childhood homeless in Texas and Chicago.

"I remember telling my friends in school to drop me off at the corner because I was embarrassed that I stayed at a homeless shelter. I remember walking around looking for quarters," Cole said. "With My Block, My Hood, My City, we're always taking our explorers around and doing activities. We’re always giving. They’re always getting things. Today, we want to make positive deposits in our life."

Activist braved the rain and cold Sunday at the My Block, My Hood, My City rally in Uptown. {DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

Along with providing hoodies for the homeless, organizers shared meals from African Restaurant at 1027 W. Wilson Ave. Cole said he hoped the rally, which was about 2 p.m., would help Chicago residents take pride in the entire city, instead of just the block or community area where they live.

"Outside Chicago you might say I'm from Chicago, but inside Chicago, we isolate ourselves in accordance to these geographical community boundaries," Cole said.

"What's happening on Wilson Avenue should matter to us even though we live on 79th Street. I always tell people a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and Chicago is only as strong as its most underresourced community. In this innerconnected Chicago that I envision, all 77 community areas are going to contribute to the music of the city. The residents of Uptown will play the timpani, the residents of the Gold Coast will play the symbols, the residents of Woodlawn will play the xylophone," he said.

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