CHICAGO — Activist Ja'Mal Green is hoping to turn a newly bought Auburn Gresham building into a youth center by the end of this year.
Green, who has protested violence and police brutality, has spent months raising money for the Majostee Allstars Youth Center. He hopes the center can become a spot where locals learn about opening businesses, drop their kids off for day care or express themselves at concerts and open mic nights.
The center, 7919 S. Ashland Ave., will also offer mental health services and mentoring opportunities.
"That's what Majostee Allstars is all about, is telling our young people in these communities you may have ... a lack of investment in your community, but no matter where you're from you can still be something and you can still have hope," Green said.
Green and his supporters bought the 12,500-square-foot building, which has been vacant for several years and was most recently a church, last week, he said.
They're still fundraising as they renovate the building, but Green plans to have the center open and providing some services later this year or in 2018. They're looking to raise another $400,000 to cover the costs of the center's "first phase": getting the building's front and first floor open and running.
Ultimately, Green plans to raise $1 million to renovate and use every floor at the center.
Majostee Allstars supporters had been looking at several buildings before buying the one at 79th and Ashland. They chose that one because Green said the area has "heightened crime" that the center could help combat.
It's also a spot that sees a lot of traffic from black Chicagoans who the center could serve, Green said.
There's "so much traffic and so much going on that [the center] was needed right there in the heart of 79th and Ashland," Green said.
The center will offer help for everyone in the area: Adults will be able to learn about real estate, opening businesses and developing their credits, while there will be after-school programs, a theater program and day care for kids.
The center will also partner with a company that is offering a life coach who can talk to kids about their problems, Green said.
"The mental health piece is big to us because ... that's a big issue that's plaguing our communities," Green said. "The violence rate in that area will decrease because of all these different things, and more people will be able to address their mental health problems, as well."
The center's name — Majostee Allstars — will even serve as encouragement, Green said: "Majostee," like "majesty," will empower people by reminding them they are queens and kings, and "Allstars" will tell them "they can be anything."
How to Help the Youth Center
• Send PayPal donation to MajosteeAllstars@gmail.com
• Mail check to St. Sabina, 1210 W. 78th place. Make it out to "Majostee Allstars."