I started My Block, My Hood, My City because a group of teenagers at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center told me they'd never been downtown Chicago. Even though they could see the SEARS Tower from their porches, they'd never really explored beyond their blocks and neighborhoods. I knew immediately that I had to do something to provide teenagers with access to new opportunities. Last weekend, I took two South Side Teenagers up North, to visit the Wicker Park community.
The first stop of our exploration was Santullo's Eatery; where we ate a New York Style Pizza in Chicago. When we arrived, Dre, a senior from Englewood, pointed out that there weren't any black people in Wicker Park......Right as he said that, a black man walked into Santullos. I thought that was pretty funny.
Both Dre and Noah kept laughing at the sound of Heavy Metal Music playing in the background. It's different from the music they're accustomed to listening to. Dre summed up our first stop by saying, "The Pizza was good, but it don't got nothing on Giorodono's."
The next stop of our exploration was "The Silver Room" a store front, gathering place, event space, juice bar and artist gallery located at 1422 N. Milwaukee Ave. The Silver Room is owned by Eric, a fellow South-Sider. Eric, talked to Noah and Dre about the value of education and what it takes to start a business.
Noah asked Eric if he should attend college in Texas or Indiana. Eric told him to go to College in Texas, because he'll be too far away to come home every other weekend. When Noah wasn't around, Eric explained that he was putting the "Jumper Cables" to Noah; he wanted to spark his interest in travel. Eric also believes in the power of travel, he's traveled to nearly 30 countries.
Overall, I thought the trip was powerful. I accomplished what I set out to accomplish; giving teenagers an opportunity to see a new and exciting aspect of their city. When you show a teenager that there is something to dream about, they will be more likely to aspire toward that dream. By taking teenagers outside of their comfort zones, but right next door in their own city, they can see what Chicago has to offer, and experience a different perspective that will awaken ownership and pride in them. It's like Eric, the owner of the Silver Room says, "Jahmal, I really like what you're doing. Keep putting the jumper cables to these teenagers."