When the residents of the North Lawndale community needed more space for an after school arts program, they looked no further than a vacated fire station located at 2111 S. Hamlin Ave. Led by Pastor Phil Jackson, the Firehouse Community Art Center is seeking to uncover and develop the gifts and strengths of North Lawndale's youth and young adult residents.
I have the pleasure of serving on the Steering Committee of the State of Black Chicago Congress with the 32nd President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Bobbi Steele. She is a great leader and I'm proud to call her a Mentor. We met at the Green Tomato Cafe, and we spoke about making the jump from Community Activist to Politician, (I hesitate to use the word jump because democracy is something I view from a community level outward, instead of a city level inward). In Commissioner Steele's case though, I'll use the word "jump" because she elevated the entire City of Chicago when she was elected in 1986. She was even endorsed by the late great Mayor Harold Washington. I told Commissioner Steele that I feel like everybody's trying to be something, (Alderman, Senator, Commissioner, State Rep), I'm just trying to be the best Jahmal Cole I can be. She told me not to forget that. I really like Commissioner Bobbi Steele. Real recognizes real, and she looks very familiar.
What stood out to me about North Lawndale was the overwhelming presence of the Criminal Justice system in the community. From my fish out of water perspective, it seemed like the residents were desensitized to the aesthetics of poverty. I wonder too if the sight of police officers will be the defining social structure North Lawndale residents lives. Squad cars were everywhere. Blue lights were everywhere. It was quite offensive, in my opinion.
The beauty of North Lawndale is definitely the people. Folks like Cliff Nellis, Lead Attorney at the Lawndale Christian Legal Center take on Super Hero personas in this community area. If you have time, you should check out one of his presentations on Restorative Justice. Oh, and K-Town doesn't stand for Killville or Killer Town. North Lawndale is nicknamed K-Town because many of the street names begin with the letter K. (I just wanted to say that)!