Unexpected Athlete: Jahmal Cole
Meet Jahmal Cole, who intersects sports and culture to benefit underserved Chicago youth. We are ecstatic to have him on our Wilson Sportswear Advisory Staff.
Jahmal Cole puts in the work to make his childhood neighborhood—Chicago’s south side—a place of community and inclusion for the people who live there. While growing up in an underserved environment where youth dream of success through football, basketball, or rapping, Jahmal set his sights on the NBA. After he graduated from college, he worked at the Cook County jail, where he sought firsthand information about how these youth landed there. They would tell him, “I’m a product of my environment; I’m a victim of my circumstances; I grew up in the ‘hood.”
Jahmal says, “My college coach taught me how to overcome those excuses. I knew now that the reason I spent four years practicing basketball was to teach me to teach others. If you show people better, they can do better.”
Jahmal turned that coaching experience outward to youth who felt that they were victims of their environments and had little chance of success given their roots. He correctly believed that exposure to the larger world would spark their desire to rise above their circumstances. It was with this conviction that Jahmal started MY BLOCK MY HOOD MY CITY: a non-profit organization with a mission “to inspire youth, empower communities, and build a better world one block at a time.”
Through MY BLOCK MY HOOD MY CITY, or M3, youth citizens leave their comfort zone and gain a greater understanding of the world through exploring new communities, cultures, and cuisines. The organization is building a generation of role models taking responsibility for their communities through fitness, senior services, block clubs, and special events like 5k runs and community volunteer work.
The organization employs a “rise to the occasion” services model; it responds to immediate neighborhood needs. If there’s a snowstorm, they’ll shovel people out. If there’s a heatwave, they’ll distribute fans. They respond to looting by raising money for small businesses, and part of their pandemic response was connecting seniors to primary care physicians and distributing PPE.
Jahmal also pays attention to less practical but equally impactful acts of community service. When asked in an interview from December of 2020 what he thought people needed the most right then, he answered, "Hope. H.O.P.E. I don't know if you've noticed, but there's a deficit of hope in Chicago." Jahmal's organization spent a lot of time hanging Christmas lights on King Drive, providing a counterpoint to the billboards and police sirens in that area of Chicago.
Jahmal inspires Wilson’s Sportswear designers by his physicality and his leadership. He is very active and often switches environments several times a day, so his clothing needs to adapt accordingly. As a CEO, he needs to look good, and as an athlete, he needs to feel good and move well. Jahmal’s input will inform our designs with the same kind of inspiration he brings to his block, his neighborhood, and his city. He is grateful to be partnering with Wilson, but we are more grateful to be partnering with him.