Food & Drink

Chicago Activist Wants to Light Up King Drive for the Holidays, but He Needs Help Doing It

Jahmal Cole is looking for donations and volunteers to help hang them from 51st to 103rd Streets this month

A Chicago activist wants you to be a part of the light this holiday season. 

Jahmal Cole, founder of My Block My Hood My City, wants to "bring spirit and cheer to the historic Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive" in Chicago by stringing lights along the street in a festive holiday display. But he can't do it alone. 

Cole is looking for donations and volunteers to help hang them from 51st to 103rd Streets this month. 

Residents along the street can sign up to receive lights this winter season along with a $25 subsidy for their electric bills. 

Here's what he had to say about the idea: 

1. How did you get the idea to do this?

The seed of the idea came from my desire to create a model of community service that engages with citywide problems on the most basic level- the block, where the compounded effect of doing small things (fixing road signs, cleaning back alleys, hosting holiday celebrations) can lead to larger waves of change.

Initially, I wanted to hang holiday lights just on a few blocks along King Drive, but the surrounding block clubs and residents associations responded positively to what we wanted to do, and many of them eagerly jumped on board to support the idea and expand its scope.

2. What is your vision of the event?

I envision Chicagoans from all over coming together to bring some hope to an area that could use it. I can’t wait to see the kids faces when the first lights turn on. Instead living everyday under the militarized presence of blue light cameras and helicopter search lights flashing in their neighborhoods, they’ll get to see a rainbow of holiday lights. I see people energized and celebrating an injection of optimism in their community. Instead of living in a deficit of hope, my vision is to provide them with a glimmer of hope.

3. What do you need?

We’re grateful for all the lights and donations we received so far, but financial material resources are still needed, but that also has to be complimented by people contributing their mind, presence and time.

4. What is your hope in terms of impact?

We like to talk a lot about impact as what happens after the event, but I think what goes on at the event will be impactful in of itself. This goes beyond making kids smile or giving neighborhoods optimism. My Block My Hood My City is about breaking down the barriers that divide us as Chicagoans. The impact will be getting people from Chicago’s various neighborhoods in one place, to have them interact with each other on a human level, and to build something together.

5. What’s next?

We have to find ways to build off the momentum of lighting up King Drive. Community service a lot of times seems to be about one-off large events, and I want to move away from that model, which is why the lights are going up over a period of three weeks. Small actions compound into larger waves of change. We not only [need] to ignite people's passion of service, but we need to make sure that energy gets channeled into a sustained dedication to volunteerism throughout the city.

If you’d like to volunteer your time or if you’re a homeowner along King Drive, and like your house to be lit up, go to My Block, My Hood, My City's website or show up on the following dates between 2 and 4 p.m.:

• Dec. 8

80th Street to 87th Street

• Dec. 9

51st Street to 60th Street

• Dec. 15

87th Street to 95th Street

Each tree lighting event will include hot cocoa, coffee, food and drink donations from local businesses, holiday music and lots of positive energy.

Contact Us