Upward Bound Asst. Director Channing Redditt, Emily Morales, Exec. Dir. Jasmine Porter-Rallins and Briezth Morales during an Aug. 22 Douglas Park cleanup. | Lee Edwards/Contributor

The youth organization My Block My Hood My City galvanized volunteers to help beautify Douglas Park, 1401 S Sacramento Dr., on Aug. 22.

MBMHMC Founder Jahmal Cole said Douglass Park stood out to him, because of its proximity to multiple drug rehabilitation centers. He said he wanted to thank the rehabilitation centers for their efforts for serving the community.

“I’m an activist and if there’s a park that needs to be cleaned up in North Lawndale or Austin, (then) that matters to me in Chatham,” said Cole. “The city reflects who we are. We have a responsibility in what it is and if I truly believe in that, I’ll clean a park and pass out hoodies to the homeless. It’s just who I am.”

According to MBMHMC’s website, the organization describes itself as a “vessel to introduce Chicagoans to places in their city they’ve never seen or experience.”  Each month, the group takes interested young people on a “hidden exploration, visiting hidden gem businesses and artful intersections, uncovering communities and challenging preconceived notions.”

“We’ll come anywhere,” said Cole. “Whatever happens on your block matters to me and I want people to start thinking that way. I have a philosophy. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link then Chicago is only as strong as its most under sourced community.”

Cole secured a sponsorship with Gatorade who provided complimentary bottles of their signature beverage, energy bars and towels to volunteers who were armed with trash bags and gardening gloves to clean up the park with. 

Chicago Parks Foundation Manager of Community Outreach Angie Sorrentino was informed about MBMHMC through a colleague and followed up to arrange a joint event. She previously met at a CPF conference earlier this year. She said CPF is similar to MBMHMC in that it encourages people to visit parks throughout the city.

“When you drive past [Douglas Park] you might not see all the trash on the ground or the impact that this could really make,” said Sorrentino.

Roosevelt University’s Upward Bound Executive Director Jasmine Porter-Rallins said she learned about the Douglass Park clean-up from following Cole on Twitter. She was accompanied by Upward Bound Assistant Director Channing Redditt and two of their high school students, Emily Morales and Briezth Morales. Upward Bound is a college prep program that serves low-income high school students.

“We’re just trying to make our impact, put in our work, even if it’s small, in some kind of way,” said Porter-Rallins. “It may not seem like a lot, but if other people see people doing something it will encourage them as well.”

Redditt, a North Lawndale resident, said he felt good volunteering with MBMHMC to beautify the park.

“This is my neighborhood and it feels good to work the job I love with the people I love and clean it up to make it look nice for our community,” said Redditt. “One step at a time is what it’s going to take to put our community in a better direction. This is a great initiative; I’m glad we decided to support it and we look forward to seeing what’s to come.”