My Block, My Hood, My City Founder Moves to Beverly/Morgan Park 

By Olivia DeSmit  

Jahmal Cole and Brittney Autry-Cole are the perfect power couple 

Beverly/Morgan Park gained the addition of two community leaders this spring — and they happen to be married. While Jahmal Cole and Brittney Autry-Cole, and their infant son, moved to the neighborhood only a few months ago, many residents knew of them already. Cole is the founder of My Block, My Hood, My City and Autry-Cole is the founder of Cent(HER)ed Collective.   

My Block, My Hood, My City is a social impact organization with the mission of “taking care of people, no matter what.” Jahmal Cole has been in headlines countless times, including being named Activist of the Year by Chicago Reader in 2022, Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine in 2018 and Crain’s 40 Under 40 in 2019. The spotlight shouldn’t be on him, Cole said, but rather his organization and the work his team is doing to improve peoples’ lives.  

What began as school field trips to downtown Chicago for youth from divested neighborhoods now includes scholarships, international trips, block clubs and senior services, along with pretty much anything they’re asked of.  

“I used to have a lot of anxiety about if we were doing too much and how to fit it into our mission statement,” Cole said. “I was talking to David Simas, executive director of The Obama Foundation, and he said told me, ‘Jahmal, you take care of people no matter what.’ So that became our mission statement.” 

“If a meteor hit Chicago, tomorrow I’d be out there sweeping up meteor dust,” he said. “My team is great at rapid response — like the Red Cross of the hood, pretty much.”  

My Block, My Hood, My City currently partners with 15 schools for the Explorers Program and has helped form 72 block clubs, which meet monthly to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. In July, the M3 team took 1,000 students into the city for “Downtown Day,” where they toured the Field Museum, went on boat tours and went to the top of Willis Tower.  

“What’s it like to be a teenager in downtown Chicago with no money?” Cole asked. “We turned that on its head and provided each student with $50 to explore and it was 100% a success.”  

Another initiative Cole is passionate about is Save Street Ball, which provides basketball rims, goals and backboards for parks across Chicago.  

“There’s this belief in Chicago that if you take the basketball rims down, it will be safer,” he said. “But they’re not taking down soccer goals or volleyball nets. If the rims are up and 50 to 60 kids can play together, that can make neighborhoods safer.”  

Although Jahmal Cole’s organization may receive more press, Brittney Autry-Cole has a significant impact on communities, too. As founder and CEO of Cent(HER)ed Collective, Autry-Cole provides mental health support for Black women and girls, including therapy, retreats and a healing community. Autry-Cole also teaches as a professor and not only holds her doctorate in social work, but also two masters degrees — in social work and personality psychology.  

While residents know the draw of Beverly/Morgan Park, how did this couple choose our oasis to settle down in?  

Autry-Cole said though there were myriad reasons, ultimately what steered them here was safety, larger lots of land, the familial feel and schools in the area. Since moving to Beverly/Morgan Park, both Cole and Autry-Cole have fallen in love with the area, their neighbors and the lifestyle. Their 3-month-old son, Justice, put a slight hold on their love of travel, but he’s well worth it, they said. Their favorite local restaurant is Open Outcry. 

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