About the Candidate
Name: Jahmal Cole
DOB: July 15, 1983
Occupation: Founder and CEO, My Block, My Hood, My City
Political Experience: N/A
My name is Jahmal Cole and I’m a candidate for U.S. Congress in the 1st District, Illinois.
I’ve been in this race from the jump. I wasn’t waiting for somebody to pass a baton. A lot of folks see this seat as a career move. For me, this is the next way that I saw to show up for people. My past and my history has been showing up for people.
I showed up in 2009 as a volunteer at the Cook County Jail. I was writing rap lyrics with the young men as a form of therapy.
I showed up in 2013 when I started My Block, My Hood, My City, one of the most impactful nonprofit organizations in the state. We take teenagers from the lowest-performing schools on educational field trips. We proved to them the world doesn't end on the corner of your block.
I showed up throughout the pandemic when 8,000 seniors, literally 8,000 seniors reached out to my organization. We connected them to primary healthcare physicians. We did contact tracing, shipped PPE. I show up for local businesses when they were closing down, we started a small business relief fund and raised $2 million in one day. And we gave that money out to hundreds of businesses throughout the Chicagoland area. I saw the impact.
I show up every winter for seniors. I’m shoveling sidewalks to make sure folks can get out there home safely. I show up every summer for seniors and I'm delivering air filters and fans and water. I've done all this showing up without ever running for an office. I wasn't waiting for votes.
Now I see being in U.S. Congress as a way to scale up and help more people. The problems in Chicago require bigger solutions. We cannot just non-profit our way out and we need help. I’m running for us Congress to get the resources, to solve problems, and be a partner in federal government for nonprofits that need help, for activists that need help.
I have a track record of showing up and helping people on the block level, listening to them and delivering what they need. But don’t just believe in what I say, believe in what I've done. I’ve done all this showing up without the privilege of an elected office. Imagine what it's going to be like with somebody like me in a seat.
Why are you running?
I’m running for this office because the problems we face in this district are too urgent for us to keep sitting patiently, waiting for change. I got into this race when it wasn’t easy, and when it took courage because 800 people dying from gun violence every year is 800 too many. I know that everyone, from our youth to our seniors, deserve better. They deserve someone who is going to take a stand with integrity for them, advocate for them, and work with them to make sure we deliver the resources this district needs. I have a history of showing up for people, and that passion and energy is what I can bring to this office that other candidates can’t.
What does this office do well, and what needs fixing?
There is a legacy of building coalitions and collective action that is unique to this district. This has been a seat that represents the collective power of so many, and it’s important that we have someone interested in using collective action and the power of the people to govern. So often our elected leaders get to Washington and forget about the knowledge that the people in the district have, and how important their voice is in crafting solutions. As the candidate who has founded and developed one of the most impactful social impact organizations, I know what the people need because that’s who I talk to every day. I am out, shoveling snow for our seniors, taking our youth on field trips, and delivering grants to our businesses, all the time. Having conversations with the people most directly impacted by policies is what I do, all the time. That’s what we need to fix in government. We need to make it accountable to the people it affects, and give them a seat at the table when we make decisions.
What is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?
The most pressing issue for our constituents is gun violence. Every year, we lose so many people to gun violence. Just a few weeks ago my cousin was killed from gun violence. I personally have experienced gun violence too, so I know first hand the trauma you have to live with afterwards. When we talk about gun violence though, we need to make sure that we are understanding the root causes, and actively investing resources in the district to prevent those conditions. On day one, I plan to introduce the Root Causes of Gun Violence Act, which creates a federal program to invest in nonprofits, businesses, education and mental health professionals to eliminate the root causes of gun violence. This piece of legislation is going to bring together leaders from within the community, invest in our people, and help us end gun violence. We also need to pass common sense gun laws. From closing the “boyfriend loophole” to universal background checks, I will be one of the loudest advocates for these reforms in Congress.
What specific steps would you take to ensure your office is accessible and responsive to your constituents?
Accessibility is one of the most important things for me when elected. I plan to be the Congressman who gives the halftime speech for our high school basketball teams, who meets with community organizers regularly, and attends Sunday service at my church when I’m home. I am one of the youngest candidates in this race, and I plan to use my energy, background, and enthusiasm to make sure that my constituents have access to me. As someone who has spent time working with youth, it’s important to me that we use technology to engage young people, and people of all ages, to help them understand what representatives do, and how they can get involved. This creates a direct line of communication between my office and constituents that could increase engagement and accessibility. Finally, I know exposure is important in helping young people understand opportunities that are outside of their block and their comfort zone. As a congressman, it is one of my goals to bring youth from the First District to DC, engage them in conversations about issues that affect their lives, and show them how government works. My nonprofit (My Block, My Hood, My City) already does this type of work, so it would mean so much to me if I could bring young people into the conversation that way.