As a driven red line rolled south on Saturday afternoon, it didn’t pick up or drop off passengers – unless you count the models strutting and dancing the aisles of the private train to songs from Dua Lipa, Beyoncé and others.
My Block, My Hood, My City hosted “Railways,” a Crosstown fashion show to promote the organization’s community-driven, youth-led summer clothing line.
Onlookers lined up a two-car CTA train that traveled between Howard and 95th / Dan Ryan Red Line stations as models flaunted letterman-style t-shirts, jackets and hoodies while singing and performing oral poetry.
Models prepared for their show ride in one car, while show attendees sit in another.
Jahmal Cole told the crowd his inspiration for creating My Block came from his time as a volunteer at the Cook County Jail.
Many inmates at the prison had never been downtown, taken a cab or taken an elevator, said Cole, 37. His mission is to help people from disadvantaged areas of the city to get around.
As part of this goal, the fashion show also highlighted the group’s Explorers program, which gives young people the chance to see different parts of the city and experience new things.
Cole said it had been his dream for years to host a Red Line fashion show, which he described as “the aorta in the heart of Chicago.”
“I always tell students to look up from their cell phones on the train and see what they can learn from the different sounds and sights around them,” Cole said.
Finding funding for the organization’s activities hasn’t always been easy, Cole said of seeking grants to support the group’s work.
“The only way to pay to take the kids on the trip was to sell hoodies and T-shirts,” Cole said.
Any profits made from the sales of the merchandise will be used to fund the group’s travel, Cole said.
Jamie Dillon, 35, a resident of Logan Square, said she came to the event to support an organization she admires for its community involvement.
“When I heard about the fashion show, I loved that it sort of fulfills their mission: to celebrate their brand, see what it’s all about and get around the city at the same time,” she declared.