Jahmal Cole is on a mission to change the conversation about the South Side of Chicago.
He runs an organization called My Block My Hood My City that is focused on introducing teenagers from the South Side to the many other cultural elements the city has to offer.
“Their whole worldview is shaped by the infrastructure of their under-resourced communities,” he says. “So I take teenagers from these communities on field trips and expose them to different cultures, professions and cuisines.”
But Cole also wants the world to know about all the South Side has to offer, so he showed CNN some of his favorite spots:
Explore the Robie House
The Robie House is on the University of Chicago campus in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the South Side. This Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was completed in 1910 and has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the most significant structures of the 20th century,
It is an exceptional example of the famed architect’s Prairie style that was inspired by the flat Midwest landscape. The home, originally occupied by Frederick C. Robie, is now a US National Historic Landmark.
Guided tours are available to the public, allowing visitors to see the many fascinating architectural features of the iconic house, including its horizontal, cantilevered roofs, its hard-to-find front door and the signature stained glass that’s carried from the windows into the living spaces.
Take a peek at the Obama Kissing Rock
At the intersection of 53rd Street and South Dorchester in Hyde Park, you’ll find the Obama Kissing Rock. There is a plaque here that commemorates the spot as the place where President Obama shared a first kiss with his future wife, Michelle Robinson.
This happy moment occurred in 1989, when a Baskin-Robbins was on the site and the couple went out for some ice cream on their first date.
The plaque, which has been attached to a large boulder since 2012, offers the following quote from President Obama: “On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.”
Tuck into some comfort food at Valois
The 53rd Street corridor in Hyde Park is a business district that has been revitalized in recent years, thanks to a partnership between the city and the University of Chicago.
Valois, an American comfort food restaurant, has had tremendous staying power through it all. Valois opened in 1921 and still serves daily specials like baked chicken, steak and spaghetti, along with a variety of other hearty items.
The restaurant was a favorite of President Obama’s when he lived in Chicago, and he ate there in January before giving his 2017 farewell speech.
His usual order was egg whites, turkey sausage, hash browns, wheat toast and tea, according to Gianni Colamussi, a manager at the restaurant. There’s even a section of the menu called “President Obama’s favorites.”
Get some fresh air at Promontory Point
For those who like to get outdoors, Promontory Point is a great location to take in views of downtown Chicago from the Lake Michigan waterfront.
Part of Burnham Park, named for famous Chicago architect and planner Daniel H. Burnham, Promontory Point was designed by Alfred Caldwell in the mid-1930s.
The peninsula juts out into the lake and is a frequent spot for locals looking for somewhere to take a walk and enjoy the fresh air and views. It’s also a popular wedding destination for Chicagoans.
Grab a bite at Captain’s Hard Time
Chatham is a neighborhood on the South Side that is home to many successful African-American-owned businesses. One of these is the restaurant Captain’s Hard Time, also known as Josephine’s Cooking, on bustling 79th Street.
Owner Josephine Wade, known as Mother Wade to locals, opened the restaurant about 30 years ago. The beloved spot has run into some trouble in recent years as business has slowed down, but it remains open.
The walls inside are lined with photographs of people who have played important roles in African-American history, both nationally and locally. One of the most popular dishes is the chicken and waffles, but there are many other soul food offerings such as catfish and grits, ham hocks, shrimp bisque and oxtails.