Black Lives Matter activist hopes to open youth center

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Ja’Mal Green talks about plans for a youth center in the Bronzeville neighborhood. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Just barely 21, Ja’Mal Green — one of the most recognizable faces of the Black Lives Matter movement in Chicago — is making a career transition of sorts.

Green — who describes himself as an activist, entertainer and consultant — announced plans Tuesday to open a youth center on East 43rd Street in the Bronzeville neighborhood, targeting youth from 12 to 24 years old.

“We’re going to guide them through school and make sure they’re ready to go to college,” said Green, who is still working on his own college degree. “We’re going to teach them the tools they need to be successful, instead of walking around in the streets and hanging with their friends, with nothing to do, in survival mode.”

Green and his young associates — as well as a number of professionals who’ve agreed to help — plan to set up shop next month in a soon-to-be vacated facility.

They don’t have much money, which explains the press conference Tuesday.

“So far, we have a few thousand dollars,” Green said with a sheepish grin. “It’s something. We need to raise about $47,000. This is the first time we’re announcing it to the world.”

Despite his youth, Green points out that he started in his chosen field at a young age.

“I’ve been doing work in the community for years,” he said. “I opened up my own company at 15 years old, and I was traveling the country at 15 years old, and talking to schools booking me all over the country.”

Green has made a name for himself in recent months, appearing on TV news shows, calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign in the wake of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

In July, Green was arrested and charged with assaulting Chicago Police officers during a protest at Taste of Chicago. He’s pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains free on $350,000 bond while he awaits trial.

To learn more about the planned youth center, go to

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