As a Red Line train rolled south Saturday afternoon it wasn’t picking up and dropping off passengers — unless you count the models that strutted and danced down the aisles of the privately chartered train to hit songs by Dua Lipa, Beyoncé and others.
My Block, My Hood, My City was hosting “Railways,” a crosstown fashion show to promote the youth-led, community-minded organization’s summer clothing line of branded gear.
Spectators lined a CTA two-car train that traveled between the Howard to 95th/Dan Ryan Red Line stations as models displayed T-shirts, letterman-style jackets and hoodies while singing and performing spoken word poetry.
Models prepared for their runway stroll in one car, while attendees of the show sat in another.
Jahmal Cole told the crowd his inspiration for founding My Block came from his time as a volunteer at the Cook County Jail.
Many detainees at the jail had never been downtown, taken a taxi or rode in an elevator, said Cole, 37. He made it his mission to help people from under-resourced areas of the city get out and about.
As part of that goal, the fashion show also shined a light on the group’s Explorers Program, which provides opportunities for young people to see different parts of the city and experience new things.
Cole said it’s been his dream for years to hold a fashion show on the Red Line, which he described as the “aorta into the heart of Chicago.”
“I always tell the students to look up from their cell phone on the train and see what they can learn from the different sights and sounds around them,” Cole said.
Coming up with 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 we could pay for taking kids on trips was to sell hoodies and T-shirts,” Cole said.
All proceeds made on the sales of the merchandise will go to fund the group’s trips, Cole said.
Logan Square resident Jamie Dillon, 35, said she came to the event to support an organization she admires for their community engagement.
“When I heard about the fashion show, I loved that it kind of fulfilled their mission, to get to celebrate their brand and see what they’re about and also move through the city at the same time,” she said.