At a recent meeting of the social justice committee at my church, St. Peter’s UCC in Elmhurst, IL, I was asked to look into the organization My Hood, My Block, My City. While perusing the organization’s website I noted the board chairman listed at the time was Will Hobert of principal trading group WH Trading.
I did not know Hobert, but knew of him and WH Trading, so I figured he was my in to learn more about M3, as the organization is called. After connecting with Hobert, I asked if he would do an interview; he suggested a joint interview with him and Jahmal Cole, the founder of M3.
M3 is a Chicago success story for social and racial justice that was spawned from the drive of its founder, the support of Will Hobert and WH Trading and being in the right place at the right time doing the right things. M3 is meeting important needs in Chicago and is creating a model that may expand to other cities around the world.
Cole’s success with M3 led to his being honored by the Chicago Reader with the 2022 Activist of the Year Award. DePaul University bestowed upon him a 2023 honorary doctorate degree in humanities, and he was given an honorary doctorate degree in humanities and philanthropy from Adler University. He was named one of the 25 most powerful Chicagoans by Crain’s Magazine.
Hobert met Cole when WH Trading was moving buildings and the firm needed some strong bodies to move some boxes. Hobert’s systems administration team hired Cole and a couple of other guys to help with the move, but Cole’s work ethic and effort stood out so much that Hobert’s team wanted to hire Cole full-time. Cole showed up early, worked hard and stayed late.
When Hobert asked what Cole knew about computers and system administration, the answer was nothing. But that can be taught, and Cole was sent to classes to acquire the knowledge, skills and certifications to become a systems administrator for WH Trading. Cole enjoyed tremendous support from Hobert and the WH team to accomplish these goals, Cole said.
One day Hobert asked Cole to accompany him down to the Cook County Jail as part of the UCAN volunteer program helping youth behind bars. Before joining WH Trading, Cole had been a community activist and sold books he had written and self published. This experience of working with the youth at the jail in the UCAN program touched Cole and he wanted to show them there was a world beyond their “hood,” as they called it.
Cole started by taking some youth downtown to Giardanos for lunch and a tour of WH Trading’s offices. Cole wanted to do this on a bigger scale for more youth and that led him to leave WH Trading and begin the process of forming M3.
Cole entered an entrepreneurial contest and won a $50,000 prize that gave a jump start to M3. All along the way, Hobert offered his assistance, serving on the M3 board of directors and offering financial support as well. But more importantly, Hobert offered Cole mentoring every step of the way, from the time M3 was a two man operation to the 20-person operation it is today.
These two men fed off of each other’s skills, drive, experiences and desire to help other people. This is my interview with Will Hobert and Jahmal Cole of WH Trading and My Hood, My Block, My City about the founding of the organization, what it does, and the power of these two men’s relationship.