We had the good fortune of connecting with Jahkil Jackson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jahkil, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I did not realize that I would be starting a business. I was 5 when the thought entered my mind to figure out how to help homeless people. I was 8 when my family helped me actually start the organization. The thought came from being so young (5) and seeing the homeless and not understanding why they were out there, how come they had to sleep on the streets in dirt and wet/cold Chicago weather. So I guess my thought process was what can I do at my young age to make a difference.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Sometimes I sit and wonder how in the world did I end up here at just 12 years old? When I nagged my parents over and over again for countless months about helping people living on the street, I never thought my idea of putting together bags of basic essentials would lead me to being in the same room with President Obama where he named me one of 2017’s most influential people! After helping my aunt pass out hot food one bitter cold evening in Chicago when I was 5 years old, I knew immediately that I wanted to do something and 3 years later, Project I Am was born to help build awareness to the injustices on the streets throughout cities across the world. Blessing Bags filled by the hands of countless volunteers across the country include a variety of products including hygiene wipes, hand sanitizer, Band-Aids, antiseptic, soap, socks, bottled water, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bottled water and a nonperishable snack. The bags are small and easily transportable. To date, with the help of family and friends, I have been able to impact over 40,000 men, women and children across the world! The Blessing Bags have been given to people in places of hurricane devastation like Huston, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and have even been distributed to orphans in Africa. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, male or female, at some point in life everyone will need help. Project I Am gives to the homeless without any judgment of race or character. The only thing we see is the need to make someone’s day better by helping them along in their current situation. It is so important to me that we all understand that homeless people are people too. Most recently, I lead a collaboration with 40 kids from across the country, in 28 different cities to create the largest blessing bag packing party. Together, we made about 3,000 blessing bags for homeless people across the nation. Collectively, we showed the world that young people can make things happen! Too often, we are told to be quiet and to be still. I see beautiful in all youth. We are pretty amazing! Don’t Wait To Be Great is my motto! Another part of the Project I Am mission is to create youth change-makers. I encourage youth from all different backgrounds and cultures tto help make their communities better by doing good in their neighborhood.

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I would take a friend to the funnest arcades, restaurants, best basketball gym and sneaker shops in the city! Everyone has to check out Navy Pier. I love this place because there are so many things to do and the scenery is amazing. We would ride the Farris wheel, eat cup cakes at Brown Sugar Bakery and take a boat ride. I would also take my friend to eat at Grand Lux, best chicken strips ever! We would also have to hit up Garrets Popcorn for the cheese and Carmel mix. I would recommend hooping at Quest Gym, that’s where lots of NBA players have trained. We have to go to Dave & Busters for all of the fun arcade games, but we could also visit Lucky Strike on Illinois street because they have bowling, ping pong, pool table AND an arcade, PLUS there is a full movie theater there too. Lastly we would have to visit the Nike store, DTLR on 87th Dan Ryan and Villa in Hyde Park to check out some sneakers.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to shout out both of my parents Na-Tae’ & Jamiel and my grandmother (GG). They help me with everything that I do with the organization.

Instagram: @officialprojectiam
Linkedin: Jahkil Jackson
Twitter: _ProjectIAm
Youtube: Jahkil Naeem

Image Credits
Steve Wetherbee Socko Na-Tae’ Thompson

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