On the face of it, Chicago should be a thriving multi-cultural city. The population is roughly split between white, black and Hispanic communities. However, look a little closer and it soon becomes apparent that there’s a great gulf between rich and poor. This is typified and often categorised by the number of segregated neighbourhoods there are in the city. Indeed, eighteen have over ninety percent black populations. Whilst the Windy City might be booming, that doesn’t mean prosperity is spread equally.
People doing well in poorer neighbourhoods tend to move out with investment largely ends up being targeted towards the more affluent areas. Poverty, stigmatisation and lack of education and job opportunities drive crime. Jahmal Cole is trying to make a difference. He has dedicated his life to helping teenagers across the relatively impoverished south and west sides of the city. Through My Block, My Hood, My City he has helped countless young people. Jason Polevoi’s documentary, A Tiny Ripple of Hope, follows a year in his life.
A Tiny Ripple of Hope is an example of the success and limitations of what can be achieved when someone dedicates their life to helping others. However, there is no happy Hollywood ending; this is real life. For twelve years Jahmal has focused on helping others, often at the detriment to his own situation. Prioritising his organisation over paying the bills and the needs of his family. It all comes at a cost, but as A Tiny Ripple of Hope demonstrates, if enough people are willing to contribute then things can change for the better.
A Tiny Ripple of Hope screens for US and Canadian audiences at Slamdance.