In 2016, SocialWorks was launched to serve Chicago’s youth population. Founded by Chance the Rapper, the organization nurtures and empowers young people through initiatives in the arts, education and civic engagement. With programs like OpenMike, Kids of the Kingdom, Warmest Winter, My State of Mind and the New Chance Fund, SocialWorks provides important resources for kids from all over the city.

Much like the trains that criss-cross through Chicago’s city grid, SocialWorks aims to help youth connect with other communities. A Night at the Museum, for example, lets children explore local museums after-hours; they get to peruse interactive exhibits and see live performances from artists like the Chicago Children’s Choir. It’s truly a hometown affair.

Additionally, SocialWorks focuses on issues that disproportionately affect inner-city children. They’ve raised millions of dollars for mental health resources, the Chicago public school system and more. At the same time, they inspire hope in communities that often get overlooked.

Here, participants from SocialWorks talk about their mission and collaborating with Jordan Brand on a Blue Line-inspired Air Jordan I KO, long-sleeve and hoodie for the Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection.


How would you describe what SocialWorks stand for?

Jeremiah: SocialWorks is a family outside the family. SocialWorks puts people on and helps people in the best ways they can. SocialWorks is a place for opportunity and connections. It’s a great place to just feel like yourself.

Tremyah: SocialWorks is a place where you can be yourself, do what you want to do and love yourself. SocialWorks inspires kids like us to be great and just be ourselves.

Brianna: I agree. SocialWorks inspires the greatness within us. I’m pretty sure that none of us saw ourselves doing this project. SocialWorks has helped us, too.

Ke’shon: SocialWorks is about creating a better society, making the city a greater place, giving opportunities and helping people express themselves. It’s here to show young people that they can do great things.

How was this collaboration inspired by the transit system bringing people together?

Brianna: Each train represents different parts of the city, and the different colors represent different sectors of the city. The train is connected to your background and where you come from. We are all from different parts of the city. We really want to rep that with this collaboration.

Tremyah: The trains bring people together. They help people get from one place to another. It’s like communicating.

Jeremiah: The hoodie has a compass on the front, which reflects everybody going in their own directions. However, the train also unites people. It helps everybody get to the same place faster. It helps people who might need help and people who don’t need help. It evens out the playing field for everybody, and that’s what this is all about.

You guys decided to print the message “help people” on the apparel. What does that mean to you?

Brianna: It’s about getting the word out, making people know that you are who you are. You can be great in the city no matter where you come from.

Tremyah: No matter where you come from, you can always lend a helping hand. You can be positive about stuff.

Jeremiah: “Help people” is literally about helping people be better and do better.

“The train unites people. It helps everybody get to the same place faster.”

You guys decided to print the message “help people” on the apparel. What does that mean to you?

Brianna: It’s about getting the word out, making people know that you are who you are. You can be great in the city no matter where you come from.

Tremyah: No matter where you come from, you can always lend a helping hand. You can be positive about stuff.

Jeremiah: “Help people” is literally about helping people be better and do better.

What did you enjoy most about working on this collaboration?

Ke’shon: I liked getting together, putting out ideas, hearing feedback and working with other great designers — creating a common design.

Brianna: I liked listening to all of the ideas and getting to see the actual shoe in-person. Because I know what I had in mind, but I didn’t know what everyone else thought. So with their help and feedback, the shoe really came together.

What was something really important or special that you learned during the collaboration process?

Brianna: I learned that you can start nowhere and get somewhere. At first, I didn’t think the designs would work. As I kept looking at and thinking about them, they just worked.

Tremyah: Overall, the collaboration process was pretty fun. We got to meet new people and put all of our ideas together to make three amazing items. Hopefully they will mean a lot to other people, too.

Jeremiah: I liked seeing all of the ideas blend together. We came to the table with very, very different ideas. And now we have one shoe, one hoodie and one sweatshirt. That’s really dope. It’s been really cool seeing it all come into fruition.

What was the inspiration behind the shoe, and how did it come together?

Jeremiah: We wanted to put on for the city. We did that throughout the shoe with tiny little Easter eggs. We have a map on the sole of the shoe. We have other things that represent Chicago throughout. That was the inspiration.

Tremyah: The inspiration behind the shoe is mainly how we feel about Chicago — where it’s been and where it is now. We all wanted to make sure that whoever wears the shoe will know where it came from.

Brianna: We all want to rep our side of the city and what we love about it. We wanted to put that on the shoe and let everyone know that Chicago is great, that we are great, and that you can produce something just as great.

Ke’shon: The shoe is about being Chicago-based and telling the story of Chicago — how we have different communities, and that’s what makes you a Chicagoan.

What’s the significance of the compass motif that wears off with time?

Tremyah: The significance of the compass is really great, because everyone knows the different sides of Chicago. It symbolizes representing wherever you come from, no matter what.

Ke’shon: The compass is part of the geometry of Chicago — the South side, West side, North side and East side. It’s something only a Chicagoan will really know, and that’s something that we feel proud about.

If you could thank the city of Chicago, what would you say to it?

Ke’shon: I would say, “Thank you for the amazing places that you let me experience and also the great food. Shout out to my go-to chicken place.”

Brianna: I would say, “Thank you for the opportunities you’ve given me, all of the places you’ve let me see, and all of the places you will take me in the future.

Tremyah: I would say, “Thank you for the opportunities you’ve given me, all of the places you’ve let me see, and all of the places you will take me in the future.”

Jeremiah: I would say, “Thank you for instilling creativity in me and for giving me family and friends who have turned into family. Thank you for showing me how to be the best I can be.”

How do you see basketball, sneakers and other passions uniting people in Chicago?

Jeremiah: I don’t know how to explain it, because it’s just Chicago. The first time I went to a basketball game was at three months old. Everybody from the city knows about basketball. We have high school basketball games that are as big as the playoffs sometimes. As far as basketball sneakers go, it’s always been about who has the best shoes and the best team. It’s a really friendly yet still competitive environment. It brings out the best in everybody.

Tremyah: If you’re a really big sneakerhead, sneakers can mean so much. Then, if you have a friend who doesn’t understand a sneaker or where it comes from, that can open up a whole world to them. That’s special.

Brianna: Basketball is something the city’s been known for, ever since MJ did his thing. He brought the city together in a special way, and it stayed that way. It’ll stay that way into the next generation.

Ke’shon: I see basketball as something that inspires the youth. You feel inspired to be as great as a certain athlete or in a position where you can wear the latest shoes with your friends. The experience is unifying. It brings all of us together.


The full Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection releases globally starting February 15.

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