Fourteen-Year-Old Activist Jahkil Johnson Inspires Youth and Supplies Blessing Bags to Homeless

Amanda Clark-Rudolph

Activist and actor Jahkil Johnson believes youth are more than capable of making this world a better place.

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Jahkil at age 10 meeting Obama.Photo Submitted by Adrianna Solomon

When Jahkil Johnson (14) was five years old, he didn't know homeless people existed. "I thought everyone had houses," Jahkil honestly told me on a Saturday afternoon via Zoom. But after accompanying his aunt to pass out chili to Chicago’s homeless, Jahkil discovered the cold truth that not everyone had a home, and this harsh reality stuck.

"So, I went home and asked my parents to give them houses," a calm Jahkil told me, then added, "Obviously, we couldn't do that, but I kept asking. I had this passion and wouldn't let it go, so I sat down with my parents to discuss how we could put something together that they don't have, and that's when we decided to put together Blessing Bags." 

Jahkil defined Blessing Bags as kits that his company, Project I Am, hands out to those in need. He emphasized that the contents in the bag vary by season but often include items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, socks, winter hats and gloves, water bottles, etc. "Basically, they include a lot of daily essentials," Jahkil said, "that we take for granted and [the homeless] don't have.”

I was curious to hear more, so I asked Jahkil how he organized and distributed the Blessing Bags. "We might do a packing party," he enthusiastically answered, "where we gather all the items, pack them, and then take them to the shelter."

Since Covid hit, Jahkil has also organized virtual packing parties. "The process is long," Jahkil said when describing the events, "We gather items separately in boxes, then send those boxes out to people in different cities. Next, we all jump on a Zoom call to pack the bags. After, we give them out in those cities." 

Jahkil then emphasized that the Blessing Bags have gone global and Jahkil’s Project I Am teams up with other organizations – like TeamRubicon and the Carrie Kay Foundation – to bring Blessing Bags to other countries.

Jahkil explained that he had coordinated most of this through networking. "People reach out and want to help," he said then stated that 17,252 Blessing Bags were distributed last year. "Our goal was 17,000," Jahkil said with an endearing smile, "we surpassed that."

“My mission is to build awareness to homelessness.” Jahkil Johnson
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Jahkil Johnson continues to inspire youth.Submitted by Adrianna Solomon

Jahkil didn't stop with Blessing Bags; his company, Project I Am also works with youth globally, changemakers, and community service organizations to inspire young people to create a change in their communities. 

On more than one occasion during our chat, Jahkil referred to his collaboration with his friend, Khloe Thompson from LA, who runs Khloe Kares, which like Jahkil’s organization, aims to get more young people actively involved.

“We support each other a lot,” Jahkil said. The two even worked together on Giving Tuesday, which according to its website, described its November event, as a way for “the whole world to be united for a celebration of generosity."

 “My mom and dad are the main supporters on the business side of financing packing. I wouldn't be able to do it without them. I appreciate them always helping me.” -Jahkil Johnson

This summer, Jahkil also collaborated with the Project Kares Tour, a service project where the two youth philanthropists traveled to seven cities in seven days!

Jahkil has also collaborated with campaigns on Nike, Marvel, Gap, Crate and Barrel, the Salvation Army, and more. His Marvel campaign led to him appearing in a comic book where he has the power of super speed (and he sports his own cover). He even appeared in a recent show, Make Way for Jahkil, on Disney plus. "All campaigns are about being an athlete who gives," Jahkil explained. 

More about Jahkil’s activism

In addition to being a recognized youth philanthropist, Jahkil is an avid basketball player and actor, so I had to ask him how he balances (or attempts) to balance everything? In typical Jahkil style, he gave props to his supportive family.

"It sounds like a lot," he told me, "but my parents do a good job making sure my schedule focuses on school and basketball during the week and events on weekends. I also tap dance," Jahkil modestly added, "but I take a break from that during basketball season." As for acting, Jahkil said his dream role is to play a basketball player. (Perhaps some of our readers can assist Jahkil with making this dream into a reality.)

Jahkil has made the following TV appearances:

  • Chicago P.D (2021)
  • Marvel Hero Project, Episode 6 "Make Way For Jahkil" (2019)
  • Tiege Hanley Skin Care commercial
  • Kid Footlocker's "Jordan Rival"
  • Nike's "Can't Stop Our Voice" commercial
  • K-Mart commercial

In addition to all this, Jahkil met President Obama and received an award as one of three chosen influential people in 2017. After earning this prestigious reward, Jahkil's mom got in touch with the Obama Foundation, where he received an invite to a 2018 reception in Chicago, and Jahkil "got to meet Obama himself."

While talking to Jahkil, a super successful and talented 14-year-old, it was evident he wasn't in this for himself. In fact, he always seemed to be thinking about how he will benefit others next.

"In the future," Jahkil said, with a conviction, I could even feel through a computer screen, "I want to be a part of getting people off the streets. I want to build and work with tiny home communities in Chicago.” He paused, then concluded, "I want to be part of making the world a better place."

More fun facts about Jahkil Johnson: 

Jahkil’s goal for 2022: To send 20,000 Blessing Bags and work with 1,000 youths.

"Personally, this year, I want a tiny growth spurt and grow to 6 feet. Then, lead my team to a championship—point guard and shooting guard."

Jahkil’s best advice he has ever received: "To think before you speak, my dad always tells me that. And be careful of what you say."

Check out Jahkil's Officialprojectiam.com and Facebook to get involved and learn more!

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Hi, I'm Amanda - a freelancing mama who writes about family, travel, holidays, and more! In addition to freelancing it up, I'm a Content Coordinator for neighborhood magazines. My favorite pastimes: Writing, slurping lattes, and playing freeze tag with my two sons.

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