Asad Jafri Takes Center Stage

The U.S. State Department has appointed IMAN’s Director of Arts and Culture, Asad Jafri, to the Center Stage Artist Advisory Committee. Center Stage is an international exchange program that will bring performing artists from around the globe to tour throughout the U.S. in 2012. The program is an effort by the United States government, in partnership with the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), to demonstrate respect and understanding of cultures by bringing international performing artists to the U.S. so that Americans can grow in their appreciation and understanding of other nations, while providing opportunities to international performers.

The Center Stage Artist Advisory Committee works with NEFA and Lisa Booth Management, Inc. to recommend artist ensembles from each country. For 2012, the Advisory Committee will help select ensembles from Haiti, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Each committee member is knowledgeable about artists and art forms from multiple countries, and has a strong history of cultural exchange and international programming. The following leaders from noted art institutions across the country have been selected to serve on the Advisory Committee this year:

Alicia Adams
Vice President Dance & International Programming
Kennedy Center
Washington, D.C.
Rachel Cooper
Director, Cultural Programming & Performing Arts
Asia Society
New York, NY
Bill Bragin
Director, Public Programming
Lincoln Center
New York, NY
Asad Jafri
Director of Arts & Culture
Inner-City Muslim Action Network
Chicago, IL
Robert Browning
Executive & Artistic Director
World Music Institute
New York, NY
Lily Kharrazi
Program Manager, Living Cultures Grants Program
Alliance for California Traditional Arts
San Francisco, CA

Center Stage will bring a total of ten ensembles from Haiti, Indonesia, and Pakistan for month-long tours of the U.S. in 2012, connecting artists with diverse communities in primarily small and mid-sized cities and towns across the U.S. With an emphasis on reaching diverse audiences as well as culturally and economically disadvantaged youth, each tour will be designed to include a range of community engagement activities, including performances, workshops, discussions, artist-to-artist exchanges, and community gatherings.

The Center Stage program is an unprecedented arts initiative of the U.S. government and Jafri’s selection to play a key role in it is: (1) a recognition of IMAN’s belief that the arts have the power to develop understanding and empathy across cultures, (2) a result of IMAN’s efforts at cultivating relationships with local and international artists, and (3) a continuation of Jafri’s personal contributions to the State Department’s recent engagement with arts and artists around the world. It also shows what an asset and resource a locally rooted and globally connected American Muslim community can be in building bridges of understanding between Americans and people from around the world.

One Chicago, One Nation: Introducing Year Two

The second year of One Chicago, One Nation (OCON) is off to a spirited start. OCON launched in 2010 as a collaborative between One Nation, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), IMAN, The Chicago Community Trust (CCT), and Link TV. It was developed with the goal of bridging the interfaith divide, while placing a particular focus on the Muslim tradition, given the rise of hate crimes following 9/11. The 2010 program model mobilized a network of Community Ambassadors from a broad spectrum of Chicago neighborhoods and from different religious and cultural backgrounds. These Ambassadors hosted interfaith community conversations across Chicagoland to bring community residents together and find common solutions to community problems. OCON’s opening year culminated with Community Ambassadors applying for community solution grants, and with Mayor Daley congratulating them all at a graduation ceremony during IMAN’s Takin’ It to the Streets 2010 festival in Marquette Park.

This year, on January 15th, the opening words of CCT’s Phil Thomas kicked off two days of Community Ambassador training on interfaith collaboration. During this training, conducted by IFYC, Community Ambassadors learned best practices on interfaith networking, while engaging and forming bonds with other Community Ambassadors of different faith traditions. The weekend closed with a much anticipated brunch in honor of civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. Terry Mazany, President and CEO of CCT, recognized Community Ambassadors, from the 2010 cohort, who had received community solutions grants. Later, the audience was captivated by remarks from Executive Directors Eboo Patel of IFYC and Rami Nashashibi of IMAN. In the end, OCON program managers Saleem Muhammad and Rochelle from Interfaith Youth Core detailed the OCON mission. They introduced newly inducted community ambassadors and invited them to take the podium and regale the audience with their plans and hopes for interfaith action.

The 2011 OCON model relies on IFYC and IMAN to train and mobilize a collective cohort of fifty-one Community Ambassadors, with funding provided by CCT. Thirty Community Ambassadors, dispatched by IFYC, will lead interfaith projects within their faith congregations or on their university campuses. Likewise, IMAN will manage a group of twenty-one Community Ambassadors who will engage local communities in the spirit of interfaith solidarity, while focusing on specific tracks of community development, arts and culture cultivation, and health and wellness advancement. Given the passion and enthusiasm of these Community Ambassadors projected at OCON’s MLK Day brunch, this initiative is sure to inspire the collective consciousness of Chicagoans of every color and creed.

Winning the Future by Developing the Future

In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama talked about the U.S. “winning the future.” Through its organizing, direct services, and arts programming, IMAN has always endeavored to provide a holistic model for developing inner-city communities. We realized very early in this work that to do so required a sincere commitment to youth development and leadership cultivation, providing the resources for youth as the future leaders in their communities. At IMAN, we are committed to winning the future by developing the future.

In 2011, we are gearing up for new and exciting youth programming that will focus on arts and culture, media through documentary making, and growing our health and wellness campaign through a series of youth forums. Our monthly youth forums will be the first program to begin and launches on Saturday, February 12. These discussions will center on the overall health & wellness of young people. They will be led by IMAN’s youth council, include exciting performances and guest speakers, and generally provide a place for youth from IMAN’s local base and its broader Muslim following to begin building strong relationships. Each month will address a different topic within the broad subject of youth health and wellness.

The second program will be West African Drumming & Storytelling. This program will allow youth from ages 15 to 21 to explore their artistic side and learn about the culture of drumming while creatively studying the rich heritage of West Africa. Communities thrive when there are avenues for the wisdom of their elders to reach the creativity of their youth. In West African Drumming & Storytelling we will introduce students to the concept and role of the griot, the ardent protector of oral histories in traditional West African cultures.

Lastly, youth between the ages of 14 and 19 who are excited about creating their own media to promote social justice should join us for Media Lab 2.0 starting in June. The media training programs operated in 2009 were incredibly well-received and were expanded to include youth and adults through the One Chicago, One Nation video trainings in 2010. This summer, we’re returning to a youth-centric program that should take students further into the concept of media justice.

IMAN’s youth programming seeks to be reflective of the organization’s overall goals. It is a direct attempt to empower our youth while bridging the gap between them and our elders, allowing IMAN to live out its principle of being intergenerational. If you are interested in any of the three programs above, please do reach out to shamar@imancentral.org.