The story of 6210 S. Fairfield is not unusual or unlike the story of hundreds of foreclosed and vacant buildings and homes across Chicago’s South Side. Yet, when a group of residents and organizers from across the city came together through the Multifaith Housing Reclamation Campaign and packed court rooms–with neighborhood leaders standing with Imams, Priests and Rabbis– to say enough is enough, this building emerged as a powerful illustration of how through organizing and coming together we can begin to reclaim properties, blocks and our communities.
IMAN leaders and organizers had their eyes on this building as the possible site for the second Green Reentry project for a while. For more than a year, we worked with resident leaders to try to get it boarded up, but when it became clear that those responsible for the property weren’t interested in being accountable we started to organize with our close allies from the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs (JCUA) and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).
Now, after a year of hard work raising the resources, IMAN has pulled together a unique partnership between the Department of Housing and Economic Development, Al Faisal Without Borders, the Chicago Community Trust, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago to begin the process of rehabilitating the property and training the next Green Reentry work crew. The construction is scheduled to begin after the Eid holiday, and we look forward to keeping all our leaders and supporters abreast of the exciting progress.
We are pleased to announce that Professor Najjar Abdul-Musawwir is the latest featured artist at IMAN. Selected original works are currently on display at IMAN headquarters in Chicago, IL, from September 2013 to April 2014. Known as Artist of the People, Abdul-Musawwir has been a longtime leader and supporter of the IMAN Arts and Culture Department, having participated in Community Cafés, and Artist and Leadership Retreats in years past. From time to time, IMAN features works by artists whose themes, careers and lives resonate with, and reflect lives and issues of, communities IMAN works with.
Najjar Abdul-Musawwir was born October 25th, 1958, in Chicago, Illinois. He is an Associate Professor of Fine Art at Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Art and Design, Carbondale, Illinois. He teaches “Exploration of Mixed-Media,” “Abstract Painting,” “Experimental Drawing,” “Graduate Professional Development,” and “African-American Art History.” He serves on several academic committees, such as African Studies, and Global Studies. His works illustrate culture, faith, and history through abstract language. He uses different materials as a metaphor for the human experience; and thus, he abstracts material to discuss our abstract existence. Najjar is known for using burlap sacks in his paintings. A profound and puissant symbol, the idea of burlap sacks exploiting the surface, which speaks to the power of harvesting the spiritual experiences of the human-will – past, present, and beyond the 21st century.
September 14-15, 2013 marked the dates of another successful IMAN Organizing Training. Now, IMAN staff and leaders are gearing up for another full year of intense work on our organizing and advocacy campaigns. This year’s training could not have been possible without the support and leadership of longtime community organizer and political analyst Don Washington. The IMAN organizing team brought Washington on to help us through the process of continually refining our organizing training curriculum and technique, and staff and attendees were not disappointed. Twenty-six adults and young folk attended the training, many of whom were already active participants in IMAN campaigns, or volunteers at various IMAN events in the past. All of them came to learn the basic tenets, tools, and language of community organizing.
Over the years, IMAN has been actively engaged in the process of developing a community organizing curriculum that grounds the basic principles of conventional organizing within the rich and parallel moral and action-centered framework of the Muslim spiritual tradition. Each year, we have taken the feedback and commentary of training participants back to the organizing table and sought ways to distill and sharpen our training modules and techniques to best emphasize key points, and to draw the clearer and more emphatic connections between spirituality and the spiritual imperative to act on critical issues of social justice.
Though IMAN organizers have had the opportunity to present iterations of this training to groups across the country over the past few years, this year’s training marked another step towards completing a curriculum that aims to train Muslims and others across the globe on how to make meaningful impact on issues that matter to them in a way that merges action with their spiritual, moral center.
IMAN organizers have already begun to reach out to training attendees to incorporate them into the process of working to transform their communities. Their participation and leadership will lead to more successful and impactful organizing and advocacy campaigns for IMAN and other communities over the coming years.