Annual Dinner Spotlight: Senator Patricia Van Pelt From Grassroots to State Senate

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(Along with the internationally acclaimed scholar Dr. Tariq Ramadan, IMAN is fortunate to have the passionate and inspiring State Senator Patricia Van Pelt open up our dinner this year.) 

Before she became an Illinois State Senator with a promising and upward-bound political trajectory, she was simply known as our sister: a fellow community organizer, pastor and inspirational leader. Yet, she was always more than that and anyone who ever shared an organizing table with Patricia has experienced her tremendous visionary leadership style and presence.  It was Patricia’s leadership that led to the formation of major criminal justice reform coalitions like the Developing Justice Coalition, through which IMAN leaders worked tirelessly to successfully pass important legislation confronting the reality of what several years later civil rights lawyer and scholar Michelle Alexander would call “The New Jim Crow.”  Alexander acknowledges in her book that long before she coined the term to describe the phenomenon of mass-incarceration of non-violent and low-level felonies disproportionally affecting low-income black communities, organizers like Patricia had been making the case and fighting the fight for years.

Yet, Patricia also realized early in the struggle that such fights could only be truly won when black, brown and other marginalized communities come together beyond one-time  coalition, issue-based battles and begin focusing on a larger, shared vision for change. Towards that end, she and the pioneering organization she was leading at the time, Target Area Development Corporation, formed the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) and coined the slogan, “winning alone is only delayed failure.”  I was fortunate enough to be invited by Patricia to participate in the early formation of UCCRO and we invested a tremendous amount of time with key IMAN leadership in building the foundation of an alliance that continues to provide a voice for communities of color on what we framed as a grassroots human rights agenda.

We are greatly honored and excited to have State Senator Patricia Van Pelt opening up our Annual Dinner this year.

 Seats will be limited, but you can now purchase your tickets here.

IMAN Youth Getting Organized!

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In 2008, IMAN formally institutionalized the Youth Council as an organizing arm within the youth department. The Youth Council meets once a week and is comprised of 15 youth leaders who have been involved in at least one year of consistent programming. In addition to participating in regular programming, these leaders develop communication and leadership skills, learn more about basic organizing, and engage in dialogue around relevant social issues. Youth leaders will ultimately be responsible for communicating IMAN’s youth work to the public as well as the Executive Board. For the past two months, the youth department has been developing this year’s Youth Council.

In the safe space that IMAN provides, youth leaders explore the dynamics of power and are pushed to examine how this relates to their role in society. As they discuss effective campaign strategies, leaders are encouraged to form their own opinions and work towards change that not only empowers them, but aligns with their moral values. Based on their strengths and preferences, youth leaders have divided themselves into the subcommittees of Base-building, Social Media, and Foundation Support.

Outside of IMAN, our youth leaders have taken the initiative to participate in a variety of community events with our partner organizations, including the Bahar Center’s Walk for Moral Excellence, the annual UCCRO convention, and the recent rally for immigration reform. They are eager to become a visible presence in their communities and role models to their peers.

As the weeks continue, the Youth Council will proceed to take ownership of their sessions by further researching and analyzing policy and transitioning into the next phase of their development. We look forward to seeing this cohort blossom into even stronger IMAN leaders in the future, God willing.

Meet the New Green ReEntry Crew

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It’s official! IMAN’s new Green Reentry Crew has been selected, activated and is already making great strides in the Green Reentry Rehabilitation and Training program targeting foreclosed and vacant buildings in the community. We wanted to take a moment to introduce them to you, so you can remember them in your thoughts and prayers as they move towards the program goals over the next four months.

First, there is our team lead Brother Levie Jackson who says, “I was ecstatic about being accepted into a program that is Islamic based.  I was surprised that one existed. I’ve been home for 2 months, but with the help of this program and my family, the transition was not that hard.”  Next is Jose Jimenez, who also lives in our leadership home and was a recent graduate of the Sweet Beginnings program in Lawndale. Brother Jose is a Level II apprentice in the program and says, “I feel excited that I was accepted with open arms and no bias or anything like that.  I was made to feel really comfortable regardless of my background.” We also have Charles Farmer, another Level II apprentice. Brother Charles has been home for a little over three months and feels that before starting the program he had some struggles with job placement, money and movement. But since starting the program with the resources that IMAN brings, he says that things are starting to fall in place as time goes by. He goes on to state that, now, he feels better about his options.

Finally, we have our Level I apprentices Jamil James and Fahmi Jones.  Brother Jamil has been a resident in the Leadership home for little over a year, while Brother Fahmi has been volunteering with IMAN since his return home.  Both are thrilled about the opportunity to work with IMAN’s Green Reentry Program and we are excited to have them onboard.  More than workers on a construction site, the Green Reentry Crew members represent a group of key leaders deeply invested in improving and affecting the health and wellness of the larger community. Again, please continue to keep them in your prayers.