Senator Dick Durbin Visits IMAN

On Friday, February 21, Senator Dick Durbin, IL’s senior and the nation’s second highest-ranking senator, spent two hours with IMAN, directly engaging its leaders and projects.  Key IMAN allies and leaders from the Multifaith Housing Reclamation Campaign that IMAN led with the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) were also present for a brief lunch with the Senator before he took a tour of IMAN’s various projects. Senator Durbin was moved by the way leaders, residents and clergy from different faith traditions in the area have successfully mobilized to build power and demand change.

DD-1The Senator showed great interest in the current work being done on the second Green ReEntry home, and, in particular, discussed and shared ideas for how to take Green ReEntry to scale, and how this unique approach to tackling lack of decent housing, job skills, public safety, and effective reentry programs is needed in communities across the country.  The Senator was also presented with plans for the future IMAN Health and Wellness campus, which IMAN hopes to have completed by its 20th Anniversary in 2017.  The Senator showed particular interest in the planned Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) building, which will grow out of IMAN’s current Health Clinic and which will anchor the Health and Wellness campus centered.  He was very impressed to learn of the larger Muslim community’s support for the work of the Clinic over the years and to discover how organizations such as Islamic Relief USA, the Mosque Foundation and Muslim families across Illinois and the country have been the primary funders of an effort that has touched thousands of uninsured and under-insured residents over the years.

Senator Durbin also took time during his visit to address congregants gathered that day for a special Jum’ah service led by Usama Canon.  We hope that these visits from and contacts with the Senator and his office will continue, and that this cooperation will translate into a broadening of IMAN’s model of service and change in inner-cities.

IMAN Hosts Muslim-Jewish Alternative Spring Break Trip

Last week, IMAN hosted a student group from the University of Michigan for a week-long Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to Chicago. The group, called MuJew, is a student-led organization of Muslim and Jewish students who are committed to building meaningful relationships between the two communities on the Ann Arbor campus. Preparations for the ASB trip with IMAN began last winter and several months later, a robust and diverse agenda was laid out for the group’s week in Chicago.

MuJew & GR Bros picAt the heart of the trip was the direct service project the group did with IMAN’s newest Green ReEntry home. The group worked closely with the Green ReEntry crew to learn the skills necessary to add finishing touches to the home and to build a shed in the backyard that will serve as a storage place for the various tools and supplies necessary to keep the home “green” in the coming years. In addition to the service, the group had the opportunity to meet with a number of community partners and to participate in discussions and workshops at institutions across Chicago’s South Side, focusing on practical interfaith engagement, personal and social identity, community organizing, and faith-driven approaches to social justice work.

MuJew & GR bros with shedOne of the pillars of IMAN’s work over the last 15 years has been to connect disconnected communities–to give members of different communities the opportunity to learn from and grow with one another. According to each and every MuJew participant, the experience that was most valuable to them this week was the opportunity to work with and learn directly from the brothers of IMAN’s Green ReEntry program. Said one MuJew participant, “I am forever in the debt of the [Green ReEntry] brothers. They not only have taught me so much, but allowed me to believe in myself”. Another stated that, “Getting to know the brothers exceeded all my expectations. They are some of the smartest people I’ve met and [they] continuously shattered preconceived notions I had in my head.” Some of the informal discussion topics the group engaged in revolved around the broken criminal justice and education systems that lead to astronomical incarceration rates for African American and Latino men.

This is the first time IMAN has hosted a week-long service trip, and staff, participants and leaders were very pleased with the outcome. IMAN hopes that these types of exchanges lead to a deeper understanding of the type of change IMAN aspires to create in the inner-city, and serve as a model for how other faith communities can organize, build alliances based on mutual trust and shared values, and work together to restore dignity and strength to their neighborhoods and institutions. Throughout the course of the year, IMAN aims to continue developing meaningful ways to engage volunteers and supporters in its work in more substantive and sustainable ways.

IMAN wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions for their generous and much appreciated participation in this week’s ASB trip: Rabbi Ariana Silverma; Ms. Hind Makki; Chicago Theological Seminary; Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; University of Chicago’s Spiritual Life Office, Hillel Center, and Muslim Students Association; KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation; Mosque Maryam; Muhammad University of Islam; and Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.

Muslim Run Partners with R.A.G.E.

IMAN and our community organizing leaders are excited about the impact that our flagship Muslim Run campaign can have in 2014.  This year, we have a new partnership with R.A.G.E. (Residents Association of Greater Englewood), a grassroots organization that is planted in the heart of Englewood. Our partnership with R.A.G.E. allows IMAN to go even deeper with (1) the four corner stores we have been working to transform through relationships between residents and store owners, (2) the transformation of Mali Mart, our key partner store, and (3) working to increase better business practices overall.  With these deepening efforts and new partnerships, Muslim Run continues to move forward in producing a viable solution to the crisis of food deserts and in promoting healthier communities on the South and West Sides.

MR-RAGE-1The Muslim Run Campaign developed as a visionary call to address the long history of harmful and unjust business practices, escalating racial and ethnic tensions, and unhealthy food options at corner stores throughout the inner-city. Since 2007, it has evolved into a campaign that focuses on four critical points: developing an alternative business model for Muslim-run businesses on Chicago’s South Side, using policy to promote lasting change in the food justice arena, launching an education campaign that stresses the benefits of leading healthier lifestyles and healing racial tensions between Muslim store owners and their patrons.  As this campaign has gathered momentum in the past the three years, IMAN has created a set of principles, a 10-point Statement of Intent, that we want the corner stores to base their business practices on.

The four stores we hope to have impact during 2014 are:

1. Mali Mart – 69 St. & Paulina
2. G.Q. Foods – 69 St. & Ashland
3. A Lot to Save Foods: 63 St. and Racine
4. Morgan Mini Mart – 69 St. & Morgan

To get involved in the Muslim Run campaign, you can contact Shamar Hemphill (Youth & Organizing Director) shamar@imancnetral.org, or Farhana Arif (Organizing Fellow) farhana@imancentral.org.

Moving Forward: IMAN’s Behavioral Health Program

Up to 28% of Americans have a diagnosable behavioral health condition, and few seek treatment. In the primary care setting such as IMAN Health Clinic, the majority of visits have a psychological basis. Health centers, as primary care providers to 15 million medically underserved individuals, are critically important sources of behavioral health services. With the recent budgetary cuts leading to closure of mental health facilities in our area, the need for mental health services has escalated and contributed to the increase in violence in schools and communities, along with gun shootings.  Behavioral problems in schools conjoined with unstable family structures create a vicious cycle of unaddressed emotional issues, for both the future and present generations.  Violence is a symbol of the human outcry that all hope has been lost

It is abundantly clear that behavioral health stands out as a compelling and immediate issue confronting communities that the IMAN Health Clinic serves, as well as the national health care and prisons systems. The disproportionately high rate of mental disorders in prisons is related to several factors: the widespread misconception that all people with mental disorders are a danger to public; the general intolerance of society to difficult or disturbing behavior; the failure to promote treatment, care, and rehabilitation; and above all, the lack of access to mental health services.  In short, our society would rather inhumanely imprison people with psychiatric illness than spend time and money to rehabilitate those who suffer from mental health issues.

In response to these issues, IMAN began a mental health program last year by hiring Francisco Lorenzo, a licensed clinical social worker. Though the general support of LISC and our partnership with SWOP, Francisco implemented a program to address pediatric mental health issues, both within local community schools and utilized our Clinic to provide services to adults and families.  Chicago Community Trust allowed us to expand our work by hiring a marriage and family therapist, Fatima Noubani.  If you would like to join us in moving forward our mission to alleviate barrier to mental health care services, please make your commitment by applying for the Behavioral Health Coordinator position in our Clinic.