Green ReEntry Home’s Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

GRE OPEN-36Everyone from the Fairfield Elementary School marching band to the City’s Department of Planning Commissioner, Andy Mooney, joined together on Monday, April 28, with IMAN’s Green ReEntry crew, and representatives from Al Faisal Without Borders and the Qatari Embassy in Washington, DC to celebrate in a momentous and highly symbolic occasion. The formal ribbon cutting ceremony for IMAN Green ReEntry’s second home, at 6210 S. Fairfield, acknowledged the tremendous efforts of a very unconventional project that from the very beginning went way beyond the confines of a typical bricks and mortar project.

“I’ve been involved with development for close to three decades, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen something like this,” said Andy Mooney in his comments referring to the very unique set of local and global partners who came together under IMAN’s leadership over the last several years to forge a model that IMAN is hoping to take to scale over the next three to five years.

“We would never have been able to acquire this home if community partners and organizers from the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Southwest Organizing Project and others across the city didn’t come together three years ago through the Multifaith Housing Reclamation Campaign to help us mobilize with our local leaders around this home,” said IMAN’s Alia Bilal who served as emcee that morning.

“This was much more than just a job training program; this gave us our humanity back,” said Charles Yacoub Farmer, a lead apprentice on the Green ReEntry Crew.  Over the next week, the Green ReEntry crew will put finishing touches on the home and participate in a formal graduation on Wednesday, May 14, at 4 PM.  Two new families led by formerly incarcerated IMAN leaders from the community will move into the new building by July 1.  The bottom floor will be used as a community space, along with the community garden that will allow young people and neighbors on the block with the opportunity to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

View more photos from the even here.

Our Neighborhood, Our Vision: Reimagining Chicago Lawn

On Monday, May 12, IMAN will be one of the hundreds of sites across the Chicagoland area hosting a community discussion as part of the Chicago Community Trust’s (CCT) On The Table campaign.  These conversations are being held on the 99th Anniversary of this important community foundation. IMAN has a long history as a grant recipient and partner with the CCT, and our Executive Director, Rami Nashashibi, sits on the steering committee of this important city-wide event.

OnTheTable-1IMAN’s On The Table Discussion will be led by our Directors of Youth and Organizing, and Arts and Culture and will focus on how the legacy of Martin Luther King and the movement for access to dignified housing and quality of life is still relevant to youth and families in and around Marquette Park.

The discussion is part of the MLK Memorial Project: An effort that IMAN is leading with the Chicago Public Art Group and other local leaders and institutions.  “The MLK Memorial Project will help make the Marquette Park area a Chicago cultural destination that will bring to light a difficult but inspiring part of the King legacy in our city that is often overlooked,” says Rami Nashashibi, IMAN’s Executive Director. .

By connecting community organizations, public schools, religious institutions and neighborhood families with artists, local historians and participants of the 1966 walk, IMAN intends to build a dynamic and expansive team of people who have been laying the foundation for this memorial for several years. “We know how art and the artistic process can bring enthusiasm, vitality and community spirit back to a neighborhood,” says Chicago Public Art Group director Jon Pounds.

“The Marquette Park neighborhood is one of the most unique and diverse working class communities in Chicago, yet little is heard about this community outside of violence and poverty statistics,” Nashashibi reminds us.  There is yet no permanent structure in place to acknowledge 1966’s national march against some of the most vicious and hateful segregationist policies of that time, or the local struggle since then to realize a dignified quality of life for all community residents.

The initiative will also launch a local artisan workshop for artists and leaders to hone their creativity and craft, and sell their artwork. Housed in IMAN’s new Youth and Arts Wellness Center, the workshop will act as a hub for artists and provide a vital space for community building, social entrepreneurship, leadership development and nurturing creativity.  “This is an idea whose time has come and I can’t wait till we unveil it to the world, on the 50th Anniversary of King’s 1966 march in Marquette Park,” said State Senator Jacqueline Collins who helped lead the fight for resources to launch this project.

April: Month of Policy Action for Youth Council

This past month of April, IMAN staff and youth leaders were really busy, in Springfield and Downtown Chicago, pushing on three pieces of legislation: Juvenile Arrest Expungement (HB 4084), Common Sense School Discipline (SB 3004/HB 4655), and Youth Employment Funding. These particular bills are very important for IMAN’s youth leaders and for the overall community on the City’s Southwest Side; the work to try and pass these bills, and their passage, will allow our youth leaders to make progress toward a better future for themselves and their communities.  IMAN’s Youth Council has been leading all of our efforts to make sure these three bills get support from key legislators; the Youth Council has also had critical support in these efforts from our adult leaders.

20140430_115422The two trips down to Springfield in April and the one to Downtown Chicago to participate in Senator Mattie Hunter’s youth jobs hearings, have all been opportunities for leadership development and more for the Youth Council members.  More than that, they have been about establishing real leadership within IMAN and making sure the organization continues to be an ally to our city-wide alliance (UCCRO) and to support key education bills with other youth entities like VOYCE Chicago.

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.

GET INVOLVED: If you are seeking to get involved in our Organizing & Advocacy efforts; contact Shamar Hemphill (Director of Youth & Organizing) at shamar@imancentral.org.