2017 Year-End: Green ReEntry

Green ReEntry experienced unprecedented growth in 2017, with over 50 men honing construction skills, learning money management practices and utilizing behavioral health support as part of a holistic array of services for returning citizens. IMAN’s deepening impact in Atlanta was powerfully reflected by the successful matriculation of its first Green ReEntry cohort. The five pioneering brothers completed months of coursework, several project management seminars, and played pivotal roles in the full renovation of IMAN Atlanta’s new headquarters.

Through the generous support of two new partners (Chicago Beyond and Chicago CRED), Green ReEntry saw unprecedented growth in the Windy City. Over 30 men signed on for a yearlong commitment, forming a dynamic, intergenerational brotherhood that demonstrated their tremendous potential to positively transform their lives and communities. Many cohort members passed examinations in HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) and in Occupational Safety & Health, both of which are vital beginning steps along future career paths. Guest speakers and local professionals led the cohort through weekly “soft skills” courses on financial literacy, while several cohort members took advantage of early-morning academic sessions in pursuit of their high school degree equivalency.

In the fall, IMAN opened its first Green ReEntry Youth Leadership Home, which provides full-spectrum support for young men navigating the myriad challenges facing communities on Chicago’s South and West Sides. The Youth Leadership Home quickly reached full capacity, and its residents have filled the space with both laughter and deep insight. With the addition of this home, Green ReEntry now provides a stable base for both adult returning citizens and youth to realize their God-given gifts and develop into shining lights dedicated to service.

Re-entry work has long been at the core of IMAN’s mission, and we anticipate even greater strides being made in 2018. Atlanta’s program continues to build on the incredible momentum set in motion by its inaugural cohort, while the brothers in Chicago push ahead and reclaim their communities block by block.

Fresh Beats & Eats Enlivens Southwest Side Streets

For the third consecutive summer, IMAN’s Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market has enlivened West 63rd Street with vibrant tables of fresh organic produce, various vendors offering homemade treats, and exciting artistic expression. This year’s market season kicked off with a special musical guest all the way from New Orleans: Amir Gray & The Tubatones.

Amir and his band not only rocked the Fresh Beats & Eats stage, they also gave local residents a taste of Louisiana with a walking procession throughout the neighborhood. Children along California Avenue followed behind the “second line” and drivers honked along with the beat. This performance was the first of many efforts at “creative place-making” by IMAN’s Arts & Culture department, bringing new artistic experiences (quite literally) to the front doors of residents and connecting them to things happening in their community. IMAN leaders handed out Fresh Beats & Eats flyers behind the procession and encouraged community members to visit the market to purchase their weekly produce.

The farmers market will be held every Friday through the month of October. This initiative is a crucial component of IMAN’s mission of inner-city health, wellness and healing; each individual and family who visits the produce stand and pulls up a chair to enjoy the music serves as a proof of concept, and a small but impactful building block along the path to more dignified and healthy community life.

Interested in volunteering or vending at Fresh Beats & Eats? Email us at farmersmarket@imancentral.org to join the team!

Trump’s Forgotten Muslims & Terror–Fighting Back

While many across the US were celebrating the legacy of Malcolm X, President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia ironically—or conveniently—omitted the historic and dynamic role of Muslims in America. The effects of this omission were exacerbated by the recent horrific attacks in Manchester, London, and other cities carried out by violent extremists determined to perpetuate the false perception that Muslims are agents of terror and barbarity.

I continue to believe that neither a mere condemnation of these acts, nor publicly aligning ourselves with President Trump’s message to Muslim-majority countries, would do much in the way of fighting back against those who pervert our faith and seek to manipulate fear and hate against Muslim communities. Instead, I believe with great conviction that the type of work we are blessed to do at IMAN matters more now than it ever has.

This work commits itself to making a real difference on the ground in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Chicago and now Atlanta. This work seeks to operate in alignment and alliance with diverse communities to creatively re-imagine our communities, city and world as they could be. This work is, in every way possible, antithetical to the acts of terror that deranged individuals associate with our faith.

As IMAN celebrates its 20th year, I couldn’t be more inspired by the work that our dynamic team of leaders and staff are driving everyday. This Ramadan, IMAN publicly launched an exciting $1,000,000 Ramadan Drive. We thank our supporters of all backgrounds across the country and the globe. We ask you to keep this work in your prayers, and help us to meet and exceed our aspirations via your generous zakat-eligible and tax-deductible donations.

At a time when divisive conversations about Muslims, Islam and terror continue to circulate worldwide, I hope you believe as deeply as I do that supporting this type of work is one of the most powerful ways to push back against the pervasive forces of hate, terror and despair.

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

Award-winning Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg recently wrote a column about his reflections on IMAN’s Green ReEntry program saying:

“Many Americans seem to form their impression of Islam solely from terrorist acts abroad. But if they spoke to the men at Green ReEntry, they’d see an opposite image: of the faith as a force leading away from violence.”

We have all spent the last week reeling after one of the worst mass shootings in our recent history. The unfortunate but unsurprising rush to connect this horrific act of terrorism with the larger American Muslim community dominated the news cycle.

SunTimes March 16 Green ReMany of our Muslim organizations and leaders (IMAN included) naturally responded with unequivocal condemnations of the shooting and heartfelt condolences for the victims and their families. Yet, it often feels that such statements fall on deaf ears. The fact is that most of us would prefer to be shown rather than told what the “real” expression of our faith looks like in action.

For me, that was the power in the Steinberg quote listed above. Nothing speaks more to the redemptive, life-giving and violence-reducing power of our faith than programs like IMAN’s Green ReEntry. I wish I had the ability to show more of my friends, family and colleagues across the country the power of IMAN’s work in some of our hardest-hit neighborhoods in Chicago.

For now I’m asking you to help us deepen and expand our impact by making your zakat-eligible, tax-deductible donation to our Ramadan Drive and help us reach our $500,000 goal before Eid. Together we can make this work speak to all those in need of seeing a real model of our community’s commitment to stemming the tide of violence, poverty and injustice in our inner cities.

With Peace,

Alia Bilal
Director of Community Relations