IMAN believes in creating safe, empowering, spiritually nurturing, and fun spaces to help grow and develop young people into community leaders. Digital Media Masters, part of youth programming at IMAN, creates one such space that also bridges the digital divide often found in low-income neighborhoods. The program empowers students to create and distribute digital media through the Internet using the latest tools, techniques and open-source software. Such skills will be highly useful in allowing communities to create their own streams of income as well as imparting marketable job skills for further career development.
An important part of the current session of Digital Media Masters, which started on July 8, is that funding for it has come from a recent and critical policy win supported by The United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) and led by UCCRO member organizations Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and Albany Park Neighborhood Council (APNC). As a founding member of UCCRO, IMAN was supporting the ongoing work of the LYFE Coalition to pass a Youth Employment Funding bill and win $14 million in the Governor’s budget for summer youth jobs that will employ tens of thousands of youth this summer—hopefully reducing violence while providing crucial skills and opportunities to youth.
As a grassroots organization fighting for social justice in some of the most challenging neighborhoods in Chicago, IMAN believes in the importance of striving to fix the systemic issues that help to marginalize low-income communities of color. One of the major mechanisms by which IMAN attempts to affect policy change is as a member organization of UCCRO. United Congress is a grassroots-led multiethnic human rights alliance mobilizing people, policy and ideals for the equitable advancement of marginalized communities, and IMAN is one of its founding organizations.
The Youth Employment Funding bill, and programs such as Digital Media Masters that have resulted from it, is a major example of how IMAN and UCCRO are, together, building power across Black, Latino, Asian and Arab communities, in order to improve the lived experience of these communities.