Tired? Go Home!

“Tired? Go Home!” was one of the signs held up that hot August day in 1966. Over 5,000 people—grandmothers, young children and teenagers—were enraged by the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and nearly 700 other Chicago Freedom Movement marchers walking through “their” neighborhood.

go home picYes, the marchers were tired. In the words of storied activist Fannie Lou Hamer, they were sick and tired of being sick and tired. They were tired of the fear, the racism and the hatred that unscrupulous realtors were exploiting to provoke bigotry and violence against blacks who dared to come anywhere near what Marquette Park residents claimed as “their homes.”

Yet, they fearlessly marched through the heart of the crowd, dodging rocks, bottles and nasty epithets from furious residents. King called the march and his Chicago campaign that summer a “first step in a 1000-mile journey.”

Fifty years later, the task of radically reimagining “home” remains urgent. The political rhetoric of our time constantly reminds us that the message of “Go Home” is still alive and well in America. Reimagining “home” as a safe, healthy, spiritually nourishing, culturally thriving space for all people has been at the heart of IMAN’s work for years. That mission is why Takin’ It to the Streets, hosted in the same park where Dr. King marched and bled, has always been so important.

In exactly one month, we will, inshAllah, retrace the historic steps of those courageous souls during the symbolic 1000 Mile March—a nine-block walk into Marquette Park that will lead into this year’s ‘Streets festival. The 1000 Mile March will evoke and celebrate the courage of the marchers 50 years ago, and remind us all that the journey to justice continues.

Marchers and festival attendees that day will be invited to visit Chicago’s first permanent memorial to Dr. King and the Chicago Freedom Movement, an effort that IMAN has led alongside the Chicago Public Art Group for over two years. The memorial will stand as a challenge to never forget the ongoing struggles to fully realize King’s “beloved community” in Marquette Park and across America.

In Arabic, the root word for “home” carries meanings of peace and tranquility. At IMAN, our work to radically reimagine “home” in marginalized inner-city neighborhoods continues because you and others like you across this country invest in us, believing in our collective, sacred responsibility to make our home in America as equitable, just and peaceful as possible.

IMAN-Ramadan2015-ButtonI want to express my deepest appreciation for your support, prayers, hope and confidence in IMAN’s direct impact and its model. If there are others in your network who still haven’t contributed to our 2016 Ramadan Drive, please urge them to do so in the last few hours before this blessed month comes to a close.

Rami Nashashibi

IMAN-Atlanta & Faith in ‘Tha Bluff’

In April, we publicly debuted IMAN-Atlanta at a venue within walking distance of one the most hard-hit urban neighborhoods in America, referred to locally as “Tha Bluff.” Several years ago this community received national notoriety through an independent reality-drama film titled “Snow on tha Bluff.” Yet, beyond that brief moment of media attention, Tha Bluff resembles so many inner-city urban neighborhoods across the US that continue to languish in disinvestment.

Mansoor Bluff“The fact that neighborhoods such as ‘Tha Bluff’ even exist in the United States at all in 2016 would shock many Americans who, because of ignorance or convenience, have never confronted this reality,” said Imam Mansoor Sabree, IMAN’s full-time Atlanta Regional Organizing Director and former Imam of the Atlanta Masjid. “The prayer and hope is that the growth of IMAN in Atlanta can make a difference through our organizing and programmatic initiatives in the lives of families trapped in this reality.”

During these final, precious days of Ramadan, we are asking you to help us reach and exceed our 2016 Ramadan Drive goal by making your zakat-eligible, tax-deductible donation today.

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

Katie & Ramadan

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 6.02.28 PMKatie Marciniak got her start with us during last year’s Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers’ Market. Along with other leaders and staff, she ran organic produce stands and engaged residents around healthy eating habits. As a performer, planner and ambassador for Fresh Expressions—our grassroots, youth open mic program—Katie quickly became a mainstay at IMAN.

As a student at local Gage Park High School, Katie helped with extraordinary student research exploring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Chicago Freedom Movement’s 1966 march through Marquette Park. Moved by the discovery of such a profound moment in her own neighborhood, Katie has embraced a key role on the MLK Living Memorial Planning Committee, serving alongside high-level executives and public figures from across the Chicagoland area. In recognition of her achievements, Katie was on of two IMAN youth leaders publicly awarded by the Office of Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 6.21.34 PMThis summer, Katie’s journey has taken even more exciting turns. She is currently enjoying the sweetness of her first Ramadan, and will soon take her talents to the prestigious Princeton University Summer Journalism Program.

With the help of your prayers and contributions, IMAN continues to be able to offer brilliant youth leaders like Katie an outlet to express their creativity, organize their communities, and continue to flourish in a truly holistic way. As this blessed month continues, we ask that you make your zakat-eligible, tax-deductible donation to our 2016 Ramadan Drive and help us reach our ambitious $500,000 goal. May the Most High continue to make us worthy of your support, and may your month be full of blessings and mercy.