(Along with the internationally acclaimed scholar Dr. Tariq Ramadan, IMAN is fortunate to have the passionate and inspiring State Senator Patricia Van Pelt open up our dinner this year.)
Before she became an Illinois State Senator with a promising and upward-bound political trajectory, she was simply known as our sister: a fellow community organizer, pastor and inspirational leader. Yet, she was always more than that and anyone who ever shared an organizing table with Patricia has experienced her tremendous visionary leadership style and presence. It was Patricia’s leadership that led to the formation of major criminal justice reform coalitions like the Developing Justice Coalition, through which IMAN leaders worked tirelessly to successfully pass important legislation confronting the reality of what several years later civil rights lawyer and scholar Michelle Alexander would call “The New Jim Crow.” Alexander acknowledges in her book that long before she coined the term to describe the phenomenon of mass-incarceration of non-violent and low-level felonies disproportionally affecting low-income black communities, organizers like Patricia had been making the case and fighting the fight for years.
Yet, Patricia also realized early in the struggle that such fights could only be truly won when black, brown and other marginalized communities come together beyond one-time coalition, issue-based battles and begin focusing on a larger, shared vision for change. Towards that end, she and the pioneering organization she was leading at the time, Target Area Development Corporation, formed the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) and coined the slogan, “winning alone is only delayed failure.” I was fortunate enough to be invited by Patricia to participate in the early formation of UCCRO and we invested a tremendous amount of time with key IMAN leadership in building the foundation of an alliance that continues to provide a voice for communities of color on what we framed as a grassroots human rights agenda.
We are greatly honored and excited to have State Senator Patricia Van Pelt opening up our Annual Dinner this year.
Seats will be limited, but you can now purchase your tickets here.
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. Youth leaders will ultimately be responsible for communicating IMAN’s youth work to the public as well as the Executive Board. For the past two months, the youth department has been developing this year’s Youth Council.
In the safe space that IMAN provides, youth leaders explore the dynamics of power and are pushed to examine how this relates to their role in society. As they discuss effective campaign strategies, leaders are encouraged to form their own opinions and work towards change that not only empowers them, but aligns with their moral values. Based on their strengths and preferences, youth leaders have divided themselves into the subcommittees of Base-building, Social Media, and Foundation Support.
Outside of IMAN, our youth leaders have taken the initiative to participate in a variety of community events with our partner organizations, including the Bahar Center’s Walk for Moral Excellence, the annual UCCRO convention, and the recent rally for immigration reform. They are eager to become a visible presence in their communities and role models to their peers.
As the weeks continue, the Youth Council will proceed to take ownership of their sessions by further researching and analyzing policy and transitioning into the next phase of their development. We look forward to seeing this cohort blossom into even stronger IMAN leaders in the future, God willing.
The story of 6210 S. Fairfield is not unusual or unlike the story of hundreds of foreclosed and vacant buildings and homes across Chicago’s South Side. Yet, when a group of residents and organizers from across the city came together through the Multifaith Housing Reclamation Campaign and packed court rooms–with neighborhood leaders standing with Imams, Priests and Rabbis– to say enough is enough, this building emerged as a powerful illustration of how through organizing and coming together we can begin to reclaim properties, blocks and our communities.
IMAN leaders and organizers had their eyes on this building as the possible site for the second Green Reentry project for a while. For more than a year, we worked with resident leaders to try to get it boarded up, but when it became clear that those responsible for the property weren’t interested in being accountable we started to organize with our close allies from the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs (JCUA) and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).
Now, after a year of hard work raising the resources, IMAN has pulled together a unique partnership between the Department of Housing and Economic Development, Al Faisal Without Borders, the Chicago Community Trust, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago to begin the process of rehabilitating the property and training the next Green Reentry work crew. The construction is scheduled to begin after the Eid holiday, and we look forward to keeping all our leaders and supporters abreast of the exciting progress.