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.

Ramadan & Remembering Ali

Ramadan Mubarak! I sincerely pray that the tremendous blessings and beauty of Ramadan be with you and your loved ones during every minute of this sacred month.

Muslims across the globe greeted this blessed month while in the midst of a bittersweet moment: the passing of perhaps the most inspirational and well-known American Muslim, Muhammad Ali.

As a kid growing up in Jamaica, Ali’s fierce resolve and courage grabbed my attention. As a young man entangled within the criminal justice system, the spiritual redemption and discipline of the teachings that Ali followed led me to embrace a new faith and a new way of life. My love for being Muslim and commitment to justice emerged out of such courageous and unwavering convictions.

More than any other opportunity, serving on IMAN’s board has enabled me to remain true to that commitment and, with the passing of this legend right on the heels of this blessed month, I feel more compelled than ever to dedicate my efforts to the success of this organization and the larger community.

Throughout this month, you will be learning about all the phenomenal ways IMAN continues to impact those most directly affected by urban poverty, racism and blight. I pray that you will join me in making the most generous zakat-eligible donation possible, as IMAN works to meet and exceed its $500,000 Ramadan Drive goal.

One of the most poignant reflections I’ve read regarding Ali’s passing was by American Muslim scholar and longtime IMAN supporter, Dr. Sherman Abdul Hakim Jackson, in which he writes:

It is my hope that the passing of Muhammad Ali will not mark the end of an era in the United States, an era in which Islam in America is represented not by the deeds or misdeeds of actors in far off places but by the accomplishments and contributions, the resolve and courage of American Muslims themselves.

Ali championed the voices of those that IMAN aspires to touch every day through its many programs and efforts. I pray that this type of work can continue to help all Americans learn to champion the courage, resolve and great contributions of our community beyond the larger-than-life legacy of our beloved Champ.

Sincerely,
Umar Carter
IMAN Board President

IMAN-Led Parole Reform Bill Passes Through IL Senate, House

Much of IMAN’s organizing effort this year has been focused on the issue of parole reform in Illinois. Under the existing laws, formerly incarcerated men & women across the state were at risk of recidivism—or being sent back to prison—if they were found “associating” with others who were also on parole. These individuals, even when volunteering at community organizations like IMAN, attending worship services, or visiting family members, were subject to arrest. In response to such harsh technicalities, IMAN organizers spent months pushing Senate Bill 2282, the Removing Invisible Bars Bill, which has now passed through both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives with a strong, bipartisan majority.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 4.48.53 PMIMAN Senior Policy Advisor Maaria Mozaffar and Green ReEntry Housing Coordinator Nasir Blackwell collaborated to draft SB 2282 in early 2016. This crucial bill will, God willing, ultimately amend the stringent conditions of parole that puts formerly incarcerated persons at risk for recidivism. Now, these recently returned community members can engage in meaningful volunteer work, worship, and family visits without fear of arrest. This issue impacts thousands of people across Illinois, particularly those coming from five neighborhoods in Chicago: Austin, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Englewood, West Englewood, and East Garfield Park.

A number of legislative allies played a pivotal role in garnering support for SB 2282. State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) introduced the bill and worked closely with Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) and IMAN organizers to ensure its passage through the chamber free from dissent. In the House, Representative Mary Flowers (D-31st) was the bill’s chief co-sponsor, helping to garner strong bipartisan support with help from several other representatives.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 10.12.05 PMIMAN’s organizational partners and allies also played a critical role in the grassroots education and mobilization efforts around SB 2282. United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) hosted community education workshops focused on the context and potential impact of SB 2282. Many of IMAN’s community partners played a key role in mobilizing their leaders, traveling to Springfield to encourage legislators towards a yes vote.

SB 2282 has now proceeded to Governor Rauner’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law. While IMAN will continue working to provide grassroots education on the effects of SB 2282 and its connection to the larger national criminal justice platform, the bill’s passage is a meaningful first step towards a more just and equitable life for all members of our communities.