Reflections on Health & Wellness: A Garden Update

Over the past several months, IMAN leaders have been hard at work on our very first backyard garden. The garden is located in the back of IMAN’s second Green Reentry home on Fairfield Avenue. Through the leadership of local farmer, Brother Kamal Rashid; IMAN Youth Board Member, Harun McGraw; and many of IMAN’s dedicated youth, the garden has come to flourish and provide families living at the Fairfield home with fresh greens and a peaceful space in the back of their home.

Recently, on the holy Day of Arafat, IMAN invited neighbors along the Fairfield block to familiarize them with the garden, reflect on the tradition and power of the day, and break fast together. Brother Kamal, and IMAN leader and nutritionist, Nefertiti Oji-Njideka, were on hand with cooking tips and information on the nutritional value of the produce grown in the garden–and at the end of the night, neighbors were given the opportunity to implement what they learned and walked away with bags of kale, Swiss chard, and beets straight from the garden. Father Tony Pizzo and Rami Nashashibi then offered reflections on the themes of sacrifice and collective action on a day sacred to both Muslim and Jewish communities observing Yom Kippur. Those attending broke fast in the basement of the Fairfield home, which has become a space for neighbors along the block to share and utilize for community events.

Similar to the goals of the Muslim Run campaign, the backyard garden has been an opportunity for IMAN to continue promoting health and wellness throughout the community by increasing access to healthier options and transforming sites into clean, safe, and shared spaces. This garden was made possible by donations from the Marguerite Casey Foundation and the efforts of Mohsin and Sawleh Waraich. Interested in getting involved with the garden or the Muslim Run campaign? Reach out to Organizers Shamar (shamar@imancentral.org) or Sara (sara@imancentral.org) to find out how!

GOTV & What’s Next

In pursuit of our efforts to encourage civic engagement and push legislation reform on the two primary issues of increasing the minimum wage and the tax credit bill, which provides a tax credit to business owners who hire the formerly incarcerated, IMAN, in collaboration with Every Vote Counts Illinois’ larger goal, set a goal to register 500 Englewood residents to vote. The Get Out The Vote (GOTV) team, consisting of adult and youth leaders, worked closely with the corner stores affiliated with IMAN’s Muslim Run Campaign to get 500 Englewood residents registered by October 7th, 2014 and thanks to the Most High we were able to reach our goal before the Eid holiday!

IMAN’s GOTV leaders regularly spent evenings throughout the month of September roving the neighborhoods, holding conversations with Englewood residents, understanding their direct concerns and frustrations with the electoral process. Through various strategies like walking the neighborhoods, hosting a barbeque, utilizing the corner stores affiliated with the Muslim Run Campaign as bases, leaders were able to engage in conversations about the tax credit bill and the minimum wage increase.

Unquestionably, the ultimate goals of this campaign are beyond getting people registered to vote. These efforts will mobilize residents and encourage them to use their vote as a platform to have a real effect and change their communities. Currently, business owners receive a tax credit as an incentive to provide the formerly incarcerated with jobs, but they still aren’t hiring. If they are, they aren’t providing them with jobs or positions that give them livable wages or allow them to move up in the company. IMAN is pushing for the bill to be investigated and redeveloped in order for it to be a meaningful piece of legislation.

The GOTV leaders were constantly encouraged to speak and connect to residents in “a real way”–to be able to get into the nooks and crannies of each community and see how issues like the minimum wage increase affect individuals on a personal level. Community members expressed feelings of frustration, desperation and neglect by the electoral system, which only motivated the GOTV team to think bigger!

Stay connected with us for updates on the next steps in our campaign for encouraging civic engagement!

IMAN Awarded a USDA Farmers’ Market Grant

IMAN was one of eleven organizations in the State of Illinois to be awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program. The grant will be used to launch the IMAN Health and Wellness Farmers’ Market. The future market will build on the organization’s existing advocacy efforts around access to healthy foods. The year-round, indoor/outdoor farmers’ market will be open weekly, on Sundays. As with all of IMAN’s programming, the market will be culturally relevant. IMAN has plans to provide a multi-lingual/multi-cultural market environment through the written and spoken information to be presented, the diversity of vendors, as well as through the variety of performances which will include Mariachi, Jazz, and Arab music. The market is scheduled to open in February 2015 at the IMAN Youth and Arts Wellness Center, located at 2747 W. 63rd Street. Stay tuned for more information.

Muslim Run & GOTV

During the next month, IMAN leaders will be hitting the pavement to register the community to vote. Six days a week, leaders will be stationed in and around three of our Muslim Run corner stores. As we continue to push to transform corner stores across Englewood and West Englewood into sites of community education and engagement, we believe that voter education and empowerment centered in and around these stores is a key tool to ensure that voices from the community are heard.

While registering voters, our leaders will be connecting with the residents on two key issues around which IMAN has been actively organizing: tax credits and minimum wage. Alongside community partners, IMAN recently helped to pass state legislation that provides incentives in the form of tax credits to companies that hire formerly incarcerated individuals. This piece of legislation greatly impacts many leaders from within IMAN and our Green Reentry program, and several have made the commitment to be a part of educating the community on this issue through voter engagement. In addition to the tax credit piece, leaders will be educating voters on the issue of raising the minimum wage to a level that could more realistically support working families in Illinois.

IMAN’s voter registration and issue education efforts are an opportunity to empower a historically disenfranchised community by encouraging residents to recognize that their vote, whether for a person or an issue, can create change. If you are interested in getting involved with registering voters and providing education around these issues, please contact Sara Hamdan (sara@imancentral.org).

IMAN’s voter registration and issue education efforts are supported by the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Equal Voice for America’s Families.