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.

Backyard Garden An Intersection For Building Relationships

The purpose of the IMAN Backyard Garden at 6210 S. Fairfield, IMAN latest Green ReEntry home, is to serve as an intergenerational model to inspire other people in our community to build their own gardens. This project is a physical manifestation of IMAN’s larger health and wellness piece, and acts as a bridge that connects Muslim Run, the Green Reentry program, and IMAN’s youth organizing work. Some of the benefits of having a garden are that they decrease global warming, save energy, and teach self-reliance that is especially important in a food desert. The youth were heavily involved in the project.

The backyard behind 6210 S. Fairfield used to be completely covered by dirt at the beginning of the project, but has since been significantly built up. We have installed four garden beds with organic soil, a brick patio, and a grass area for children to play in. So far, char, kohlrabi, beets, and kale has been grown. We will be installing two more beds soon which will belong to Brother Taqi. The first original four beds belong to Brother Khalifa. The plants will need to be watered every week with an inch of water if it does not rain. Also, soil installations will be made for the new plants since the original soil in the garden was not recommended to grow in, because of car emissions and toxicity left over from the Chicago Fire.

There will also be an Each One Teach One gardening session in late September with the goal and objective of giving our community members the feeling of being directly involved in Muslim Run’s health and wellness push by potentially growing their own fruits and vegetables. Since we are engaging store owners to provide healthy food choices, many people would probably like to know what they can do in their own homes to create a healthier community. A backyard garden is one thing that a person can do at their own home instead of just waiting for the store owners to flip the store.

Dr. Michelle Anderson Joins Clinic’s Behavioral Health Services

If you’ve never heard the saying that health is not just the absence of an illness, then we welcome you to the world of behavioral and mental health.  Behavioral health is about addressing mental health needs which range from severe mental illness to supporting people to grow in their own lives.

April, 2014 marked two years since six community mental health centers closed in the City of Chicago. These community clinics served as vital resources for maintaining the stability of the under or uninsured who needed assistance with mental health.  You can check out what’s being said about the community mental health clinics closures here.

Throughout all of this, the IMAN Health Clinic remains committed to the health and wellness of all, and seeks to strengthen its behavioral health capacity. The Clinic has staffed a clinical psychologist, Michelle Anderson, PhD, to offer direct services and expand the program.  Dr. Anderson has an extensive background in community mental health needs. She has worked with youth (age 10 and older), as well as adults and families in different locations.

The behavioral and mental program at IMAN’s Health Clinic offers services including individual therapy, career and life sessions, marital/couples sessions and family sessions for families with children ages 10 and older. The program is also seeking to collaborate with other organizations in the area to address issues related to violence and safety.  The behavioral health program will provide group events to give the community the opportunity to learn new ways to reduce stress and increase positive emotions. Eventually the behavioral health program will expand to include more counselors and professionals seeking specialized training in community mental health.  Behavioral health service hours at the Clinic are currently: Tues and Wed from 9:30-4 and Thurs from 1-4.

The  behavioral health program at the IMAN Health Clinic is supported by the Chicago Community Trust.

Brother Ali: Truth-Teller & CommUNITY Café Headliner

He has performed hajj; written a song celebrating the election of the first black president; been arrested protesting with Occupy Homes; is a proud student of the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed; and performed one of the most politically incendiary critiques of America’s complicated race legacy on a late night talk show in recent television memory. His lyrics are filled with deeply personal and autobiographical meditations of a White-American Muslim albino navigating the travails of race and marriage, and the struggles of everyday people. To some he is a contradiction, but to many of us he exemplifies what we love most about a particular truth-telling spirit and aesthetic in hip-hop, even as that spirit often gets tragically eclipsed or comprised by the overwhelming commercializing forces in the music industry.

As part of the recognition and attention he is getting for his latest album, Brother Ali was interviewed by Dr. Cornel West for the Smiley and West show. Listen here.

Yet, Brother Ali’s connection to this tradition speaks to one of the most remarkable and still under-reported aspects of the American Muslim legacy over the last 40 years: the emergence of a truth-telling spirit, aesthetic and expression within hip-hop, championed over the years by artists who either broadly self-identify as Muslim, or whose sensibilities have been deeply informed and widely influenced by an organic encounter with Islam. From Rakim in the pioneering 80s, to Mos Def in the globalizing 90s, to Lupe Fiasco in the new millennium, some of hip-hop’s most celebrated and accomplished artists come out of this experience.

Brother Ali speaks of and celebrates this legacy often. I first met with him in a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis with hopes of securing him for our 2005 Takin’ It to the Streets. We had a passionate conversation–the only kind you can have with this man–and he graciously agreed. Brother Ali would go on to appear at a number of IMAN events over the years and most recently performed at IMAN’s 15th Anniversary Takin’ it to the Streets, in 2013. The tension of honestly exploring the spectrum of raw emotions and experiences that makes well-crafted art truly transcendent, while remaining rooted in spiritual values that don’t degrade the substance of its expression, are among the conversations we continue to have.

That’s a large issue and the type of topic that can be debated for hours and if you were to have peeked in at IMAN’s 2011 Artist Retreat around dawn, you would have found Brother Ali energetically leading a seriously sleep-deprived congregation of fellow artists and activists for an animated post-Fajr reflection on such themes.

One thing that is less debatable is the fact that Brother Ali remains one of the realest and rawest talents in the industry, and attending a Brother Ali show is about as close as many in his audience will ever get to engaging and embracing an unapologetically universal expression of Islam’s emphasis on love, justice, mercy and empathy for our fellow human beings.