On September 26th, artists from Senegal and Egypt joined IMAN at the South Shore Cultural Center for a special edition of Community Café. The event was held in collaboration with the Chicago World Music Festival, a week-long festival that brings diverse artists from around the world to a variety of Chicago venues.
Kicking off the night was Meta & the Cornerstones, a six-member reggae and hip-hop group representing Senegal and various other nations. The group performed a compelling afro-beat set list infused with multi-lingual lyrics. Hosts Seemi Choudhry and Sadia Nawab, two of IMAN’s long-time youth leaders, led the audience through the Community Café experience and following Meta’s appearance were brief performances by spoken word artists Liza Garza and Mark Gonzales.
Next came headliner Riad & Takht, an ensemble of musicians from Egypt. Made up of composer and violinist Riad Abdel-Gawad and his ensemble, or ‘takht,’ the group’s Middle Eastern instrumental music provided a distinct and complimentary contrast to Meta’s African rhythms. Alongside the headliners, DJ Man-o-Wax entertained the audience throughout the night with an international, eclectic fuse of rhythms.
As IMAN’s Community Café took place in the midst of flood relief efforts in Pakistan, the event was also held to raise awareness and funds for Pakistan’s dire situation as a result of this historic flood.
We would like to welcome Dr. Altaf Kaiseruddin to the IMAN family. He started as the first full-time Medical Director of the IMAN Health Clinic on November 1st. Dr. Kaiseruddin joins IMAN with nearly ten years of experience in the medical profession and with intimate knowledge of the West Englewood and Chicago Lawn communities. With generous support from Islamic Relief USA, Dr. Kaiseruddin is positioned to grow IMAN’s clinic into a first-class facility that is a local stalwart in holistic health and wellness.
The addition of a full-time Medical Director is a milestone in the development of the Clinic as a community health center. Nearly ten years ago, IMAN began laying the foundation for what would become an integral piece of our holistic vision of community service and organizing when we established IMAN’s Free Health Clinic. Initially the Clinic offered health screenings led by a team of medical school students, but it quickly became apparent that more deliberate care and a larger range of services would be required to make a significant community impact.
A partnership with a local physician’s office allowed the Clinic to expand its services throughout the early 2000s before, in 2006, an environmental scan was developed to more accurately predict community needs and to begin identifying a new facility for the growing Clinic. Most recently, the Clinic has grown under the direction of Dr. Adiba Khan, becoming a host site for H1N1 vaccinations and offering pre- and post-natal care for expectant and new mothers among other services.
IMAN’s Free Health Clinic is located in a federally-recognized health care shortage area, with an abysmally high number of uninsured individuals. Dr. Kaiseruddin has joined the Clinic with a commitment to expand its ability to provide comprehensive care to all those in need. His lifelong desire to help the underserved, a passion informed by his faith in Islam and its mandate to serve God’s creation, made joining IMAN “just seem natural.” Moreover, he hopes to motivate other Muslim health care workers to integrate their professional lives with community service, by volunteering time with the Clinic. His reasoning? The statistics of hunger, disease, and death by violence are just as staggering in areas of the inner-city as in some areas of active war; an issue that deserves our immediate attention.
These statistics represent a stark reality that Islamic Relief USA acknowledged and is helping to change by embarking on a partnership with IMAN, supporting the work of Dr. Kaiseruddin and the growth of the clinic. Dr. Kaiseruddin shared that Islamic Relief is “a beloved organization within the Muslim community and to me specifically” and that the recent partnership with IMAN is proof of a critically needed dedication to domestic emergencies. The resources of Islamic Relief will undoubtedly make a significant contribution to the scope and quality of the Health Clinic’s work moving forward.
IMAN is excited about these recent developments and thankful to both Islamic Relief and Dr. Kaiseruddin for their passionate commitment to service and their sincere devotion to positively impacting the lives of our society’s downtrodden. This new relationship should allow IMAN to, in Dr. Kaiseruddin’s words, “provide the best healthcare experience to each and every person who enters.”
My experience in Arizona was, to say the least, a very new one. I was completely unaware of what voter registration would be like when I arrived there, except I knew that we had to go to Arizona to do it to help the immigrant community vote, so legislation such as the Dream Act could be passed. When we first began registering voters, I wondered if it would make much of a difference at all. However, by the time I had started to do some work, I began to see it differently – that if enough immigrants registered to vote and got their voice heard, then they could make things better for the other immigrants, ones who are “undocumented” and can’t vote. And I would like that, because I have a close personal connection to some people that are dealing with these very same problems. So although I still may not have liked doing voter registration and even if I wasn’t very good at it, I could at least say I tried to help my brothers and sisters in the immigrant community by registering people to vote.
One thing that struck me on this trip was how hard registering voters actually was. I had expected it to be much easier, and be some sort of sit-down work where people would come to you to register. When I heard, during our training on the first day, that our host organization, Promise Arizona (PAZ), had registered 10,000 voters with all their efforts, I thought it was a really low number. However, when I actually got out there and experienced for myself how hard registering voters was (how about getting kicked out of Wal-Mart at least three times?) I thought it was a miracle that they had got to 1,000, let alone 10,000. It doesn’t help that I have never been good in social situations such as voter registration where you have to approach people and ask them to register, but I got the general feeling that voter registration was hard for almost everyone.
The companionship with the folks during the trip was enjoyable. It was indeed entertaining to hear some of the stories told and to talk about some of the sports going on at the time. However, there were a few times when I felt out of place as the only “kid” in the whole group.