The Englewood Healthy Community Forum and Muslim Run Update

Healthy Englewood Forum Breakout SessionThe Englewood Healthy Community Forum was held Saturday, June 18th, in the Great Hall of Kennedy King College, as a collaboration between community-based organizations in Englewood, the Englewood Neighborhood Health Clinic, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). More than 150 community residents attended the forum and either provided feedback for legislators on changes they perceive as critical to the health and wellness of their community or learned more about the current and potential food options available in their neighborhood. The program was interactive from beginning to end, with a legislative panel session that included both local and state policy makers, in addition to a solutions panel that featured local grocery and convenient store managers and Dr. Rami Nashashibi, IMAN’s Executive Director, who spoke to the importance of the Fresh Food Fund allocation and the work of the Muslim Run campaign. The last hour of the forum focused on skill building, where participants had their choice of six different workshops, including Growing Food, Food and Nutrition Resources, Mobilizing Community Residents, Getting Healthy Food in Our Community, Neighborhood Safety and Healthy Children. Dr. Rami Nashashibi and Shamar Hemphill of IMAN hosted the Mobilizing Community Residents workshop and garnered the largest number of attendees in one session; 30 community residents and 15 IMAN leaders. Participants provided wonderful feedback and expressed satisfaction with all aspects of the forum. They spoke about looking forward to a more unified approach to work involving food access in Englewood in the future.

The Muslim Run campaign is hard at work in all three tracks: business, education and policy. This month the business track submitted a proposal to the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) recommending that the CLOCC engage corner store owners and community residents in working together to provide alternatives to unhealthy food options currently available in neighborhood stores. The education track is preparing an overall program to kick off a grassroots education campaign, which includes re-surveying store owners and community residents to collect data on the status of the problems surrounding food from their perspectives. The policy track is continuing to educate both local and state legislators on the goals of the campaign and urge them to direct additional resources into the community to increase the availability of more affordable healthy foods.

How Residents are Countering Violence in Chicago Lawn

“Violence is as American as apple pie,” stated Southwest Organizing Project’s Street Outreach/Ceasefire Director and IMAN board member, Rafi Peterson, at an Anti-Violence forum held on Wednesday, June 22nd. The meeting was held at IMAN and was attended by a mixture of community leaders, residents affected by violence and representatives of different organizations and religious traditions. Young people are being struck by gunfire at an alarming rate in this neighborhood of Chicago. Many times a prayer vigil/march is held to show collective support for the family, but follow up and proactive response has been consistently lacking. The emphasis for this particular forum was youth violence. Young people in our society experience injustice on so many levels, among those are lack of positive role models and effective means of self-expression and communication. Hip-hop artist Wacka Flocka Flame has become the favorite for many in this new generation, known for his rowdy style, which gets adrenaline pumping. Wacka Flocka Flame recently released a video for his popular track “Bustin at Em.” Attendees at the Violence Forum The video is packed with imagery of guns cocking and bullets flying in a very matter of fact and light-hearted manner. The youth in attendance at the forum were very engaged and their input weighed heavily on the audience. Only a few months back a senior at Gage Park High School and IMAN Community Ambassador was shot in his back and now barely feels safe as he walks through his own neighborhood. The forum was the first of its kind aiming at creating a realistic, holistic and sustainable response to the youth violence that ravages Chicago Lawn. The desperate need for this type of engagement is painfully evident; while we, met 6 people were shot in the surrounding blocks, one of whom was a pregnant fifteen year old girl. Something must be done! The gathering was quite productive and many practical components of a solution were fleshed out. Everyone was left with two thoughts. The first a question: What can you honestly commit to and be consistent at? And the second a command: Find someone else who cares about this most pressing issue and bring him or her to the next meeting, which was to be held at IMAN on Wednesday, June 29th, at 6 pm.

IMAN Celebrates Muslim Voices and Movements for Freedom

Dandana Crowd at Millennium Park Chicago was alive with the sound of Muslim voices from across the globe on June 16th and 17th, with back-to-back IMAN Arts & Culture events. Dandana – A Celebration of Muslim Voices took place at Millennium Park on Thursday, and Community Café – A Celebration of Freedom was held at the South Shore Cultural Center on Friday.

Chicagoans filled Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion for Dandana, with young and old alike rising to their feet to see performances by Egypt’s famed pop star Hakim, as well as The Alim Qasimov Ensemble, renowned musicians from Azerbaijan.

Following the instrumental stylings of The Alim Qasimov Ensemble, the park came to life with Hakim’s arabesque beats and vibrant vocals. The sounds of the pop legend and his band filled the evening well into the night when his performance came to a close and the crowd dispersed. The outdoor concert took place as part of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ “Music Without Borders” series.

Omar Offendum, host Tasleem Firdausee and DJ Ms Dia at Communtiy CaféSixteen-year-old special guest Aisha Ibrahim set the tone at the following evening’s Community Café, with spoken word pieces on freedom and the Arab Spring. Latin ska fusion band Los Vicios de Papá began the night’s main performances, entertaining the audience with its high energy, reggae-influenced beats and multi-lingual lyricism.

The hall soon switched from the sounds of Spanish to Arabic when R&B pop trio Tiraline took the stage. Visiting the U.S. from their hometown of Safi, Morocco, Tiraline brought a palpable energy to the event, and the audience grew in size as the night progressed. Just as with Dandana the night before, the Community Café comprised a beautifully diverse audience, with individuals from an array of cultures and communities gathering for the experience.

Following Tiraline’s performance, the Community Café came to an intermission as the crowd gathered for the evening prayer of maghrib. After the prayer, the audience took their seats for a final performance by Syrian-American hip hop artist Omar Offendum, whose words shed a poetic light upon the ongoing uprisings and revolutions in the Middle East, and the role of youth in impacting change. At times light-hearted and at others solemn, his performance closed the night with both laughter and insight.

The next Community Café is set to take place in September in conjunction with the Chicago World Music Festival.

One Chicago, One Nation Ends with Celebratory Reception

On June 16th, in Millennium Park, One Chicago, One Nation (OCON) celebrated the success of Community Ambassadors (CAs) who have worked in collaboration with Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), since the beginning of the year. The OCON initiative started in 2010 as a partnership between One Nation, Chicago Community Trust (CCT), IMAN, IFYC, and Link TV. Since the start of 2011, this year’s cohort of interfaith leaders has sought to mobilize faith communities in Chicago to come together for the common good.

One Chicago, One Nation Community Ambassadors Year 2

The gala began in Millennium Park’s Choral Room with delicious hors d’oeuvres and mingling. The room was filled with the laughs and chatter of CAs and alumni from Year One. Also in attendance were One Nation staff, representatives from CCT, City of Chicago officials, and staff of IMAN and IFYC. Later, the evening’s program commenced with opening remarks by OCON program managers’ Saleem Muhammad and Rochelle Rickoff who were the evening’s emcees. CCT’s Terry Mazany was the first speaker to the podium. Mr. Mazany highlighted the two-year OCON initiative and discussed CCT’s support of the program. Although, Community Ambassadors were collectively honored for their accomplishments, Mr. Mazany also had the pleasure of recognizing those CA’s that received Social Entrepreneurship funds (SEFs). The crowd was gleeful as SEF grantees Kinza Khan, Tom LaClair, and Kayla Higgins each stepped to the podium to describe their anticipated interfaith projects.

Nevertheless, the energy in the room reached its real peak as Executive Director Eboo Patel of IFYC addressed the crowd followed by IMAN’s Executive Director Rami Nashashibi. Their words of inspiration and interfaith solidarity were reflective of the diversity of the faith traditions present. The evening closed with final remarks by Saleem and Rochelle who invited guest to VIP seating at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park to watch performances by Egypt’s Hakim and Azerbaijan’s Alim Qasimov Ensemble. The performances were part of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ “Music Without Borders” concert series, which offered an excellent culmination to OCON’s interfaith reception.