Digital Media Masters Complete Summer Term

In the words of the great African novelist Chinua Achebe, “It is the storyteller who makes us what we are, who creates history. The storyteller creates the memory that the survivors must have–otherwise their surviving would have no meaning.”

An unfortunate reality of life in 2015 is that mainstream media companies have a monopoly on storytelling, crippling communities’ ability to form their own narratives and spreading harmful stereotypes. This damage is felt in the community where IMAN operates, where young black and brown men are often assumed to be lifelong criminals. Muslims across the country are profiled and harassed in similar ways.

DMM Summer 15 GradIMAN works to empower local high schoolers through Digital Media Masters (DMM), a 6-week summer intensive where students become agents of change by projecting their own authentic narratives with the long-term goal of using mass media to transform their communities. Through funding from After School Matters, IMAN was not only able pay the teens for their reporting, but also hire a brilliant instructor, Tariq Weaver, to facilitate thought-provoking conversations with these amazing young minds.

One of the most transformative aspects of DMM was the chance for the students to engage with both IMAN’s proven organizing model, and the diverse constituent base of various ethnicities and faith traditions. DMM students participated in programs such as Refresh the ‘Hood, Ramadan Reflections and Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers’ Market.

Valued IMAN allies also stepped in to share wisdom and reporting tips. Enoch Muhammad of Hip Hop Detoxx held a Q&A session, and longtime IMAN supporters Ayesha Kazi and Dr. Emad Rahim gave advice on academic and professional success. At the end of the DMM program, students shared their final projects—ranging from photo essays to video interviews—with parents and IMAN staff. Thanks to all those who played a part in making this summer special, and stay on the lookout for articles from the DMM graduates!

One-Year Away: MLK Memorial & #Streets2016

The buzz has intensified surrounding two of IMAN’s most ambitious initiatives to date as we began the one-year countdown until the kickoff of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Takin’ It to the Streets 2016.

MLK 1 yr meetingEarlier this month, a diverse group from across Chicago convened at Marquette Park for a discussion and reflection on the memorial. The Chicago Public Art Group shared its preliminary designs with local activists, some of whom actually participated in Dr. King’s 1966 Fair Housing March, and with faith leaders from Trinity United Church, Beth Emet Synagogue, and the Ephraim Bahar Center who offered spiritual insights. Afterwards, the guest visited the proposed location inside the park for the MLK Memorial, closing with a prayer by Father Pfleger of St. Sabina Church. Construction on the memorial will soon begin inside the newly renovated workshop at IMAN’s Youth & Arts Wellness Center, and its unveiling is scheduled for August 5th, 2016.

Takin’ It to the Streets, the nation’s most unique Muslim-led urban international festival, will keep the festivities at Marquette Park going on Saturday, August 6, 2016. Marking 50 years since Dr. King’s historic march through that same space, #Streets2016 is shaping up to be the most exciting show yet. Check out the first official promo video below, and stay tuned for big-time updates coming soon!

IMAN Board Member Wins Sargent Shriver Award

Aminah Ali, an IMAN Board Member and longtime youth leader, was recently awarded the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award by the Marguerite Casey Foundation. Just back from the presentation banquet in Seattle, Aminah sat down to reflect on the honor and her development as a key part of IMAN.

So, how was your experience at the awards ceremony?

AA: I’d say it was both inspiring and humbling. I enjoyed meeting the Marguerite Casey board members and hearing their stories and about their philanthropy. It was amazing to learn that some of them had grown up poor, but after becoming financially successful they were able to give back in such amazing ways.

What was it like meeting the other award winners?

AA: We all stayed in the same hotel, ate together, stuff like that. It was inspiring to see my peers who put in such amazing work and are now getting recognized for it. The work that I was honored for – food justice – was unique among all the other awardees, so that made it even more special. Learning about the challenges that my peers have overcome to get to this point was extremely humbling. A lot of them come from much more difficult circumstances than I do, struggles with immigration policy and other things. It just gave me some perspective.

How did you first get involved with IMAN?IMG951710

AA: Well I was about 13 or 14 years old. My stepdad handled the security there and then Shamar, the Organizing Director, also got me involved. I started out just helping with a couple programs, but I soon realized that I wanted a long-term connection to IMAN.

Have you benefitted from your time at IMAN?

AA: Absolutely. My mentors at IMAN helped me to come out of my shell, to better understand the world around me and take a leadership role in it. The biggest change I’ve seen in myself is my comfort with public speaking. When I was younger, I’d never talk in front of people. I wouldn’t even raise my hand in school. Now I feel more comfortable voicing my opinion. IMAN also opened my eyes to different ethnic communities in the city: Arabs, Latinos, Asians and other peoples. Experiencing this diversity changed how I deal with other people. I was already pretty accepting, but working with IMAN helped me become even more open-minded.

What can we expect next from Aminah Ali?

AA: In the next couple of years, I want to work as a dental assistant and earn an Associate’s degree in Science. Then, I’ll transfer to a university and get a Bachelor’s degree. Eventually, I want to become a dentist. I plan to continue serving on the IMAN Board of Directors, and to stay connected to the organization through internships and my relationships with staff.

What would you tell other young people who are interested in community work?

AA: I’d tell youth to not be selfish, because we do that as teens sometimes. Realize the bigger picture: helping community and family allows you to realize the purpose in your own life. Plus it will benefit those who come after you.