Organizing Training Engages Largest Cohort Yet

During the weekend of August 12-13, IMAN’s Community Organizing Training returned to Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, where 40 leaders gathered to strengthen their understanding of concepts and skills for making change in their communities. This year’s training participants brought together longtime IMAN leaders from our Green Reentry and our organizing campaigns, and included leaders from across Chicagoland and from out of state, working on a range of issues in their communities.

In addition to IMAN’s standard modules focused on the importance of knowing and sharing our stories, relationship building, self-interest, and power, this year’s training highlighted the connection between organizing, the arts, and mental health, which has long characterized IMAN’s holistic model. PHENOM, a longtime IMAN arts leader, performed pieces on power and community building, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Suzanne Chopra led modules around the importance of goal setting and self care.

At the same time the trainees were forging common bonds in Hyde Park, the tragic events in Charlottesville were polarizing the nation. Witnessing the chaotic violence in Virginia’s streets served as a stark reminder of why holistic spaces like IMAN’s Organizing Training and Grassroots Power Hour are essential to establishing a truly beloved community.

God willing, organizers will continue to spread IMAN’s model to leaders throughout Chicago and across the country. Weekly Grassroots Power Hour sessions will shift to Tuesday evenings starting September 18, and IMAN will close out the year with a special training in Detroit. For more information on IMAN’s organizing efforts, contact Senior Organizer Shamar Hemphill at shamar@imancentral.org

Atlanta Community Gathers to Support ReEntry Efforts

In 2011, approximately 1,885 individuals were released from state or federal custody each day – that’s 688,384 individuals that year, according to the National Institute of Justice. Returning citizens struggle with unstable housing, inadequate employment and over policing, all issues that often contribute to incarceration in the first place. What can be done to ease their transition back home and back into their communities?

On July 29, community members, behavioral health professionals, lawyers and law professors, mothers, and returning citizens themselves attended ‘IMAN Sessions: Investing in Lives #BeyondIncarceration’. Discussion revolved around IMAN’s Green ReEntry program, and ways it can continue to offer support to returning citizens via life skills training and workforce development.

Judge Fatima El-Amin and IMAN Atlanta’s Green ReEntry Manager, Jermaine Shareef, spoke to a packed crowd about their personal experiences with the criminal justice system and reentry work. Various points of view and approaches to the criminal justice system were raised. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and the conversation ran deep.

Guests shared their perspectives on what should be incorporated into effective reentry programs. As IMAN incorporates a holistic approach to meet the needs of Atlanta’s returning citizens, the importance of hearing the needs of those most directly affected by the criminal justice system cannot be overstated.

Community members connected and shared additional information after the conclusion of the event. It became evident to IMAN Atlanta staff that the issues around incarceration and reentry require continued committed, grassroots community space. This inspired IMAN Atlanta to plan IMAN Sessions: Investing in Lives #BeyondIncarceration Part 2, for September 23rd.

At that gathering, IMAN Atlanta will introduce its second Green ReEntry cohort, share the action plan created at the first IMAN Sessions discussion, and continue to preserve the safe space desired by community members of all backgrounds.