New ‘Health Navigators’ Work to Increase Healthcare Access

IMAN is pleased to announce the addition of a new team of Health Navigators to its growing Health Center staff. In collaboration with Chicago Public Schools, Health Navigators will help to ensure that local parents and children are enrolled in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

IMAN trained two current staff members, Medical Assistant Rosa Mandujano, who serves as a bilingual English-Spanish navigator, and Organizer Robert Jones to take on this crucial role. Additionally, Donica Ousley was recruited and hired as a full-time Health Navigator. As a part of their certification process, the trio completed nearly 100 hours of comprehensive training over a four-week period of 4 weeks.

Currently, many millions of Americans remain uninsured, including over 900,000 Illinois residents living without health insurance. Nationwide, ACA marketplace signups so far in 2018 are occuring at a rate 3.7 percent lower than last year’s enrollment period, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Amid steep reductions in federal funding for healthcare outreach and specialized community support like health navigators—not to mention a shortened enrollment period and a climate of political uncertainty surrounding the healthcare laws—IMAN remains committed to
fighting for the health and wellness of Chicagoland communities. Our Health Navigator team is a significant step forward as we continue building trust and relationships with families who need and deserve access to healthcare.

Meet the 2018 Sacred Cypher Creatives

Cyphers are sacred. “Cypher comes from the Arabic word, sifr, meaning the number zero,” Sadia Nawab, IMAN Arts & Culture Manager, explains. “This zero represents a circle, which is the shape of a Hip Hop cypher, and represents communal equality, where no person is more prominent than any other person.” Since the earliest iterations of Hip Hop culture, the cypher has been a critical public space wherein Black, Brown and other marginalized youth gathered to creatively share and challenge their realities. The cypher fosters unity, equality, and support for its participants as they reflect, remind and call the community encircling them to action.

For over two decades, IMAN has cultivated unique artistic spaces that uphold the principles of the cypher through a philosophy of being Spiritually Rooted, Spatially Relevant, and Socially Conscious. Our Sacred Cypher Creatives (SCC) residency is a select group of artists from the recently launched IMAN Artist Roster, part of our ongoing support of innovative art-makers helping to build community and shape the future. Sacred Cypher Creatives will spend a year deepening their engagement with IMAN’s work at the intersection of culture, social justice and community organizing. We are proud to announce our 2018 SCC Cohort:

  • AL-TAWAM – Khadijah and Iman Siferllah-Griffin | Performance: Dance | Minneapolis, MN
  • KAYEM | Performance: Music, Recording Artist, Arts Education, Literary Arts | Chicago, IL
  • KELLY IZDIHAR CROSBY | Visual Art: Painting, Multidisciplinary Arts | Atlanta, GA
  • LIZA GARZA | Performance: Music, Poetry, Traditional/Folk Arts | Atlanta, GA
  • PHENOM | Performance: Emcee, Arts Education, Literary Arts, Poetry | Chicago, IL

Each SCC artist will complete a creative engagement project in collaboration with IMAN Arts & Culture and at least one additional department: Organizing & Advocacy, Green ReEntry or the Health Center. They will receive an Artist-in-Community Residency at IMAN’s campuses in either Chicago or Atlanta, and a stipend to support their throughout the year. Sacred Cypher Creatives will also convene for three in-person gatherings, culminating with the IMAN Artist Retreat this fall.

IMAN is honored to support and collaborate with these inspiring artists invested in radically reimagining our world. We invite you to journey with the 2018 Sacred Cypher Creatives, and experience their creativity in action. The first featured residency will be Liza Garza’s “Story Cypher” during IMAN’s “Only Light, Only Love” event series commemorating of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Her residency is highlighted by our signature CommUNITY Cafe on Saturday, April 7.

Green ReEntry Cohort Joins #MarchForOurLives

An inter-generational group of nearly 40 Green ReEntry cohort members, staff and leaders traveled to Washington D.C. this March for a weekend of reflection, solidarity and learning. The trip gave many brothers their first opportunity to serve as ambassadors for Green ReEntry–and IMAN–outside of Chicago.

This visit to our nation’s Capitol was highlighted by the group’s participation in the massive March for Our Lives event held in downtown Washington. Alongside 700,000 people from across the U.S., the Green ReEntry brothers demanded an end to the gun violence plaguing communities throughout the country. Many cohort members have lost loved ones to a bullet, and the group marched throughout the day carrying the memory of former cohort member Steven Ward, who was shot dead last December.

The Green ReEntry cohort was then hosted in Baltimore by longtime IMAN ally Saafir Rabb, who led the group on a tour around his hometown. Rabb has helped lead many successful property development projects in Baltimore, and he readily shared wisdom and laughs with his eager guests. During an in-depth exploration of a current embassy renovation, Rabb connected young cohort members with several older colleagues working in carpentry, masonry and heating/ventilation fields.

As the trip ended, Green ReEntry case workers arranged for a tour of the historic Howard University. Both high school completion and educational achievement are interwoven into cohort members’ goals, and immersing themselves in the college campus environment provided many opportunities for networking. After visiting the pioneering community at D.C.’s Masjid Muhammad, the cohort loaded the bus and returned to Chicago with rejuvenated spirits and a deepened sense of unity.

IMAN Awarded 2018 Neighborhood Opportunity Fund Grant

We are honored and excited to receive a 2018 Neighborhood Opportunities Fund grant. IMAN has been dedicated to organizing corner stores for nearly a decade, helping to build a culture of health and increase food access on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Our Corner Store Campaign currently engages a network of 42 stores–with 10 of those stores located in Englewood–and this award helps to augment our work in that community.

Since its inception, our Corner Store Campaign has been comprised of leaders—themselves confronted with persistent issues of inequity and undesirable health outcomes—who call Englewood, Chicago Lawn and other communities home. The 63rd & Racine Healthy Marketplace project prioritizes their voices, and those of our partners in Englewood.

IMAN is inspired by and deeply rooted in local movements that have historically pushed for Black-owned and Black-led businesses. At the same time, our corner store work is committed to healing racial tensions, particularly between Black and Arab communities. The 63rd & Racine Healthy Marketplace embodies these traditions by demonstrating the viability of a grassroots business collaboration between these two communities.

Partnering with the City of Chicago on this project is not contingent on our support for any particular initiative. Like many of our partners and resident leaders in Englewood, we remain deeply troubled by recent policy announcements. IMAN will continue to stand alongside those most directly affected by decisions and strategies that are not in the best interest of the community.

We will also continue to partner with those working in the city, county, and state on projects that will support the establishment of more thriving and dynamic communities. We are grateful for this support, and will continue to raise private funds to cover the larger costs of the Corner Store Campaign’s vision.