IMAN Deepens Its Bench with Talented Staff Additions

Cultivating a “deep bench” of up and coming leaders is among IMAN’s most impressive, and indeed necessary, accomplishments over the last 20 years. With a growing office in Atlanta and several staff members joining the team in Chicago, IMAN is primed to continue asserting itself as a nationally relevant model–one that many of you have helped to build.

IMAN has added qualified, holistically minded professionals to its Health Center staff, positioning the department for greater expansion after earning FQHC Lookalike status. Director of Health Center Operations Sean Burke and interim Medical Director Muna Odeh have stepped into their leadership roles during this critical moment in the Center’s growth. At the grassroots level, new “Health Navigators” have circulated throughout the community, registering residents for Medicare and educating them about healthcare access.

As Green ReEntry continues to flourish, several talented instructors have come onboard to share their occupational knowledge and inspirational stories with their students in both Chicago and Atlanta’s cohorts. Curriculum and Job Development has also been formally added as a division of the program, deepening the engagement with cohort members as they transition into the workforce.

IMAN has bolstered its operations with additions to its Communications, Finance and Development departments as well, ensuring that all of IMAN’s initiatives have the infrastructure they need to thrive. Such growth would not be possible without the continued support of the individuals, families and organizations around the country who believe in IMAN’s mission. If you or someone you know is interested in joining IMAN’s growing staff family, check out our current openings here.

‘Off The List, On The Love’ This Ramadan

Too many of our beloved sisters and brothers find themselves on all the wrong lists: on waiting lists to access desperately needed housing, mental health services and employment opportunities; on poverty and hunger indices; and on criminal registries that perpetually punish individuals, families and entire neighborhoods. These lists contribute to our lack of racial and social equity, and are ultimately rooted in a lack of love.

During the blessed month of Ramadan, IMAN embraced the theme “Off The List, On The Love”, strengthening bonds of mutual love throughout our community. Organizers, artists and leaders hosted regular Refresh the Hood engagements at local corner stores, where they promoted healthy living with cooking demonstrations and artistic expression. NowThis Media captured the excitement in a widely viewed online news segment. On Wednesday evenings, dozens of individuals and families gathered to break their fasts and engage one another through Ramadan Reflections sessions.

Both Chicago and Atlanta hosted widely attended Community Iftars, during which hundreds of community members enjoyed healthy dinner, opportunities to deepen relationships with neighbors, and night prayer under the stars. Dr. Sherman Jackson delivered a special keynote talk during a private IMAN fundraising event hosted by an Atlanta Advisory Board Member. Two young men from Chicago’s Green ReEntry cohort were on hand to hear Dr. Jackson’s remarks, and share their stories with him and other guests.

With your prayers and generosity, we were able to raise over 70% of our Ramadan Fundraising Drive goal. As we continue to raise these critical funds necessary for the growth and success of our work, we encourage you to contribute to the ongoing drive. Click here to make your zakat-eligible, tax-deductible donation.

IMAN Artist Kelly Crosby Wages Beauty

During the last week of Ramadan, IMAN Roster Artist and Sacred Cypher Creative, Kelly Crosby brought her concept of “Waging Beauty” to life during her artist residency. Kelly’s residency—the first at IMAN focused on visual arts—hosted a workshop during IMAN’s Refresh The Hood engagement at our social enterprise initiative in Englewood. Community members, who often have limited access to opportunities for formal artistic expression, worked intimately with Kelly to create art on reusable grocery bags.

Later that evening, Kelly held a sneaker art workshop at the Hip Hop Theater Festival in partnership with Kuumba Lynx. One participant, an aspiring fashion designer, stated that she had never had an opportunity like this, and that it inspired her to explore other creative forms of expression.

Kelly’s residency also engaged IMAN leaders during an intergenerational “Paint ‘N’ Iftar” gathering that included glazing ceramics and a discussion on bringing beauty to neglected public spaces, and also engaged staff during a Group Art Technique training focused on helping participants infuse artistic expression into their work.

Kelly was invited to share sentiments about Waging Beauty and her Sacred Cypher Creative journey during an interview with Radio Islam. She concluded her residency at IMAN’s Annual Community Iftar, where she shared her creative process during a live art demonstration in front of hundreds of guests.

“My personal artistic motto is taken from the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). ‘Allah is beautiful and loves beauty.’ So, I consider myself a beauty maker. Beauty is necessary to fight those committed to the ugly states of injustice, oppression and despair. I call my work ‘Waging Beauty’ for these reasons.” – Kelly Crosby

30 Black Men In the Middle of the Room

This Ramadan really started for me when I walked into a room packed full of black men of all ages taking turns unabashedly expressing their love and appreciation for one another. It was a powerful Latina Muslim artist and longtime IMAN leader, Liza Garza, leading them in the circle.

One year ago, most of these men didn’t know one another and several of them were rival gang members who had once shot at each other on the streets. And yet, less than a year later, the experience they have undergone as participants of the Green ReEntry program has turned these once-rivals into brothers.

For so many of us, this month of Ramadan has been about striving for and struggling to realize our unfulfilled potential, even amid structural barriers that try to deny us that vision of ourselves. Every dollar we are raising is part of a well-planned and calculated budget to help this organization grow its programming, deepen its campaigns, and expand its reach to better ensure the immediate and long-term realization of such a vision. We have come so far towards our larger goal and are grateful for each and every dollar that has come in this month. In the next few hours we will try our very best to close the remaining gap, and in the days and weeks to come, we are hopeful that we will be able to do so with your ongoing support and prayers.

Yesterday, as IMAN staff and leaders were preparing for what would be a beautiful community iftar last night, a neighbor on the block stopped Rami and me as we were walking past her house. She wanted us to know how much she loved and appreciated the young men in our program, who not only always treated her and her children with respect and kindness, but were also attentive stewards of the block. I am still thinking about her words and replaying the image of 30 black men standing in the middle of a room telling each other, “I love you, man”. There is so much more work to do but no matter how many lists my people and my community find themselves on, I know that it is that fierce, formidable, unrelenting love that has the power to transform any heart and any block.

Thank you for your love, this month and always.

Eid Mubarak,
Alia J. Bilal
Director of Community Relations