The process of selecting one high-impact non-profit organization across the globe to be a recipient of a one million dollar prize is both an exhilarating and exhausting process. A large team pours over pages and pages of meticulous reviews of many extraordinary organizations before narrowing it down to the three finalists.
As a life-long devoted Catholic, my most memorable and impactful observation of Ramadan will always be the one I had the pleasure to observe last year while visiting IMAN as one of those final three OPUS Prize finalists. Our team was simply blown away by a group of individuals rooted in faith in the Most High and one another as they worked with love, passion and commitment towards being a source of health, wellness and healing in the community.
You probably know that we did in fact decide last year to offer this gift to IMAN and in great part we did so knowing that as significant as one million dollars was it was still only a fraction of the larger amount this organization would need to fulfill its larger and well though-out vision. Our hope and prayer is that our gift would further drive those who believe in the organization to double down on their commitments and investments in this amazing model as it expands in Chicago and Atlanta and as it inspires communities across the country.
It delights me to discover and announce that an anonymous IMAN supporter has once again stepped up to match all donations, dollar for dollar, made from now to the end of Ramadan. Please donate generously and help IMAN reach or exceed the “One Link, One Chain” Ramadan drive goal. We are all connected, and together must remain committed to supporting such incredible work.
Opus Prize Foundation
“…But this time I got here (to IMAN). And I got to see what community organizing looks like; I got to see what engaged commitment to our children looks like; I got to see what a realized dream of freedom and justice and equality and self-determination for our people in this nation looks like. I was inspired! And I was reminded that our work is unfinished but (that) our work is ultimately finish-able.”
– Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, IMAN Annual Fundraising Dinner speech, December 2018
I heard Marc Lamont Hill speak these words in a powerful moment last December while emceeing IMAN’s Annual Fundraising Dinner. His observations on our work struck me as resonant with rich Malcolm-esqe insights. Marc himself was delivering these words only hours after CNN publicly parted with him because some chose to manipulate his words about the plight of the Palestinian people at the United Nations. Finally, to add to the richness of that moment, Marc delivered his speech for IMAN in a room at the South Shore Cultural Center named after Paul Robeson—a celebrated and persecuted black activist and intellectual—just minutes after Maryum Ali—the daughter of Muhammad Ali—delivered her powerful testimony about the intersectionality of IMAN’s work and her fathers legacy.
Over the weekend, people across the country reflected on Malcolm’s ongoing legacy on what would’ve been his 94th birthday. I saw beautiful posts on social media and heard stirring reflections. Yet, beyond all the great meditations on his legacy there is no American Muslim organization that I know of that has been able to translate Malcolm‘s unapologetic commitment to improving the lives, conditions and opportunities of our communities in urban America like IMAN. It’s why I’ve dedicated this portion of my life to leading IMAN’s work in Atlanta, which over the weekend broke fast with the community at a Green ReEntry development project built by the type of brothers Malcolm would’ve had his arms around today, celebrating them the way we celebrate them at IMAN.
As we enter the last two weeks of Ramadan, please contribute generously to our One Link, One Chain: 2019 Ramadan Drive. Your support is a critical link in this chain and ensures that we can continue to unapologetically place our arms around those so often left out of the conversation, and celebrate them in a way that lifts up the possibility and promise of what we can and will, God willing, accomplish together through this work.
Director of IMAN Atlanta
Ms. Freya Powell had driven past our IMAN Atlanta office several times before she decided to stop in. She had learned about IMAN through another community partner and two months ago, finally made the decision to attend a Grassroots Power Hour session—our weekly community organizing forum that connects people in order to build power around important issues. What Ms. Freya experienced floored her. Never before, she told me, had she been in a space that affirmed so much of her humanity—that brought older generations together with young leaders, that connected returning citizens with the children of immigrants, that incorporated the arts and self-care practices as crucial components of working to uplift and transform her community.
And meeting Ms. Freya validates everything I have always known and loved about this organization. I have the privilege of being the only IMAN Atlanta staff member who has had the experience of working at both the Chicago and Atlanta sites. Over the last three years, I have witnessed IMAN’s holistic model take root and flourish organically in my home state of Georgia and can attest to IMAN’s ability to create real meaningful change—helping to pass important legislation around prisoner rights; training over 65 leaders in our signature Community Organizing curriculum; inspiring the hearts of over 1,000 people through powerful artistic expression at Community Cafés; rekindling connections to the earth through urban agriculture and healthy eating workshops; graduating three Green ReEntry cohorts; and now, on the verge of completing renovation of a 10-unit apartment complex—the most expansive Green ReEntry project IMAN has embarked on in its over 21 year history.
Ms. Freya has been inviting everyone she knows to join IMAN’s efforts and especially loves that IMAN is a space that she feels connects her to her own faith, while forming a solid and meaningful link to people of other faiths doing life-changing work in her community. In Ms. Freya’s words, “I found peace here at IMAN – it woke me up.”
Join me and Ms. Freya in supporting IMAN’s One Link, One Chain: 2019 Ramadan Drive with a generous, zakat-eligible, tax-deductible donation. Help us continue to form links like Ms. Freya in Chicago, Atlanta, and beyond.
As an active Christian and IMAN collaborator, I’ve had opportunities to join my Muslim sisters and brothers for many Iftar dinners over the years but none as powerful as the one I attended on the first day of Ramadan at IMAN.
Monday night I joined a group of IMAN staff, leaders, and community members who gathered at IMAN’s Health Center with State Senator Jacqueline Collins to discuss Senate Resolution 98—an effort to call out and curtail the deplorable number of preventable deaths in Illinois’ prisons. Some evidence suggests that one third of all deaths recorded within the Illinois Department of Corrections between 2016 and 2017 were preventable.
Beyond the discussion of the Senate Resolution, I heard the powerful and unforgettable stories of IMAN organizers and leaders discuss their harrowing struggles with health in and outside of prison. At one point in the conversation Nasir Blackwell, a full-time IMAN organizer, recalled the grueling deaths he witnessed while in the infirmary and spoke of the hundreds of legal complaints he filed to bring legal attention to these cases. “No one is listening…this is why we are dying!” he exclaimed.
Nasir is right; not enough people are listening. Justice-involved individuals face significant physical and mental health needs and confront a variety of social challenges. As a public health researcher, my work has focused on studying, advocating for and working with organizations fighting to close the health disparities crippling black and brown communities. I also know that the circumstances contributing to the deterioration of health and wellness in low-income areas directly correlates to the mass incarceration of many of our dear brothers and sisters. We know that when these individuals come home, they are faced with even more trauma, returning to under-resourced neighborhoods where more violence and high recidivism is a very probable outcome. In other words: organizations like IMAN and leaders like Nasir understand the link between the conditions in and outside prisons and the impact they have on our communities.
IMAN is forging the way toward building a holistic model to strengthen the link between issues dealing with health, wellness and healing in the inner-city.
I’ve been an active supporter with my time and resources and I hope you join me.
Take action and help this dynamic organization meet its “One-Link, One Chain”: Ramadan Drive goal to raise $1,000,000.
Dr. Angela Odoms-Young