Usama Canon & Brother Ali at IMAN Eid Celebration

As millions of people gathered for the sacred Hajj pilgrimage, IMAN hosted hundreds of community members during an uplifting Eid al-Adha celebration with Usama Canon, founder of Ta’leef Collective, and Yemeni scholar Syed Umar bin Hamid al Haddad, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Longtime IMAN Arts leader Brother Ali joined these two special guests, and began the day by hosting an intimate discussion on managing trauma and supporting psycho-spiritual health with several Green ReEntry and Health Center staff members. Following that gathering, he delivered a powerful khutbah highlighting the importance of mercy and justice in strong faith communities.

Usama Canon has served as a spiritual advisor to IMAN for many years, and he met with dozens of staff and leaders after the jum’ah prayer. He acquainted his teacher–Syed Umar–with the IMAN community, and facilitated a touching introduction between Syed Umar, Shirley Muhammad, the wife of the celebrated Imam WD Mohammed, and IMAN board member Laila Muhammad, his daughter. Syed Umar then toured IMAN’s campus to experience the work’s continued growth and impact.

Throughout the afternoon, guests also enjoyed an expanded Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market commemorating the Eid al-Adha holiday. A free, catered lunch was distributed to all in attendance, while Ronnie Malley and his internationally acclaimed trio provided captivating musical performances to celebrate the Eid season. The market featured children’s activities like a petting zoo, and an inflatable bounce house. With the school year right around the corner, IMAN gave out dozens of free backpacks stocked with supplies to young students. IMAN’s annual Eid Al-Adha celebration represents an important opportunity to bring community members together to learn about and share in the spiritual bounties of this special moment.

Organizers Focus on Local ‘Food Ecosystem’

IMAN continues to #FightFearBuildPower with several critical initiatives related to our Food Ecosystem work. Organizers and leaders have called on communities to “fight back with food” through our Corner Store Campaign, Fresh Beats and Eats Farmers Market and Backyard Garden. Food plays a critical role in our collective health and wellness, and IMAN is doubling down on both its support of existing food providers, as well as opening up additional outlets for residents to access nutritious goods.

Following a successful Refresh the Hood series during Ramadan, Corner Store Campaign organizers and leaders have advanced their outreach into new stores while deepening relationships with those already in IMAN’s network.

Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market returned in July, opening up a weekly space for residents to enjoy locally grown, organic produce, inspiring artistic expression and relaxing gatherings with their neighbors for the fourth consecutive year. Led by new Food Ecosystems Coordinator Eric Rodriguez, the market has added new features like a petting zoo and regular giveaways of groceries and personal care products. Fresh Beats & Eats will run through October 27, rain or shine.

Tucked in the back of one of IMAN’s properties, the Backyard Garden is flourishing. Managed by longtime leader Olisaemeka Okakpu, the garden has served as an outdoor classroom and source of fresh produce for other Food Ecosystems leaders interested in the art of urban farming. Several harvests from the garden have been delivered to the Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market to be distributed as samples. A local chef also conducted a live cooking demonstration with vegetables grown in the Backyard Garden, showing market-goers that they too can own their food “from seed to plate”.

There are many ways to support IMAN’s Food Ecosystems work, like purchasing local foods from Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market, or engaging one of our partner corner stores. To get involved as an organizer or leader, contact Corner Store Campaign Manager Sara Hamdan or Food Ecosystems Coordinator Eric Rodriguez.

Atlanta Hosts CommUNITY Café and Kayem Residency

IMAN recently hosted another weeklong Sacred Cypher Creative artist residency, this time featuring Chicago-based hip-hop artist, Kayem. This was the third residency of 2018, and the first held in Atlanta. Kayem’s work is rooted in his identity, being a child of the Libyan diaspora. His residency, entitled “My Home is a People”, collaborated with IMAN’s Green ReEntry program on a series of events and workshops using free-writing, poetry and hip-hop to empower personal stories and help communities harness their pasts as a tool to positively shape the future.

The residency began with Kayem facilitating a “Writes of Passage” writing workshop at Atlanta’s Greening Youth organization in collaboration with Urban Youth Corps. Kayem’s vulnerability encouraged attendees to open up and heal by writing out their personal stories. Later that week, Kayem led “Recalibrating our Spirit”, during which newly hired Atlanta Green ReEntry cohort members bonded through mutual storytelling. He also hosted an intergenerational town hall meeting called “Bridging Boundaries” on Independence Day, which gathered a diverse group of local leaders to discuss ways to create bridges in communities that remain deeply divided.

Kayem was invited to present his work at the 2018 Community Life Forward (CLF) conference, where he appeared at “Taqwa Talks” and spoke on the Social Justice panel. His residency concluded with CommUNITY Café: Revitalize and Remix. Over 400 CLF conference attendees, community members, friends, families and supporters convened for an inspirational live performance experience designed to connect, inspire and organize diverse communities to action.

During the event’s “Café Hour”, audiences were invited to engage IMAN’s ongoing community wellness work, support local businesses and artisans inside CLF’s marketplace, snack on delicious appetizers, and enjoy an interactive performance led by Surabhi Ensemble.

Kayem emceed the Café alongside Authentic Aseelah, and with sounds provided by ATL’s very own DJ Rasyrious. In addition to Kayem, the night’s extraordinary artist lineup included: Brother Ali and Al Taw’am, Tammy McCann, Mama Sol and a global music fusion collaboration featuring members of the Surabhi Ensemble (Ronnie Malley, Carlo Basile, Massamba Diop).

Stay tuned for IMAN’s next artist residency in October, featuring Chicago hip-hop artist PHENOM. If you are interested in getting more intimately involved with IMAN’s arts work, please email arts@imancentral.org.

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.