Legislative Update: Path to Restoration, GAPA

IMAN is at the forefront of two impactful pieces of legislation aimed at reforming both police accountability measures in Chicago and criminal justice policy across Illinois. Organizers and leaders have continued to push residents, partner organizations and legislators to take decisive action in each of these campaigns, which seek to create safer, more dignified communities throughout the state and enact a model that may be applied in other regions.

As a key member organization within the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA), IMAN has invested over two years into the citywide effort to establish a more balanced, transparent relationship between communities and Chicago police. GAPA organizers have proposed a groundbreaking ordinance which promises real power to civilians in matters of police conduct. Several aldermen and other city officials have voiced their support for the proposal, reflecting the widespread desire of those Chicago residents for police accountability. However, several key alderman have yet to commit, leading many GAPA members to organize an agitational bus tour during which they visited aldermanic offices across the city to demand support.

The second piece of legislation in which IMAN organizers have been invested this year is SB 3489, the Path to Restoration Bill. After passing through the Illinois House and Senate, the bill remains on Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk, waiting to be signed into law. This legislation, drafted by IMAN organizers, would secure valuable rights for returning citizens across the state hoping to positively contribute to their communities. Most notably, individuals listed on Illinois’ cumbersome Child Murder and Violent Youth Offender Registry–many of whom were themselves young people when convicted of their crimes–would be able to amend inaccurate information about themselves.

If you are interested in advocating for criminal justice reform, or participating in community conversations with other leaders, legislators, residents and others directly impacted by violent crimes, contact Organizer Nasir Blackwell, nasir@imancentral.org and Staff Attorney Aaron Siebert-Llera, siebert-llera@imancentral.org.

Fresh Beats & Eats Enlivens Southwest Side Streets

For the third consecutive summer, IMAN’s Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market has enlivened West 63rd Street with vibrant tables of fresh organic produce, various vendors offering homemade treats, and exciting artistic expression. This year’s market season kicked off with a special musical guest all the way from New Orleans: Amir Gray & The Tubatones.

Amir and his band not only rocked the Fresh Beats & Eats stage, they also gave local residents a taste of Louisiana with a walking procession throughout the neighborhood. Children along California Avenue followed behind the “second line” and drivers honked along with the beat. This performance was the first of many efforts at “creative place-making” by IMAN’s Arts & Culture department, bringing new artistic experiences (quite literally) to the front doors of residents and connecting them to things happening in their community. IMAN leaders handed out Fresh Beats & Eats flyers behind the procession and encouraged community members to visit the market to purchase their weekly produce.

The farmers market will be held every Friday through the month of October. This initiative is a crucial component of IMAN’s mission of inner-city health, wellness and healing; each individual and family who visits the produce stand and pulls up a chair to enjoy the music serves as a proof of concept, and a small but impactful building block along the path to more dignified and healthy community life.

Interested in volunteering or vending at Fresh Beats & Eats? Email us at farmersmarket@imancentral.org to join the team!

IMAN Organizers Train Multigenerational LA Cohort

For the second time, IMAN organizers traveled to California to train Bayan Claremont students and leaders from Islah LA on the essentials of effective, transformative grassroots community organizing. An engaged group of over 40 leaders participated in the weekend-long training, which was hosted in South Central Los Angeles at Islah LA headquarters.

The training touched on all the hallmarks of IMAN’s organizing methodology, from the importance of understanding self-interest to the need for optimistic patience when working towards “the world as it should be.” As the nation transitioned into a new political moment, the group was able to process real-world issues during the training session and begin developing the types of genuine, relationship-based alliances that are necessary to withstand challenging times. The theme of the weekend aligned organically with IMAN’s larger #FightFearBuildPower campaign.

IMAN’s organizing work has long served as a model for grassroots organizers around the country to establish strong coalitions across boundaries of race, socioeconomic status and religion. Organizing trainings are also scheduled to take place in Chicago and Atlanta over the next few months. For those interested in participating in an IMAN training, please contact Organizing Director Shamar Hemphill for more information.

IMAN, Community Partners Help Distribute 1000 Turkeys

img_20161122_105624438_hdrWith helping hands from the Mohammed Webb Foundation, Sabeel Pantry, Fairfield Academy and IMAN, nearly 1000 turkeys were distributed to local families on Tuesday, November 22nd. As part of the 16th Annual Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive, staff, youth leaders and organizers united for the total team effort needed to make such a far-reaching initiative successful. Green ReEntry cohort members provided valuable support as well, unloading many pallets of halal, high-quality turkey throughout the day.

IMAN’s participation in the Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive was not simply an isolated effort. Rather, the program is part and parcel of the tradition of grassroots work that IMAN is built on, symbolizing the best of what is possible when selfless citizens convene in order to galvanize their communities.

img_20161122_090740578Spearheaded by Sabeel Pantry and longtime IMAN leader Jihad Shoshara, the Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive received high-profile news coverage from several noted local media outlets. More importantly though, smiles beamed across the faces of hundreds of South Side residents that day as they picked up their turkeys. Such proactive outreach is a powerful reminder of the role that dignified, direct service plays in the betterment of our city.