Since 2001, every Thanksgiving Day has brought with it the Annual Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive, and this year was no different. With this annual drive, Muslims of Chicagoland come together to help their neighbors in need on the South Side celebrate with their families on Thanksgiving Day. As in years past, IMAN collaborated with the Webb Foundation and Sabeel Food Pantry to purchase and distribute turkeys in the Marquette Park and Jackson Park neighborhoods. The Drive has grown every year, and a total of 845 turkeys were distributed at three different locations on the South Side this year, making this the most successful drive yet.
The Annual Turkey Drive is a grassroots effort, led by American Muslims for Activism and Learning (AMAL), and is coordinated by an all-volunteer team with the help and sponsorship of community partners. Once again, the beneficiaries of the turkey drive were families in need in Chicago’s Jackson Park and Marquette Park neighborhoods. In Jackson Park, the recipients were families of children attending Emmett Till Math and Science Academy, while in Marquette Park the recipients were families in need in IMAN’s neighborhood.
The number of turkeys distributed this year by IMAN was boosted by a generous first-time donation of 60 turkeys by Midamar Corporation, based in Iowa. Midamar has been a sponsor and supporter of IMAN events, such as Takin’ It to the Streets, in the past. We hope that such partnerships will continue and grow as the American Muslim community’s efforts to live the best of our faith are institutionalized.
As IMAN attempts to bring systemic change in urban communities with services and organizing aimed at alleviating entrenched and complicated problems such as violence, foreclosures, lack of jobs, and failing schools, we believe it is still meaningful to bring some holiday hope and caring to our neighborhoods.
“Violence is as American as apple pie,” stated Southwest Organizing Project’s Street Outreach/Ceasefire Director and IMAN board member, Rafi Peterson, at an Anti-Violence forum held on Wednesday, June 22nd. The meeting was held at IMAN and was attended by a mixture of community leaders, residents affected by violence and representatives of different organizations and religious traditions. Young people are being struck by gunfire at an alarming rate in this neighborhood of Chicago. Many times a prayer vigil/march is held to show collective support for the family, but follow up and proactive response has been consistently lacking. The emphasis for this particular forum was youth violence. Young people in our society experience injustice on so many levels, among those are lack of positive role models and effective means of self-expression and communication. Hip-hop artist Wacka Flocka Flame has become the favorite for many in this new generation, known for his rowdy style, which gets adrenaline pumping. Wacka Flocka Flame recently released a video for his popular track “Bustin at Em.” The video is packed with imagery of guns cocking and bullets flying in a very matter of fact and light-hearted manner. The youth in attendance at the forum were very engaged and their input weighed heavily on the audience. Only a few months back a senior at Gage Park High School and IMAN Community Ambassador was shot in his back and now barely feels safe as he walks through his own neighborhood. The forum was the first of its kind aiming at creating a realistic, holistic and sustainable response to the youth violence that ravages Chicago Lawn. The desperate need for this type of engagement is painfully evident; while we, met 6 people were shot in the surrounding blocks, one of whom was a pregnant fifteen year old girl. Something must be done! The gathering was quite productive and many practical components of a solution were fleshed out. Everyone was left with two thoughts. The first a question: What can you honestly commit to and be consistent at? And the second a command: Find someone else who cares about this most pressing issue and bring him or her to the next meeting, which was to be held at IMAN on Wednesday, June 29th, at 6 pm.