On Sunday, January 19, IMAN mobilized close to two dozen of its key leaders and organizers to be part of a larger direct action organized by United Power for Action and Justice. Packing Ascension Church in Oak Park, organizers put forth three major policy-related asks to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who was also in attendance. IMAN joined the action as a member organization of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and in order to continue its long time organizing commitment to confront the issue of foreclosures in low-income neighborhoods such as the one IMAN is situated in. One of the three policy-related asks that day centered on the housing crisis in our Marquette Park neighborhood.
Over the years, IMAN has invested a tremendous amount of time and resources in confronting the consequences of this issue and proposing creative, viable and community-based solutions to it. Both the Multifaith Housing Reclamation Campaign that IMAN convened with the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs and its Green ReEntry program emerged out of the thrust to offer organizing and programmatic responses to this complex and pervasive challenge faced by low-income communities in Chicago and in other urban centers around the country.
One of the culminating moments of that day in the Church centered on a powerful testimony that IMAN leader and Project Restore Industries president, Rafi Peterson, offered about our collective effort to acquire, rehabilitate and repopulate vacant and vandalized properties in and around the IMAN community. The Governor pledged to invest three million dollars in the state’s work with major organizations in the area to further develop and rehabilitate these properties. IMAN is hoping to work with SWOP and leverage some of these resources to increase its Green ReEntry work, as needed to meet the scale of the housing challenge in the area.
(Along with the internationally acclaimed scholar Dr. Tariq Ramadan, IMAN is fortunate to have the passionate and inspiring State Senator Patricia Van Pelt open up our dinner this year.)
Before she became an Illinois State Senator with a promising and upward-bound political trajectory, she was simply known as our sister: a fellow community organizer, pastor and inspirational leader. Yet, she was always more than that and anyone who ever shared an organizing table with Patricia has experienced her tremendous visionary leadership style and presence. It was Patricia’s leadership that led to the formation of major criminal justice reform coalitions like the Developing Justice Coalition, through which IMAN leaders worked tirelessly to successfully pass important legislation confronting the reality of what several years later civil rights lawyer and scholar Michelle Alexander would call “The New Jim Crow.” Alexander acknowledges in her book that long before she coined the term to describe the phenomenon of mass-incarceration of non-violent and low-level felonies disproportionally affecting low-income black communities, organizers like Patricia had been making the case and fighting the fight for years.
Yet, Patricia also realized early in the struggle that such fights could only be truly won when black, brown and other marginalized communities come together beyond one-time coalition, issue-based battles and begin focusing on a larger, shared vision for change. Towards that end, she and the pioneering organization she was leading at the time, Target Area Development Corporation, formed the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) and coined the slogan, “winning alone is only delayed failure.” I was fortunate enough to be invited by Patricia to participate in the early formation of UCCRO and we invested a tremendous amount of time with key IMAN leadership in building the foundation of an alliance that continues to provide a voice for communities of color on what we framed as a grassroots human rights agenda.
We are greatly honored and excited to have State Senator Patricia Van Pelt opening up our Annual Dinner this year.
Seats will be limited, but you can now purchase your tickets here.
The story of 6210 S. Fairfield is not unusual or unlike the story of hundreds of foreclosed and vacant buildings and homes across Chicago’s South Side. Yet, when a group of residents and organizers from across the city came together through the Multifaith Housing Reclamation Campaign and packed court rooms–with neighborhood leaders standing with Imams, Priests and Rabbis– to say enough is enough, this building emerged as a powerful illustration of how through organizing and coming together we can begin to reclaim properties, blocks and our communities.
IMAN leaders and organizers had their eyes on this building as the possible site for the second Green Reentry project for a while. For more than a year, we worked with resident leaders to try to get it boarded up, but when it became clear that those responsible for the property weren’t interested in being accountable we started to organize with our close allies from the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs (JCUA) and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).
Now, after a year of hard work raising the resources, IMAN has pulled together a unique partnership between the Department of Housing and Economic Development, Al Faisal Without Borders, the Chicago Community Trust, and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago to begin the process of rehabilitating the property and training the next Green Reentry work crew. The construction is scheduled to begin after the Eid holiday, and we look forward to keeping all our leaders and supporters abreast of the exciting progress.
By now we hope you’ve heard the story of Hadiya Pendleton. She breathed her last breath earlier this week in the middle of the day after being gunned down in a small neighborhood park not far from the Obamas residence in Chicago. The 15 year-old honors student had recently returned from performing at the President’s second inaugural and her tragic death is eliciting a profound response from a city already reeling from more than 40 youth homicides in this young new year.
We are asking all of you to take action in lending your voices to an online petition submitted by our brothers and sisters at the Black Youth Project calling upon our President to come to Chicago to deliver a major policy speech addressing the type of violence afflicting Chicago and other urban centers across the country.
As debates continue across the country about the scourge of gun violence, Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods are emerging as a symbol for the tragic consequences wrecking the lives of so many families. The President rightfully visited Newtown immediately after the horrific tragedy in Connecticut last December, and the time to come to Chicago and deliver the type of speech that calls upon all sectors of our society to come together and invest the necessary material, intellectual and political capital in supporting and introducing initiatives addressing this problem is now!
IMAN is working closely with the Black Youth Project and other tremendous community-based organizations around a joint commitment to proactively address violence and the culture of death in our neighborhoods. This year, we will be opening the Takin’ it to The Streets community festival on Saturday, June 15 with a large rally that will unite many of the great efforts going on around the city to deal with violence, and to renew our commitment to doing all we collectively can to work together and hold each other and our elected official accountable to not being resigned to letting our young people die senselessly in our streets.