IMAN Shares in Call for Moral Excellence

IMAN has long held a meaningful bond with African American Muslim followers of the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. One of the ways in which the value IMAN places on this relationship is evidenced annually is through IMAN taking part in Ephraim Bahar Cultural Center’s “Walk for Moral Excellence.” This year’s parade on Saturday, July 23, 2011 likewise received IMAN’s full support.

Walk for Moral ExcellenceThe parade stepped-off on the corner of 69th Street and Western Ave. where participants gathered brandishing banners and chanting the parade’s namesake slogan: “What do we want? Moral excellence… When do we want it? Now…” The parade commenced down Western Ave. to 71st Street, then traveled west to the rally point at Marquette Park where Bahar Center Da`wah Coordinator Darryl Williams and other local leaders addressed the crowd.

IMAN’s Executive Director, Rami Nashsashibi, was the first to speak. He began by acknowledging the religious and racial diversity of parade supporters and juxtaposed that diversity to the racism and intolerance of the Nazi group that once occupied the commercial building sitting tandem to the Bahar Center at 2525 West 71st Street. Nashashibi emphasized the power in Bahar Center’s consistent message of moral excellence and ended with the assertion that we’re no longer fighting against Nazi-like racism but against community ills.

The Bahar Center’s resident Imam, Sultan Salahuddin, addressed the crowd next. Speaking on the need for people to be in control of their own community institutions, Imam Salahuddin’s central message was to serve community. Other parade participants to speak were Rev. Ken Murray of the American Clergy Leadership Council, IMAN Board Member Rafi Peterson of CeaseFire, Tasha Smith of Mystique Ladies Social Club, Inc., and IMAN volunteer Abdul Hakim.

Following the well-received call to moral excellence, Bahar Center staff kept up the high-spirit of the afternoon by delivering free school supplies and food to participants, whose palates where especially whetted by the tasty all-chicken African sausage. Entertainment was provided by the South Shore Drill team, participants in the parade, and the Jesse White Tumblers.

This year’s “Walk for Moral Excellence” parade was truly reminiscent of Imam Mohammed’s much expounded message of service to humanity. Inspired by a similar prophetic message, IMAN’s close ties with Imam Mohammed’s community should surely remain strong given its continuing support of community institutions such as The Ephraim Bahar Cultural Center.

The Mosques Cares (Ministry of W. Deen Mohammed) will host its Annual Muslim Convention at the Tinley Park Convention Center from Sept. 1-5 of this year. If there was ever any proof needed that today IMAN and the community of Imam Mohammed remain committed to the same goals, it is that as IMAN works to build healthy communities, this year’s Convention theme will be “Al-Islam Obligates us to Build Model Communities.”

Walk for Moral Excellence

One Chicago, One Nation Ends with Celebratory Reception

On June 16th, in Millennium Park, One Chicago, One Nation (OCON) celebrated the success of Community Ambassadors (CAs) who have worked in collaboration with Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), since the beginning of the year. The OCON initiative started in 2010 as a partnership between One Nation, Chicago Community Trust (CCT), IMAN, IFYC, and Link TV. Since the start of 2011, this year’s cohort of interfaith leaders has sought to mobilize faith communities in Chicago to come together for the common good.

One Chicago, One Nation Community Ambassadors Year 2

The gala began in Millennium Park’s Choral Room with delicious hors d’oeuvres and mingling. The room was filled with the laughs and chatter of CAs and alumni from Year One. Also in attendance were One Nation staff, representatives from CCT, City of Chicago officials, and staff of IMAN and IFYC. Later, the evening’s program commenced with opening remarks by OCON program managers’ Saleem Muhammad and Rochelle Rickoff who were the evening’s emcees. CCT’s Terry Mazany was the first speaker to the podium. Mr. Mazany highlighted the two-year OCON initiative and discussed CCT’s support of the program. Although, Community Ambassadors were collectively honored for their accomplishments, Mr. Mazany also had the pleasure of recognizing those CA’s that received Social Entrepreneurship funds (SEFs). The crowd was gleeful as SEF grantees Kinza Khan, Tom LaClair, and Kayla Higgins each stepped to the podium to describe their anticipated interfaith projects.

Nevertheless, the energy in the room reached its real peak as Executive Director Eboo Patel of IFYC addressed the crowd followed by IMAN’s Executive Director Rami Nashashibi. Their words of inspiration and interfaith solidarity were reflective of the diversity of the faith traditions present. The evening closed with final remarks by Saleem and Rochelle who invited guest to VIP seating at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park to watch performances by Egypt’s Hakim and Azerbaijan’s Alim Qasimov Ensemble. The performances were part of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ “Music Without Borders” concert series, which offered an excellent culmination to OCON’s interfaith reception.

Healthy Eats, Conscious Beats

IMAN’s Muslim Run Campaign for Health, Wellness and Healing aims to help solve the crisis of food deserts in Chicago to develop healthier communities. While we work with both state legislature and local business owners for solutions, a critical aspect of the campaign involves directly engaging community members in our targeted neighborhood. As one of their contributions to the campaign, the One Chicago, One Nation Community Ambassadors spent the last several months preparing for a Community Café-esque event at Chicago Lawn’s own Garifuna Flava restaurant. Their planning came to fruition Saturday, April 16th with an event called “Healthy Eats, Conscious Beats” which was a health symposium that used artistic expression to educate residents about health issues. Local painters, poets, and singers graced the stage, bringing a certain creative expression to the shared angst among the community over health problems and disparities. Enthused by the melody of tunes, passersby came in for free food and entertainment and left with tools to ensure their own personal health; not the least of which were recipes to the freshly made fruit smoothies given away during the event.

Healthy Eats, Conscious Beats A distinguishing aspect of the program was an engaging discussion on healthy food choices and personal health questions led by local nutritionist Dr. Angela Odom. She masterfully maintained the energy and excitement brought by the artists to convey a most important message of personal accountability. While we continue to address this issue at an institutional level, such reminders of personal responsibility are incredibly valuable. The culmination of the evening was an exercise workshop led by IMAN Director of Arts and Culture, Asad Jafri. The entire crowd pushed chairs aside and joined in as Asad led the group in aerobics and spiritually healing chants. The program was a most holistic affair. Attendees ate healthy food, learned about personal health, and lost a couple of calories along the way.

The efforts by IMAN’s Community Ambassadors to plan such an event were definitely worthwhile. Creative ideas like “Healthy Eats, Conscious Beats” are desperately needed in communities like Chicago Lawn and we are confident and hopeful that other community leaders will continue to find crafty ways of positively impacting the community.

One Chicago, One Nation: Community Ambassadors Becoming Leaders

It’s been a really busy March for IMAN’s Community Ambassadors (CAs). Much has transpired since their collective efforts packed the Chicago Urban Art Society for IMAN’s February Community Café. Nevertheless, March jumped off with a trip to Springfield for the Illinois Muslim Action Day. CAs joined young Muslims from around Illinois for a rally in the rotunda of the State Capitol building where Muslim leaders energized the crowd with their inspirational words. Local politicians expressed their support for Muslim Illinoisans, and CAs along with IMAN staff met with local representatives. They also presented Governor Quinn’s office with a petition of almost 400 signatures in support of allocating Fresh Food Funding to neighborhood stores in hopes of increasing the health and wellness of residents and supporting small businesses in local communities.

CAs even performed at and supported Café Finjan, an interfaith concert that brought together Muslims, Jews and others in a safe space for artistic performances and reflective dialogue. The show’s intermission offered the diverse crowd a chance to break into small groups and discuss the event’s theme, “Chicago Crossroads,” in relation to their specific life challenges. CAs were happy to give a huge round of applause to fellow ambassadors Ainee Fatima and Emaan Nafees as they captivated the crowd with their spoken word.

CAs also got moving with planning efforts for their April 16th health & wellness event, which they’ve titled “Healthy Eats Conscious Beats.” This event will be held at Garifuna Flava Restaurant, a local eatery down the block from IMAN’s office, as CAs are committed to supporting the local community and businesses. They plan to use this event to broadcast the importance of health and wellness to the Chicago Lawn neighborhood.

It was also a real treat for CAs to join the brothers from the Green Reentry Project in their efforts to beautify several blocks along South Washtenaw Street. Together, we left a positive imprint on the community, as they scoured blocks picking up trash and debris marking the start of Green Reentry’s larger outreach to the community, which will soon include home weatherization. It’s been a busy March for CAs, but don’t fret there will be much more coming in April.