Food Justice and Englewood’s New Whole Foods

The arrival of Whole Foods Market was met with great anticipation from our leaders and allies in the Greater Englewood area. For years, IMAN and partner organizations have tackled food access issues on the South Side of Chicago with a holistic approach: by holding larger corporations more accountable to the local community needs, increasing the availability of fresh and healthy foods, expanding nutrition education resources, and serving as an incubator for local entrepreneurship.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-46-51-pmIMAN has long worked to revitalize food ecosystems in Englewood and other South Side communities through its Corner Store Campaign, which currently engages over 60 stores. As an organization deeply rooted in this community, IMAN understands that fostering alternative business models requires strong connections between food access, corner store intervention, urban agriculture, and public safety.

“IMAN has always seen our food access work as intersectional,” says Dr. Rami Nashashibi. “We recognize that issues of food justice are closely related to the violence and trauma that we see in our communities. In order for an entity like Whole Foods to be successful in Englewood, it is crucial for it to be rooted firmly in the local community, support the existing work of community groups, and ultimately help to strengthen the local food ecosystem.”

For more information on how IMAN food justice organizers plan to engage Whole Foods in the larger community-wide campaign to improve health and wellness in South Side communities, please contact Organizing Director Shamar Hemphill at shamar@imancentral.org.

IMAN Leads Extraordinary 1000 Mile March

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 4.41.28 PMOn the morning of August 6, amid chants of “We gon’ be alright,” over 1,400 people marched down Kedzie Avenue into Marquette Park, channeling the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Chicago Freedom Movement. Fifty years prior, Dr. King and hundreds of other demonstrators walked the same route in protest of discriminatory housing practices. Since that pivotal 1966 day, Chicago organizers and activists have remained driven and inspired as they continue the journey towards a more just and equitable community.

To honor this legacy, IMAN spent months mobilizing individuals and organizations across the city and across the country around the MLK Living Memorial Project. The organizing effort culminated in the ‘1000 Mile March’, an unparalleled display of unity, peace and cooperation. The march doubled the King-led effort in attendance. Youth drummers from Ayodele Drum and Dance and the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center provided a rhythm for each step of the way, while leaders such as Father Michael Pfleger, US Rep. Robin Kelly and “legacy marchers” who’d walked with Dr. King 50 years earlier, delivered words of inspiration.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 4.42.00 PMCalls for justice around local and international issues echoed through the streets, linking commonalities across different struggles. Chants rang out in English and Spanish, and residents carried signs demanding a “Free Palestine” and immigration reform.

Marchers entered Marquette Park and concluded the action by gathering for a powerful rally. Generations of freedom fighters, from Rev. Jesse Jackson to the youth leaders of Black Lives Matter and Assata’s Daughters spoke truth to power. Organizers from across the country, like New York’s Linda Sarsour, shared the stage with piercing artistic talent like Chicago youth mentor and poet K-Love.

In our time, the challenges of unfair housing policies, unjust violence and poverty persist. The 1000 Mile March gave activists and residents alike the opportunity to pause, reflect, and honor their collective struggle. A truly historic moment for the Marquette Park community, the march shined a light on what united communities can accomplish in the face of bigotry and discrimination. IMAN was able to demonstrate power by mobilizing local families, neighborhood institutions, and major foundations from across the city to take this critical first step toward much-needed healing and toward the world as we know it could be.

IMAN-Led Parole Reform Bill Passes Through IL Senate, House

Much of IMAN’s organizing effort this year has been focused on the issue of parole reform in Illinois. Under the existing laws, formerly incarcerated men & women across the state were at risk of recidivism—or being sent back to prison—if they were found “associating” with others who were also on parole. These individuals, even when volunteering at community organizations like IMAN, attending worship services, or visiting family members, were subject to arrest. In response to such harsh technicalities, IMAN organizers spent months pushing Senate Bill 2282, the Removing Invisible Bars Bill, which has now passed through both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives with a strong, bipartisan majority.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 4.48.53 PMIMAN Senior Policy Advisor Maaria Mozaffar and Green ReEntry Housing Coordinator Nasir Blackwell collaborated to draft SB 2282 in early 2016. This crucial bill will, God willing, ultimately amend the stringent conditions of parole that puts formerly incarcerated persons at risk for recidivism. Now, these recently returned community members can engage in meaningful volunteer work, worship, and family visits without fear of arrest. This issue impacts thousands of people across Illinois, particularly those coming from five neighborhoods in Chicago: Austin, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, Englewood, West Englewood, and East Garfield Park.

A number of legislative allies played a pivotal role in garnering support for SB 2282. State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) introduced the bill and worked closely with Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) and IMAN organizers to ensure its passage through the chamber free from dissent. In the House, Representative Mary Flowers (D-31st) was the bill’s chief co-sponsor, helping to garner strong bipartisan support with help from several other representatives.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 10.12.05 PMIMAN’s organizational partners and allies also played a critical role in the grassroots education and mobilization efforts around SB 2282. United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) hosted community education workshops focused on the context and potential impact of SB 2282. Many of IMAN’s community partners played a key role in mobilizing their leaders, traveling to Springfield to encourage legislators towards a yes vote.

SB 2282 has now proceeded to Governor Rauner’s desk, where he is expected to sign it into law. While IMAN will continue working to provide grassroots education on the effects of SB 2282 and its connection to the larger national criminal justice platform, the bill’s passage is a meaningful first step towards a more just and equitable life for all members of our communities.

Muslim Run Campaign Stores, Leaders Flourishing

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 9.42.37 PMAs the springtime weather warms up, IMAN’s Muslim Run Corner Store Campaign continues to serve as a vehicle for organizers and store owners to blossom. Over the past few weeks, Muslim Run has picked up new marketing techniques from an experienced partner organization, helped encourage fellow community members to make healthier beverage choices, and was featured in local media.

During one of their regular development meetings, Muslim Run leaders received expert advice from The Food Trust—a nationally recognized organization with a 20-year track record of food access work—on effective product marketing and layout techniques to pitch to local corner stores. The following morning, those leaders visited an exemplary Muslim Run partner store, Englewood’s Morgan Mini Mart, and established a new labeling system for the store’s healthy food options.

MR_March16workshopMorgan Mini Mart also hosted the debut of a new nutrition workshop series, led by Muslim Run and UIC’s Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion. Residents blended their own free fruit smoothies on a special “smoothie bike”, and were engaged about their beverage habits and opinion on nutrition.

Finally, organizers Shamar Hemphill and Sara Hamdan were interviewed by a journalist from the Chicago Reporter, and will be a central part of an upcoming feature article on cutting-edge food justice work on Chicago’s South Side. With candidates currently being interviewed for the chance to operate our upcoming Healthy Marketplace, IMAN’s health and wellness efforts are truly firing on all cylinders.