IMAN, Citywide Alliance Demand Police Accountability

On March 22, IMAN joined fellow members of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) for a press conference at City Hall announcing the release of their Citywide Community Conversations report. Veteran organizers from across Chicago gave testimonials stressing the urgency of this police accountability campaign, and called on city leadership to act now to support community-driven changes to police protocol.

Green ReEntry leader Mustafa Hawthorne spoke powerfully about his experience with the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois correctional system, a story which traces its roots to the era of the infamous commander Jon Burge. Along with other local organizers, the press conference shed light on the devastating harm that police misconduct can have on the individual, family and community levels.

The GAPA report encapsulates months of in-depth focus groups and “Community Conversations” hosted at various sites across Chicago. While stories of frustration and anger were common, the heart of the report amplifies residents’ calls to “fundamentally rethink the role of the police officer, reimagine the way police officers interact and engage with residents, and restructure the way the police department is governed in order to ensure that it embraces the values and priorities of the people it serves.”

IMAN’s efforts with GAPA will continue, as community voices are lifted up and city leadership is engaged in pursuit of lasting change to the status quo. Police accountability is an issue affecting many IMAN leaders, for whom GAPA serves as a promising vehicle through which to counteract the over-criminalization of Black and Brown communities. If you are interested in joining this campaign, contact Organizing Director Shamar Hemphill at shamar@imancentral.org.

IMAN Organizers Join Citywide Call for Police Accountability

Throughout the fall, organizers and leaders have diligently mounted a campaign focused on securing new police protocols and oversight that will ultimately lead to greater accountability for officers and the Chicago Police Department itself. Led by Organizing Director Shamar Hemphill and Green ReEntry organizer Nasir Blackwell, IMAN’s police accountability work sits at the intersection of larger efforts focused on criminal justice reform and dignified community building.

The campaign aims to address law enforcement policies in all their breadth, focusing on issues from immigration status to stop-and-frisk encounters. IMAN has aligned with nearly a dozen other organizations across the city, representing a dynamic cross-section of active citizens and laying a firm foundation of unity. Partner organizations include: Communities United, Enlace, Target Area Development Corporation, UCCRO, SWOP, One Northside, Action Now and S.O.U.L.

In November, dozens of Marquette Park residents convened at IMAN’s Youth & Arts Wellness Center for a critical “Community Conversation.” During the gathering, attendees spoke candidly about their experiences with local police and voiced their hopes for future improvements, while learning about the citywide campaign and ways to get connected to it. IMAN will continue to help lead the push for substantial police accountability measures in the city of Chicago.

Interested in joining the campaign? Please contact Shamar Hemphill or Nasir Blackwell to learn more and to get involved.

Solidarity in the Hood

America continues to witness men and women of color being gunned down in the streets by law enforcement. Whether tending to a stalled vehicle or simply reading inside their car before picking up children from school, these victims are treated as stereotypes rather than as human beings. As a Black father, husband, and Muslim living on Chicago’s South Side, I know firsthand the unfortunate realities of police officers’ implicit biases. Those biases are compounded by the structural racism and discrimination, devastating community disinvestment, failing schools, and economic despair. This is why I organize at IMAN. The issue is bigger than improved policing. The job at hand is to rebuild broken neighborhoods and uplift our fellow community members whose lived experiences are burdened by hopelessness and desperation.

13988248_1398315450194885_988699636317583685_oI believe Muslims have a critical role to play in helping to strengthen institutions like IMAN and support our inner cities in the struggle for equity and justice. It is easy to become frustrated by the seemingly endless news of gun violence in Chicago and police brutality nationwide, but constructively engaging with community organizations can channel that frustration into meaningful action and, God willing, lasting improvements.

IMAN continues to tackle crucial issues with campaigns focused on criminal justice reform that counters the criminalization of black and brown communities. Just this year, our organizers succeeded in getting the Removing Invisible Bars Act passed, a significant step forward in Illinois’ parole reform efforts. As the U.S. Muslim community asserts its rightful place in the American experience, we cannot lose sight of the need to make relevant impact on the people we live with and in the spaces we navigate. One path to relevance is through maintaining real solidarity in the ‘hood, and IMAN’s Corner Store Campaign has provided a vehicle to do just that for years now. Utilizing our resources in expertise to help restore viable job opportunities, holistic health improvements and harmonious interpersonal relationships promises to be a fruitful investment.

The real work begins when we are able to see our stories and ourselves in others; then we can truly want for our brothers and sisters that which we want for ourselves. That’s how lasting solidarity is built, and there is no better time to start this journey than right now.

Shamar Hemphill
IMAN Director of Organizing

SB 2282 Passes Through Illinois Senate, Moves on to House

After months of advocating, educating and rallying community members, IMAN organizers and leaders celebrated the passage of the Removing Invisible Bars Bill (SB 2282) through the Illinois Senate on April 22. Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 4.23.36 PMSB 2282 was drafted under the leadership of Green ReEntry Housing Coordinator Nasir Blackwell, who himself is impacted by the harsh parole technicalities faced by the formerly incarcerated. Now the organizing team’s focus turns to the state House of Representatives, with passage through that legislative body pushing Illinois one step closer to commonsense parole reform.

Organizers devoted extensive time and effort in April in order to secure the necessary support for SB 2282, traveling to Springfield several times to meet with legislators. The trip to the state capitol, during the CIOGC-sponsored Illinois Muslim Action Day linked IMAN’s push for parole reform with the calls for reduced school arrests and other initiatives led by Equal Voice ally organizations such as Communities United.

springfield stepsIn the weeks to come, IMAN organizers will continue the Removing Invisible Bars campaign with an intense focus on garnering support in the House of Representatives. You can play a crucial role in helping to bring real, impactful parole reform to Illinois by contacting the following legislators and telling them that you believe in the Removing Invisible Bars bill: Elaine Nekritz, Barbara Flynn Currie, Elgie Sims, and Lashawn Ford.

Interested in joining the team of organizers and leaders pushing to remove the invisible bars? Contact Shamar Hemphill today to get plugged in.