CommUNITY Café Inspires in Light of Tragedy

IMAN hosted its second CommUNITY Café of the year on March 30th at Chicago’s Harold Washington Cultural Center. Over 400 attendees enjoyed CommUNITY Café: Celebrating the Sacred Cypher, a night filled with healing, spiritual unity and diverse and unforgettable artistic expressions. CommUNITY Cafés are intentionally intersectional gatherings that bring artists, organizers and other community members together. This most recent Café took on global significance in light of the tragic events in New Zealand and Mali.

The evening began with a lively Café Hour with several local vendors and a special “beat making station” sponsored by Solidarity Studios. Guests enjoyed several performances by nationally renowned artists with deep connections to IMAN’s work. Grammy-nominated songstress (and IMAN Roster Artist) Maimouna Youssef headlined the evening with her powerful vocals and unique blend of hip-hop, R&B and tribal sounds. Zeshan B–who recently performed on Late Night with Stephen Colbert– moved the crowd with soulful ballads including “Cryin’ In the Streets” and K Love the Poet rounded out the evening with inspiring spoken word performances rooted in healing. Grandmother Walks on Water–Maimouna Youssef’s mother–wove traditional indigenous vocals into her chilling performance, and the audience was asked to reflect on the equally disheartened violence happening on local streets.

During the evening, IMAN formally announced the Sevyn Ward Trust, a special fund intended to support a strong future for the daughter of slain Green ReEntry cohort member Steven Ward. Chicago’s Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot also took the stage Saturday evening in a gesture of spiritual solidarity, making a commitment to help fight the destructive forces that pit communities against one another, and to allowing us to hold her and her office accountable to working with us to form equitable solutions to some of Chicago’s toughest social justice challenges.

This incredible event would not have been possible without the generous support of our partners at: The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Pillars Fund, and Lyft who provided complimentary rides to and from the venue. We were honored to have such a beautiful crowd in place as we both mourned and uplifted the lives of those lost in New Zealand, Chicago, and around the world in senseless violence.

Stay connected to IMAN’s Arts & Culture work by following #IMANArts on Twitter and Instagram. To get involved, please contact arts@imancentral.org.

Artists Rejuvenate, Reconnect at Annual IMAN Artist Retreat


Earlier this month, IMAN hosted 50 brilliant creatives from across the country during its annual Artist Retreat, a unique space intended to forge stronger bonds between artists in our growing network. “The IMAN Artist Retreat is where artists can come to find a heart, find family, and learn how valuable their art is as a [living] language,” said IMAN Roster Artist Yaasha Abraham. This year’s participants nurtured interdisciplinary collaboration, renewed and discovered senses of spirituality, identity and purpose, and engaged a deeper understanding of IMAN’s commitment to cultivate the arts and drive social change.

Many of the retreat attendees are also members of IMAN’s Artist Roster, and the planning committee was led in part by the 2018-2019 inaugural cohort of Sacred Cypher Creatives. The artists spent three days collectively reflecting, rejuvenating, and reconnecting as they explored intersections between their crafts, healing practices and IMAN’s community organizing principles.

Sessions during the retreat were held intentionally in circles—a sacred artistic practice in hip-hop—while incorporating physical and spiritual grounding techniques under the stewardship of an inter-cultural group of elders including Grandmother Walks On Water, Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, board member Laila Muhammad, and her mother Shirley Muhammad. Additionally, many artists shared their inspirational work during short moments of expression called “art bursts”. Each day wrapped up with an evening jam session, a free-flowing safe space for several attendees to explore their creativity and share their talents among supportive peers.

IMAN’s Artist Retreat is a yearly springboard, reminding participants of the arts’ true healing potential and its possibilities as a collaborative, power-building platform for our community. For more information about the retreat or arts programming, email arts@imancentral.org.

IMAN Hosts 1st Ever CommUNITY Café in Jackson, MS

For the first time ever, IMAN hosted its CommUNITY Café performance series in Jackson, Mississippi. CommUNITY Café: Truth, Healing & Transformation featured an intimate, “down in the Delta” blend of IMAN Roster Artists—including Jackson’s own Tawanna Shaunte and 5th Child. IMAN Roster artists Omar Offendum, Lula Saleh, Amir ‘Tubad’ Gray and host Preacher Moss—along with the captivating Kamilah Furqaan and Authentic Aseelah.

Hosted inside the Mississippi Museum of Art, the evening kicked off with a soulful “Café Hour” during which guests enjoyed small bites, conversation and soulful performances by jazz flutist & vocalist Kamilah Furqaan, poet & songstress Lula Saleh and trumpet & tuba player, Tubad & The Kings of New Orleans.

This Café was held in conjunction with the dynamic, Jackson-based International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC), as part of their national conference which was centered around“Race, Class and Religious Intersectionality in America: An Ongoing Struggle For Human Dignity”. This incredible partnership helped to bring truth, healing and upliftment to the Jackson community, bridging a diverse and intergenerational audience through IMAN’s Arts and Culture programming. These uniquely curated engagements would not be possible without the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and Pillars Fund, whose generous support helps further the work to reach, connect with and mobilize broader audiences through artistic expressions.

Keep up with the latest IMAN Arts & Culture updates by following #IMANArts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. CommUNITY Café is primed for an even more exciting 2019, and we hope to see you there!

Paint & Sip Power Hour Soothes ATL Community

IMAN Roster Artist and Sacred Cypher Creative Kelly Crosby recently led a “Paint & Sip” session for the Atlanta community as part of the Grassroots Power Hour series. In the spring, Crosby completed an artist residency rooted in the concept of “waging beauty”, and this past month’s gathering successfully introduced attendees to ways the can use artistic expression as a personal and collective healing tool.

Before starting to paint, community members reflected on and discussed the relationship between colors and emotions. Crosby encouraged guests to more intentionally choose their color palettes, and use that self-examining exercise to more authentically and safely access their feelings. The painting activity was themed “Envisioning Your Safe Haven” and, as strokes of blue, red, purple, yellow, and green blended across the canvases, each artist imagined, created, or recreated their ideal safe space.

Jayida Ché Herbal Tea Spot co-founder Aleathia Saleem helped the attendees tap further into their creative energies, serving several flavors of her carefully crafted tea. From the “Pure Peace” blend to “You Had Me At Rose”, each cup was filled with Jayida Ché’s signature mixture of tea leaves, roots, and flowers. Saleem stressed to the community members the nutritional benefits and soothing effects of ingredients like chamomile, lavender, ginseng, hibiscus, rose, and lemon balm.

With a canvas in one hand and a cup in the other, each community member then shared the reflections on their safe haven. Many had created vibrant images of nature landscapes and peaceful homes, but one Green ReEntry cohort member presented his version of the iconic ‘Thinking Man’ figure in a bold contrast of forest green and cobalt blue. “My safe space is not external, it is internal. My mind is my safe space,” he explained.

IMAN Atlanta thanks Kelly Crosby, Aleathia Saleem and all our Grassroots Power Hour attendees for bringing holistic healing to the community. Stay tuned for exciting updates on all the Fall events in Atlanta by following IMAN Atlanta on Facebook.