CommUNITY Café Caps 1st Sacred Cypher Residency

IMAN hosted its first Sacred Cypher residency featuring longtime arts leader Liza Garza, an Emmy-nominated artist, activist, healer and poet. Liza’s work is rooted in her passion for love and oneness, and powered by transformative, intentional listening. Her residency, entitled “Story Cyphers”, used a unique methodology called “story circles”, which originated as a tool used in the Civil Rights movement to create space for people of different races to address and overcome differences.

The residency week began with Liza facilitating a series of story circles in collaboration with IMAN’s Green ReEntry program participants and members of the Behavioral health team where stewardship ultimately will be passed to the participants who will then bring the process into the community by hosting their own story circles. Tuesday evening, attendees of IMAN’s weekly Power Hour were moved by the performance that Liza and her son, Eli Lakes, gave. Wednesday evening, Liza performed at IMAN’s MLK commemoration ceremony at the Marquette Park Field house. Thursday was a powerful moment filled with meaningful conversations and a surprise guest, Chicago rapper, Common. Friday, members of the IMAN community and local artists, joined Liza for a post jummah spiritual cypher session.

This residency coincided with IMAN’s Only Light, Only Love week which also included the Illuminating Love Ceramic Workshop on Monday. This workshop allowed for a diverse and intergenerational group of Chicago community members to shine light via creating an oil burner.

Liza’s residency and Only Light, Only Love week culminated with CommUNITY Café. CommUNITY Café is a live performance experience designed to connect, inspire and organize diverse communities to action. Over 450 community members, friends, families and supporters joined us for a successful night filled with culture, art, light and love. This night was Co-MCed by Chicago Beyond CEO Liz Dozier and Liza Garza. It was filled by an extraordinary lineup which included performances by: Oddisee, Sa-Roc, IMAN Roster Artists: Drea d’Nur, Liza Garza, Eli Lakes, and the band Surabhi featuring Massamba Diop. During the “Café Hour” audiences were invited to engage IMAN’s ongoing community wellness work, support local businesses and artisans, share food, and connect over artistic activities lead by renowned Chicago artists, Lavie Raven and Liz Lazdins.

Coming up: IMAN’s arts and culture department is just getting started with ceramic classes, live performance engagement at corner stores, community cafes, and artist residencies. Our next residency features visual artist, Kelly Izdihar Crosby from June 7th through the 13th. If you are interested in getting more intimately involved with IMAN’s arts work, please email arts@imancentral.org.

Meet the 2018 Sacred Cypher Creatives

Cyphers are sacred. “Cypher comes from the Arabic word, sifr, meaning the number zero,” Sadia Nawab, IMAN Arts & Culture Manager, explains. “This zero represents a circle, which is the shape of a Hip Hop cypher, and represents communal equality, where no person is more prominent than any other person.” Since the earliest iterations of Hip Hop culture, the cypher has been a critical public space wherein Black, Brown and other marginalized youth gathered to creatively share and challenge their realities. The cypher fosters unity, equality, and support for its participants as they reflect, remind and call the community encircling them to action.

For over two decades, IMAN has cultivated unique artistic spaces that uphold the principles of the cypher through a philosophy of being Spiritually Rooted, Spatially Relevant, and Socially Conscious. Our Sacred Cypher Creatives (SCC) residency is a select group of artists from the recently launched IMAN Artist Roster, part of our ongoing support of innovative art-makers helping to build community and shape the future. Sacred Cypher Creatives will spend a year deepening their engagement with IMAN’s work at the intersection of culture, social justice and community organizing. We are proud to announce our 2018 SCC Cohort:

  • AL-TAWAM – Khadijah and Iman Siferllah-Griffin | Performance: Dance | Minneapolis, MN
  • KAYEM | Performance: Music, Recording Artist, Arts Education, Literary Arts | Chicago, IL
  • KELLY IZDIHAR CROSBY | Visual Art: Painting, Multidisciplinary Arts | Atlanta, GA
  • LIZA GARZA | Performance: Music, Poetry, Traditional/Folk Arts | Atlanta, GA
  • PHENOM | Performance: Emcee, Arts Education, Literary Arts, Poetry | Chicago, IL

Each SCC artist will complete a creative engagement project in collaboration with IMAN Arts & Culture and at least one additional department: Organizing & Advocacy, Green ReEntry or the Health Center. They will receive an Artist-in-Community Residency at IMAN’s campuses in either Chicago or Atlanta, and a stipend to support their throughout the year. Sacred Cypher Creatives will also convene for three in-person gatherings, culminating with the IMAN Artist Retreat this fall.

IMAN is honored to support and collaborate with these inspiring artists invested in radically reimagining our world. We invite you to journey with the 2018 Sacred Cypher Creatives, and experience their creativity in action. The first featured residency will be Liza Garza’s “Story Cypher” during IMAN’s “Only Light, Only Love” event series commemorating of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Her residency is highlighted by our signature CommUNITY Cafe on Saturday, April 7.

IMAN Unveils Artist Roster & Sacred Cypher Creatives

After a weeks-long review process, IMAN is excited to announce the dynamic selections to its first Artist Roster. Thirty-five skilled artists from across the country and specializing in many different forms of expression will spend the year becoming well-versed in IMAN’s core principles. Through this training, IMAN artists will more effectively situate their work at the intersection of spiritual culture, social justice and community organizing.

A select few members of the IMAN Artist Roster were chosen for the Sacred Cypher Creatives cohort. This group of 5 will enjoy a yearlong opportunity to work closely with IMAN’s initiatives, contribute to programs and campaigns, and access additional support for artistic projects. Congratulations to Kelly Crosby, Al Taw’am, Kayem, Phenom and Liza Garza on becoming Sacred Cypher Creatives!

Since its inception, IMAN has invested in the careers of artists by building collaborative relationships. We have looked to artists as decision-makers on our project committees, board of directors, and in building community through our Artist Retreats. The launch of IMAN’s Artist Roster uplifts these priceless relationships, and is fundamental to our work in organizing for social change and fostering health, wellness and healing.

Visit www.imanartistroster.org to learn more about all the members of IMAN’s Artist Roster, and be sure to follow us on social media for the latest IMAN Arts & Culture updates.

IMAN Arts & Culture Forming a Truly ‘Beloved Community’

Whether in beautiful Wisconsin lakesides or in the heart of Chicago Lawn, IMAN’s Arts & Culture department invested heavily in building a beloved community around its holistic, accessible programming in 2017. Dozens of artists from across the country—masters of spoken word, various instruments, dance and visual arts alike—gathered this October for IMAN’s latest Artist Retreat. Much more than mere cyphers and jam sessions, the retreat served as an invaluable opportunity for attendees to engage the essence of IMAN’s work, and collaborate with peers who have similarly found inspiration in the organization’s mission.

The powerful bonds formed during the Artist Retreat affirmed the need for a formal cohort of “IMAN artists”; talented and expressive individuals who would be given institutional support as they channel their gifts into projects across various mediums. To make this a reality, Arts & Culture Manager Sadia Nawab led the formation of the IMAN Artist Roster, which allows creatives of all backgrounds to access resources and radically reimagine the role that artistic expression can play in the work of inner-city health, wellness and healing.

On the grassroots level, another layer of community was being slowly handcrafted in a quiet corner on the IMAN campus. Beginning in the soul-soothing days of Ramadan, IMAN’s new Beloved Community Ceramics Studio has since introduced dozens of local residents to the spiritual connections and cultural traditions of the ceramics art form. Whether filled with schoolchildren carving out “what home means to me”, or elders and Health Center patients molding and painting custom kitchenware, the Beloved Community studio was constantly buzzing with activity.

Deepening the program’s intersectional nature has been the expertise and leadership of master ceramicist Khalid Partee. A graduate and current program instructor of the Green ReEntry program, Khalid is actively involved in teaching ceramics to his eager students. Several of his custom vases, chess sets, and plates are available for sale. For more information on the Beloved Community Ceramics Studio, and all things Arts & Culture, please email arts@imancentral.org