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

Ceramics Heal during Ramadan

During the soul-soothing days of Ramadan, IMAN’s resident art instructors hosted a special weeklong class called “Illuminations: Fasting & Ceramic Art” inside the Beloved Community Studio. The intimate seminar explored the spiritual benefits of fasting across various spiritual and cultural traditions, while teaching basic ceramics techniques like molding, painting, glazing and positive/negative space.

The ‘Illuminations’ class was led by Mariana Lopez—a healing practitioner and soon-to-be licensed art therapist—and Khalid Partee—the current Green ReEntry instructor who discovered the restorative power of ceramics while incarcerated. They curated a rejuvenating safe space for dozens of residents from some of Chicago’s most vulnerable communities, helping each student tap into their creative potential and produce incredible pieces of art.

In the coming months, we hope to further transform the Ceramic Arts Studio into the first full-time facility of its kind in the larger Marquette Park area. This project is poised to affect over 750 individuals through a multitude of projects, classes and unique workshops. Be sure to follow IMAN on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to check out some of the beautiful artwork coming out of the studio!

MLK Day Efforts Galvanize Communities in Chicago & ATL

This MLK Day, IMAN presented its first two-city event, Fighting Fear/Building Power: Renewing the Call for a Beloved Community. Over 1,000 attendees gathered, forging new connections with one another and enjoying inspirational artistic performances. Appearances by Talib Kweli and Ilyasah Al Shabazz in Atlanta, and Jay Electronica in Chicago, helped rally the crowds. Newark, New Jersey and Los Angeles, California also hosted “Sister City Gatherings”, where allies live-streamed the events and engaged each other around ways to implement the call for justice. IMAN thanks Lead Sponsor, Marguerite Casey Foundation, and Supporting Sponsor, Zakat Foundation of America, for helping make Fighting Fear/Building Power possible.

The climax of Fighting Fear/Building Power came as dozens of community organizations (over 50 alone in Chicago) united onstage to pledge their mutual support, solidarity and their re-commitment to the vision of Beloved Community that Dr. King put forth over 50 years ago. Particularly in Atlanta, this strong showing of broad-based allegiance served as public notice of IMAN’s deepening impact in the area. With capacity crowds in both cities also standing and making their pledge, coalitions were strengthened and spirits were lifted as we enter a new moment in our nation’s history.

That morning was brightened by heartening displays of solidarity, generosity and hope. In Marquette Park, IMAN hosted its Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Luncheon for over 100 local residents. Guests enjoyed catered meals, opportunities for insightful discussion on the growing relevance of King’s vision for urban communities, and were presented with gift bags prepared by dozens of volunteers and longtime supporters.

We are grateful to the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) and Equal Voice Network Chicago for co-convening such an inspirational event. Thank you to all guests and viewers who helped the #FightFearBuildPower hashtag trend on Twitter!

Join the thousands nationwide who’ve decided to double down on the work of inclusion and solidarity, and sign the #FightFearBuildPower Pledge today!

#Streets2016 Festival Reimagines Marquette Park

STREETS2016-53This year’s Takin’ It to the Streets festival gathered an extraordinary lineup of artists across genres and generations to provide the soundtrack for the continued Journey to Justice. First-time meetings, like that of Imam Zaid Shakir and hip-hop legend Rakim, highlighted the unique power of ‘Streets to forge bonds across differences based on a shared vision for more just, empowering community life.

The organic connection between art and activism was on full display in Marquette Park that day, as native Chicagoan and rising star Vic Mensa performed “16 Shots”, his high-energy commentary on the Laquan McDonald shooting, in the same police district where the teen was gunned down in 2014. Ms. Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, shared the stage with international pop star Yuna, rapper Brother Ali, and other talented artists and driven activists sharing their gifts and talents.

14067825_1431563090203666_5291502542206933180_o#Streets2016 was a profoundly inclusive space that represented a broad spectrum of people of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds. Thousands of attendees supported local businesses and artists inside the International Bazaar and at the Community Stage. Guests of all ages were inspired by the hip-hop elements and the youthful energy of the 1 LUV Family Pavilion, which included a graffiti battle highlighting the legacy of Muhammad Ali, a backpack giveaway, free haircuts and carnival rides.

Without the sweat equity of nearly 300 volunteers and the incredible commitment of the Steering Committee, #Streets2016 would not have been possible. While organizing a nationally recognized and celebrated festival, they also became deeply invested in the myriad of issues that marginalized communities face.

13920047_1398328343526929_7215458737418003622_oThanks to the artists, activists, IMAN staff, leaders, volunteers and thousands of guests, Marquette Park’s legacy added a new chapter, reimagining the narrative of a community all too often associated with conflict, and demonstrating the transformative potential of Chicago, the nation and the world.