Atlanta Hosts CommUNITY Café and Kayem Residency

IMAN recently hosted another weeklong Sacred Cypher Creative artist residency, this time featuring Chicago-based hip-hop artist, Kayem. This was the third residency of 2018, and the first held in Atlanta. Kayem’s work is rooted in his identity, being a child of the Libyan diaspora. His residency, entitled “My Home is a People”, collaborated with IMAN’s Green ReEntry program on a series of events and workshops using free-writing, poetry and hip-hop to empower personal stories and help communities harness their pasts as a tool to positively shape the future.

The residency began with Kayem facilitating a “Writes of Passage” writing workshop at Atlanta’s Greening Youth organization in collaboration with Urban Youth Corps. Kayem’s vulnerability encouraged attendees to open up and heal by writing out their personal stories. Later that week, Kayem led “Recalibrating our Spirit”, during which newly hired Atlanta Green ReEntry cohort members bonded through mutual storytelling. He also hosted an intergenerational town hall meeting called “Bridging Boundaries” on Independence Day, which gathered a diverse group of local leaders to discuss ways to create bridges in communities that remain deeply divided.

Kayem was invited to present his work at the 2018 Community Life Forward (CLF) conference, where he appeared at “Taqwa Talks” and spoke on the Social Justice panel. His residency concluded with CommUNITY Café: Revitalize and Remix. Over 400 CLF conference attendees, community members, friends, families and supporters convened for an inspirational live performance experience designed to connect, inspire and organize diverse communities to action.

During the event’s “Café Hour”, audiences were invited to engage IMAN’s ongoing community wellness work, support local businesses and artisans inside CLF’s marketplace, snack on delicious appetizers, and enjoy an interactive performance led by Surabhi Ensemble.

Kayem emceed the Café alongside Authentic Aseelah, and with sounds provided by ATL’s very own DJ Rasyrious. In addition to Kayem, the night’s extraordinary artist lineup included: Brother Ali and Al Taw’am, Tammy McCann, Mama Sol and a global music fusion collaboration featuring members of the Surabhi Ensemble (Ronnie Malley, Carlo Basile, Massamba Diop).

Stay tuned for IMAN’s next artist residency in October, featuring Chicago hip-hop artist PHENOM. If you are interested in getting more intimately involved with IMAN’s arts work, please email arts@imancentral.org.

IMAN Artist Kelly Crosby Wages Beauty

During the last week of Ramadan, IMAN Roster Artist and Sacred Cypher Creative, Kelly Crosby brought her concept of “Waging Beauty” to life during her artist residency. Kelly’s residency—the first at IMAN focused on visual arts—hosted a workshop during IMAN’s Refresh The Hood engagement at our social enterprise initiative in Englewood. Community members, who often have limited access to opportunities for formal artistic expression, worked intimately with Kelly to create art on reusable grocery bags.

Later that evening, Kelly held a sneaker art workshop at the Hip Hop Theater Festival in partnership with Kuumba Lynx. One participant, an aspiring fashion designer, stated that she had never had an opportunity like this, and that it inspired her to explore other creative forms of expression.

Kelly’s residency also engaged IMAN leaders during an intergenerational “Paint ‘N’ Iftar” gathering that included glazing ceramics and a discussion on bringing beauty to neglected public spaces, and also engaged staff during a Group Art Technique training focused on helping participants infuse artistic expression into their work.

Kelly was invited to share sentiments about Waging Beauty and her Sacred Cypher Creative journey during an interview with Radio Islam. She concluded her residency at IMAN’s Annual Community Iftar, where she shared her creative process during a live art demonstration in front of hundreds of guests.

“My personal artistic motto is taken from the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). ‘Allah is beautiful and loves beauty.’ So, I consider myself a beauty maker. Beauty is necessary to fight those committed to the ugly states of injustice, oppression and despair. I call my work ‘Waging Beauty’ for these reasons.” – Kelly Crosby

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.