Cohorts Gather in ATL for Green ReEntry Summit

During Memorial Day weekend, IMAN brought 70+ young men from six different Chicago organizations to Atlanta for a transformative and healing Green ReEntry Summit. The summit was largely made possible through the sponsorship of Chicago CRED, one of our closest community partners. Last Memorial Day weekend, Chicago saw a devastating 39 people shot, with seven ending in fatalities. In an effort to proactively minimize their exposure to such violence, these men were given the opportunity to travel for the weekend and temporarily escape the perils of Chicago summers.

Each of these six groups were brought to IMAN Atlanta’s newest development site, a 10-unit apartment building, currently in its final phases of renovation. The guests from Chicago received a full tour of the facility, and an overview of the project’s vision and its projected community impact. They were also immersed into the typical daily routine of IMAN Atlanta’s Green ReEntry cohort. They participated in Tai Chi, stretches, drills, and shared personal “Words of Wisdom”–an exercise through which both cities’ cohorts could exchange reflections and realize commonalities between themselves.

During the opening session– resembling a reunion of long-lost brothers– the cohorts from Chicago and Atlanta bonded over their shared struggles through the process of transformation and empowerment. The groups then spent the evening breaking bread together at an interfaith ‘BBQ Iftar’* for Atlanta community members. It was only fitting that such an impactful day concluded with an evening of Southern comfort food and uplifting artistic expression performed by cohort members themselves.

This summit, the first of its kind, provided a safe and restorative space for 70 men during a notoriously violent weekend. Continuing this tradition of a yearly summit has great potential to save lives, prevent men from becoming “another statistic”, and deepening a brotherhood.

*An ‘iftar’ is the meal which concludes the daily fasts for Muslims observing the holy month of Ramadan.

This Is Why We Are Dying

As an active Christian and IMAN collaborator, I’ve had opportunities to join my Muslim sisters and brothers for many Iftar dinners over the years but none as powerful as the one I attended on the first day of Ramadan at IMAN.

Monday night I joined a group of IMAN staff, leaders, and community members who gathered at IMAN’s Health Center with State Senator Jacqueline Collins to discuss Senate Resolution 98—an effort to call out and curtail the deplorable number of preventable deaths in Illinois’ prisons. Some evidence suggests that one third of all deaths recorded within the Illinois Department of Corrections between 2016 and 2017 were preventable.

Beyond the discussion of the Senate Resolution, I heard the powerful and unforgettable stories of IMAN organizers and leaders discuss their harrowing struggles with health in and outside of prison. At one point in the conversation Nasir Blackwell, a full-time IMAN organizer, recalled the grueling deaths he witnessed while in the infirmary and spoke of the hundreds of legal complaints he filed to bring legal attention to these cases. “No one is listening…this is why we are dying!” he exclaimed.

Nasir is right; not enough people are listening. Justice-involved individuals face significant physical and mental health needs and confront a variety of social challenges. As a public health researcher, my work has focused on studying, advocating for and working with organizations fighting to close the health disparities crippling black and brown communities. I also know that the circumstances contributing to the deterioration of health and wellness in low-income areas directly correlates to the mass incarceration of many of our dear brothers and sisters. We know that when these individuals come home, they are faced with even more trauma, returning to under-resourced neighborhoods where more violence and high recidivism is a very probable outcome. In other words: organizations like IMAN and leaders like Nasir understand the link between the conditions in and outside prisons and the impact they have on our communities.

IMAN is forging the way toward building a holistic model to strengthen the link between issues dealing with health, wellness and healing in the inner-city.

I’ve been an active supporter with my time and resources and I hope you join me.

Take action and help this dynamic organization meet its “One-Link, One Chain”: Ramadan Drive goal to raise $1,000,000.

Peace,

Dr. Angela Odoms-Young

Spotlight: 2019 Behavioral Health Interns

IMAN’s expanding Behavioral Health work offers culturally competent services including individual, couples and group counseling. Faduma Sheikh-Abdi, Sandra Galicia, and Laura Caballero make up the dynamic team of graduate-level interns who have played a key role in helping increase community access to therapy. We sat down with them to learn more about their stories, experiences working with visitors to IMAN’s Community Health Center, and plans for future careers in the behavioral health field.

Tell us more about yourself.

Faduma: I was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after my family was forced to migrate from their indigenous home in Somalia due to civil war and famine. I was raised in Minneapolis, and moved to Chicago when I was 13. I grew a profound passion for intergenerational trauma after recognizing how I have internalized my family’s pain, which led me to enroll in the Clinical Mental Health program at Northeastern Illinois University.

Laura: I’m from San Antonio, TX and have been living in Chicago for 3 years now. I’m currently in my second year at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. I’ll be graduating with a Master’s in Social Work this June.

Sandra: I am proudly from Gage Park, and am currently in my second and final year of graduate study at UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work. Other interests of mine include urban agriculture and food accessibility.

What are your career goals/aspirations? What inspired you to pursue a future in Mental Health/Social Service?

L: After graduation, I hope to continue my work in community mental health. As a future therapist, I feel my services should be easily accessible so individuals and families feel confident in finding appropriate resources. I would like to eventually work at the intersection of law and mental health, supporting refugees and asylum seekers with trauma-informed services.

S: I plan to help bring more accessible mental health services to Gage Park, and the larger South Side. I was inspired to do this work after my partner was killed in a drive-by shooting when I was 16 years old. Reflecting on the connection between tragedies like that, systemic inequalities and institutional violence, I have strived to live a very intentional life. I am committed to helping disrupt the violence that unjustly impacts my community.

F: Not having a relationship with my sweet grandma [Ayayo]—who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease—created within me a burning desire to foster healing for anyone who is in need of help. I value sincere connections with elders, and am pursuing a career in mental health to help community members feel heard and validated.

Share an experience you’ve had thus far at IMAN that embodies “Health, Wellness & Healing”.

S: I don’t think I’ll ever forget the circle [gathering] we had after the Jason Van Dyke verdict. Staff, leaders and residents came together to share our thoughts and feelings after that emotionally charged day. While the cause for the circle was devastating, I feel that the circle itself embodied “Health, Wellness, & Healing.” I am lucky to have shared that space with folks.

F: Phenom, a talented IMAN artist and inspirational speaker, blew my mind during an Arts & Culture workshop. I felt everyone in that space tap into one powerful force of love and unity. There was no hierarchy, no judgment, just flowing energy and laughter.

L: The circle session after the Van Dyke trial. It was powerful to see IMAN come together to heal during a moment of great pain. The Behavioral Health team facilitated reflection to help everyone process their feelings and emotions. It was a beautiful moment of support I’ve never seen in a workplace.

Off the List, On the Love

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Too many of our beloved sisters and brothers find themselves on all the wrong lists: on waiting lists to access desperately needed housing, mental health services and employment opportunities; on poverty and hunger index lists; and on criminal lists and registries that perpetually punish individuals, families and entire neighborhoods. These lists contribute to our lack of racial and social equity, and are ultimately rooted in a lack of love.

The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us, and in it, we are called to deepen our consciousness of The Divine and strengthen our bonds of mutual love. A Prophetic tradition challenges us to attain true faith by loving for our community that which we love for ourselves.

This month, we will be attempting to raise $1,500,000 during our ‘Off the List, On the Love’: 2018 Ramadan Fundraising Drive. These funds are absolutely vital to our ability to get our sisters and brothers off of lists that strip them of dignity and agency, and onto a path defined by love, opportunity and a shared vision of what our world could look like.

As always, you have a crucial role to play in this. We ask that you continue to keep IMAN’s efforts in your thoughts and prayers and that you donate generously to help us meet and exceed our goal. All contributions are zakat-eligible and tax-deductible, and can be made via check, stock, cash, or online at our website.

We pray that your support this month lists you among those who have earned the ultimate pleasure and mercy of The Most High.