Green ReEntry Expands Outreach with New Staff

After years of helping returning citizens successfully reacclimate to their communities, the Green ReEntry program is poised to significantly deepen its impact. In partnership with the Emerson Collective, Green ReEntry has expanded the size of its cohorts from a handful of brothers to a dynamic, intergenerational group of over 30 men.

To facilitate the continued success of Green ReEntry participants, IMAN has hired three highly skilled full-time staff: Case Manager Billy Moore, and Case Workers Ali Kanoya and Gemali Ibrahim. We sat down with the new team to learn more about their stories and their vision for Green ReEntry’s future growth.

What does the Green ReEntry program have to offer?

Billy: We’re working with men who are really facing significant challenges to their wellbeing, so it’s imperative that our work has a positive impact. Our goal is to shift the way that these guys think about themselves and their communities, and we’ve developed a curriculum to achieve that by instilling values of brotherhood, professionalism and conflict resolution.

Ali: Life skills training is another key component. We speak a language the participants understand, and we grew up in similar communities to theirs. Our job is to be a guide and mentor to young brothers who haven’t had that luxury thus far in their lives.

What inspires you to get involved in this work? It’s far from easy.

Gemali: I feel the most spiritually attuned in those moments when I’m recognizing the interconnectedness of the human family. One of the ways God has shown me that He is real has been through brotherhood. Helping my fellow community members is a practice that’s been a part of my life since childhood. It’s in my DNA at this point, and I consider IMAN and the surrounding area to be my community.

Billy: Returning citizens looking to get back on track, avoid re-offending, and contribute positively to their communities must do so with extremely limited resources. This opportunity to serve others is a blessing, because I know all too well what it feels like to sit on the other side of the desk and need help successfully reintegrating into society. IMAN has been in the trenches for years now doing the work, directing significant resources to those who need them in a way that’s relevant and compassionate.

Ali: I will never forget a realization that I had during my final days of incarceration. I remember seeing intelligent, strong-willed, physically fit, and brave brothers all around me. It hurt to see the beauty of our community locked up like that. I wanted to see that beauty flourish back at home, doing something positive in the streets. I still want that, and Green ReEntry is the best outlet I’ve seen to accomplish that goal.

At this current moment in Chicago, why is the Green ReEntry program so necessary?

Ali: Chicago has been associated with gangs and violence for generations, but what can’t be forgotten is the fact that those traditions also included real valor and codes of ethics that people lived by. That legacy has worn away, and we see the youth in chaos on many levels as a result. All of these young guys aren’t monsters. That’s an artificial message that’s being promoted in the culture, but that’s not who these guys really are at their core. We need to reach back and encourage young men to develop a sense of accountability, perseverance and dignity. God willing, we can shift that culture.

Gemali: I remember meeting a brother at Ramadan Reflections. He said he refused to bring his children because he wasn’t sure about “what kind of neighborhood IMAN is in.” He lives maybe 30 minutes from the office. That affected me, because of how much I love this city and the relationships that I’ve built here. But, if you turn on the TV, you understand how he can feel that fear. I am inspired by the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as he first entered the city of Medina. He instructed the people to spread peace, feed the hungry, and spend time at night in prayer. We need to reflect more deeply on the fact that he said “spread peace” first.

Billy: Chicago is a world-class city, there’s no denying that. But, what is becoming clearer even in mainstream media is that the story of Chicago, in reality, is a tale of two cities. The wellbeing of our part of the city isn’t prioritized. You hear about the violence and the homicides, the 40% unemployment among young men in Englewood, the 54 closed schools, and the underrepresentation of Black-owned businesses. Legislators and other officials play a role, but programs like Green ReEntry are what really empower individuals and families to take control over their lives in a meaningful way.

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!

IMAN ATL Breaks Ground, Leads Interfaith Efforts

IMAN Atlanta has been extremely active as it continues to carve out its place in the larger metro area. The Atlanta Green ReEntry cohort broke ground on its first renovation project along with dozens of local volunteers. In addition to launching the reentry work, IMAN ATL staff and leaders played key roles in several interfaith efforts that successfully highlighted the importance of health, wellness and healing in an inner-city context.

IMAN Atlanta played a key organizing role during a well-attended rally held in downtown Atlanta. Alongside allies from Redeemer Lutheran Church and other organizations, they called on residents to band together in support of groups targeted by proposed federal policies.

In conjunction with the Interfaith Children’s Movement, IMAN Atlanta staff and leaders also traveled to the state capitol for an important Advocacy Day. They pushed local legislators on several critical issues affecting the state’s youth, from increased job opportunities to more equitable, accessible public services for young people of all backgrounds.

On February 25, Director Mansoor Sabree and Atlanta Green ReEntry Coordinator Jermaine Shareef organized a “Hands On” community event, which served as a public groundbreaking for the IMAN ATL team’s first renovation project. Nearly 50 community members joined the first-ever Atlanta re-entry crew for a tour of the new property. After the tour, many attendees also rolled up their sleeves and chipped in to help beautify IMAN ATL’s soon-to-be headquarters.

IMAN Atlanta continues to establish itself as a vehicle for Georgia residents to engage the issues most directly affecting them. Be sure to follow IMAN ATL on Facebook to support their work, and for all the latest news and updates.

Green ReEntry Work Taking Root in ATL

IMAN Atlanta is primed to launch its first direct service as 2017 gets underway. After months of preparation, fundraising, securing community partnerships and acquiring property, Green ReEntry will soon begin working with formerly incarcerated Muslim men in the ATL Metro Area. Participants will enter IMAN’s unique and holistic regiment of transitional housing, spiritual development, basic education, life skills instruction, on-the-job construction training, and job placement support.

One of the newest additions to the IMAN team is Atlanta Green ReEntry Manager Jermaine Shareef, a licensed master plumber. Shareef embodies the model of transformation that the program seeks to replicate. As a young man, he was incarcerated for 9 years. While inside, Shareef was recognized as a model inmate: he dedicated his time to both self-help and helping others, took full advantage of his time, and earned various plumbing certifications.

Shareef also owns his own plumbing company, Najee Plumbing, which is widely respected in the state of Georgia. No stranger to the IMAN ethos of relationship-building, he has also organized as a criminal justice reform advocate and a committed mentor to other men returning home from prison. Be sure to stay updated on the latest Green ReEntry progress and all IMAN Atlanta projects by following them on Facebook.