With helping hands from the Mohammed Webb Foundation, Sabeel Pantry, Fairfield Academy and IMAN, nearly 1000 turkeys were distributed to local families on Tuesday, November 22nd. As part of the 16th Annual Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive, staff, youth leaders and organizers united for the total team effort needed to make such a far-reaching initiative successful. Green ReEntry cohort members provided valuable support as well, unloading many pallets of halal, high-quality turkey throughout the day.
IMAN’s participation in the Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive was not simply an isolated effort. Rather, the program is part and parcel of the tradition of grassroots work that IMAN is built on, symbolizing the best of what is possible when selfless citizens convene in order to galvanize their communities.
Spearheaded by Sabeel Pantry and longtime IMAN leader Jihad Shoshara, the Chicago Muslim Turkey Drive received high-profile news coverage from several noted local media outlets. More importantly though, smiles beamed across the faces of hundreds of South Side residents that day as they picked up their turkeys. Such proactive outreach is a powerful reminder of the role that dignified, direct service plays in the betterment of our city.
After several months of spring and summer fun, IMAN’s weekly farmers market—Fresh Beats & Eats—ended its second year with a robust closing event. Nearly 100 community members visited the market on October 21, enjoying an extended live music performance by the Tubad & The Nation, an expanded lineup of some of Chicago’s freshest food vendors, and free gift bags stocked with healthy groceries. Walgreen’s representatives also administered complimentary flu shots on site.
Fresh Beats & Eats was able to begin rooting itself in the fabric of Marquette Park community life this year, with many residents becoming “regulars” and utilizing the market for their weekend shopping; while others came simply to sit, enjoy the sunshine and connect with neighbors. The arts, particularly music, truly reflected the vibrancy of the community, with homegrown talent performing everything from Latin jazz to soul classics to funk-filled grooves.
Perhaps the market’s greatest success this year was its establishment as a source of low-cost, high-quality foods in an area lacking in such offerings. Fresh Beats & Eats was able to partner with Illinois’ WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and LINK food assistance programs, which aided many residents in purchasing locally grown, organic produce from Urban Canopy each week. The community response was overwhelmingly positive, with many guests expressing their appreciation for the safety and dignity they felt while at the market.
IMAN thanks the long list of vendors and partners that helped make this Fresh Beats & Eats season successful. All vendors were local to Chicago, with many of them residing in the Southwest Side community. We also greatly thank the individuals and families who visited the market every week, see you next year!
Green ReEntry welcomed another cohort of six diligent brothers last month, and this group is truly unique. Cohort members range from age 18 to age 58, and are taking an exceptionally integrative approach to their training over the next few months. HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling) skills are the focal point of this cohort’s crash course in renovation work. However, given the multilayered nature of that field, the brothers will also be receiving hands-on training in basic electrical and plumbing work. Their training is co-facilitated by a skilled local HVAC contractor who has worked with Green ReEntry in years past.
The cohort is led by new Green ReEntry Manager Ali Rashad. Ali has been connected to IMAN since its inception, and has a rich background in both the business and technical sides of construction work. He has over 20 years of experience in electrical contracting, and was educated as an electrical engineer. Ali has also run his own business for many years.
In addition to the technical skill-building, cohort members are also taking advantage of “life skills sessions” each morning. As a group, the brothers discuss current challenges and utilize each other as a support system. Green ReEntry is looking for a Case Manager to help deepen this aspect of restoration and healing.
The arrival of Whole Foods Market was met with great anticipation from our leaders and allies in the Greater Englewood area. For years, IMAN and partner organizations have tackled food access issues on the South Side of Chicago with a holistic approach: by holding larger corporations more accountable to the local community needs, increasing the availability of fresh and healthy foods, expanding nutrition education resources, and serving as an incubator for local entrepreneurship.
IMAN has long worked to revitalize food ecosystems in Englewood and other South Side communities through its Corner Store Campaign, which currently engages over 60 stores. As an organization deeply rooted in this community, IMAN understands that fostering alternative business models requires strong connections between food access, corner store intervention, urban agriculture, and public safety.
“IMAN has always seen our food access work as intersectional,” says Dr. Rami Nashashibi. “We recognize that issues of food justice are closely related to the violence and trauma that we see in our communities. In order for an entity like Whole Foods to be successful in Englewood, it is crucial for it to be rooted firmly in the local community, support the existing work of community groups, and ultimately help to strengthen the local food ecosystem.”
For more information on how IMAN food justice organizers plan to engage Whole Foods in the larger community-wide campaign to improve health and wellness in South Side communities, please contact Organizing Director Shamar Hemphill at email@example.com.