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.
In response to the unconscionable attack on 71-year-old Fred Laguardia following Labor Day Weekend, IMAN helped mobilize a diverse group of religious and community leaders from the larger Marquette Park area to welcome home their beloved fellow citizen and pledge support to his family.
A community-organized press conference took place at 7045 South California Avenue, the site of Mr. Laguardia’s attack, during which family members and representatives from the larger community spoke passionately about the urgent need to stand together and stem the rising tide of violence in communities like Marquette Park, and other areas across the city.
Mr. Laguardia was mugged and shot by two assailants in the middle of the day on Tuesday, September 6th. The longtime Marquette Park resident was assaulted while tending to the lawn of a vacant property on the block. The attack occurred directly across from the park, a grim reminder of the work yet do be done to realize a more beloved community. “In the spirit of [Dr.] King, we want to make sure this is not just another community where acts of violence take place without people standing up,” IMAN ED Rami Nashashibi said. “The community is filled with people who work with one another, who are committed to have a peaceful neighborhood.”
Chicago anti-violence activist Andrew Holmes and his organization helped raise much of the $10,000 reward from groups and individuals across Chicago. The money will be used to encourage information leading to the arrest of Laguardia’s attackers. Other local institutions in support include: Beth Shalom Synagogue, Sisters of St.Casimir, Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), Holy Cross Hospital, Maria Catalyst School, Ephraim Bahar Community Center, Chicago Islamic Center, St. Rita of Cascia Parish and more.
God willing, by the first week of June 2016, IMAN’s latest Green ReEntry cohort will complete the renovation of the single-family home located at 6224 S. Fairfield Avenue. The revitalized property features a new fully enclosed and insulated back porch; a fully renovated kitchen with all new stainless steel appliances; brand new plumbing systems; energy-efficient electrical systems with LED lighting; energy-efficient heating and cooling systems; a fully insulated attic with an access panel stairway; and a new full bathroom and laundry room in the basement.
This cohort of brothers enjoyed widespread recognition to go along with their successful work. In March, veteran Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg profiled this year’s group of brothers, and in April the Congressional Black Caucus toured the Fairfield home and met with the cohort.
In collaboration with WJ Management, the Green ReEntry cohort remarkably finished this complete “gut-rehab”—from demolition and deconstruction to painting and landscaping—in only three months! The brothers also had the opportunity to learn from skilled plumbing, electrical and HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) tradesmen while installing those systems in the house. The cohort was surprised to learn that the HVAC contractor was also an ex-offender and Muslim himself.
As with all previous cohorts, the next goal is full-time employment. So far, one brother was hired by a local construction company, two others have been offered positions with a major home improvement retailer, and the last cohort member has been offered a position as a welder through one of IMAN’s intermediaries.
IMAN looks forward to celebrating the success of this cohort at the Green ReEntry Graduation in November.