Ms. Freya Powell had driven past our IMAN Atlanta office several times before she decided to stop in. She had learned about IMAN through another community partner and two months ago, finally made the decision to attend a Grassroots Power Hour session—our weekly community organizing forum that connects people in order to build power around important issues. What Ms. Freya experienced floored her. Never before, she told me, had she been in a space that affirmed so much of her humanity—that brought older generations together with young leaders, that connected returning citizens with the children of immigrants, that incorporated the arts and self-care practices as crucial components of working to uplift and transform her community.
And meeting Ms. Freya validates everything I have always known and loved about this organization. I have the privilege of being the only IMAN Atlanta staff member who has had the experience of working at both the Chicago and Atlanta sites. Over the last three years, I have witnessed IMAN’s holistic model take root and flourish organically in my home state of Georgia and can attest to IMAN’s ability to create real meaningful change—helping to pass important legislation around prisoner rights; training over 65 leaders in our signature Community Organizing curriculum; inspiring the hearts of over 1,000 people through powerful artistic expression at Community Cafés; rekindling connections to the earth through urban agriculture and healthy eating workshops; graduating three Green ReEntry cohorts; and now, on the verge of completing renovation of a 10-unit apartment complex—the most expansive Green ReEntry project IMAN has embarked on in its over 21 year history.
Ms. Freya has been inviting everyone she knows to join IMAN’s efforts and especially loves that IMAN is a space that she feels connects her to her own faith, while forming a solid and meaningful link to people of other faiths doing life-changing work in her community. In Ms. Freya’s words, “I found peace here at IMAN – it woke me up.”
Join me and Ms. Freya in supporting IMAN’s One Link, One Chain: 2019 Ramadan Drive with a generous, zakat-eligible, tax-deductible donation. Help us continue to form links like Ms. Freya in Chicago, Atlanta, and beyond.
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.
Dr. Angela Odoms-Young
Assalamu Alaikum & Ramadan Mubarak!
Last month, you may have seen a music video made by our IMAN Atlanta Green ReEntry team called “One Link, One Chain”, a mantra borrowed from the pledge the men recite daily in Chicago and Atlanta as a reminder of their commitment to themselves and their community.
As we prepare for the blessed month of Ramadan, we lift up the “One Link, One Chain” mantra, and invite you to strengthen your own link to IMAN’s important work. This month, our goal is to raise $1,000,000 during our ‘One Link, One Chain’: 2019 Ramadan Fundraising Drive.
At a time when the forces that have been designed to pit communities against one another have only gained momentum, there has never been a more important moment to reinforce the links that bind us all. As 1.6 billion Muslims around the world commit to strengthening their own connection to the Divine, we will be sharing stories that remind us of the many powerful connections we have to one another. Those connections have made IMAN what it is today and throughout Ramadan, we hope you will help us continue the critical work of uniting hearts and minds to help uplift and transform communities.
We ask 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. Your support demonstrates the tremendous impact we can make together as one link in one unbreakable chain.
IMAN hosted its second CommUNITY Café of the year on March 30th at Chicago’s Harold Washington Cultural Center. Over 400 attendees enjoyed CommUNITY Café: Celebrating the Sacred Cypher, a night filled with healing, spiritual unity and diverse and unforgettable artistic expressions. CommUNITY Cafés are intentionally intersectional gatherings that bring artists, organizers and other community members together. This most recent Café took on global significance in light of the tragic events in New Zealand and Mali.
The evening began with a lively Café Hour with several local vendors and a special “beat making station” sponsored by Solidarity Studios. Guests enjoyed several performances by nationally renowned artists with deep connections to IMAN’s work. Grammy-nominated songstress (and IMAN Roster Artist) Maimouna Youssef headlined the evening with her powerful vocals and unique blend of hip-hop, R&B and tribal sounds. Zeshan B–who recently performed on Late Night with Stephen Colbert– moved the crowd with soulful ballads including “Cryin’ In the Streets” and K Love the Poet rounded out the evening with inspiring spoken word performances rooted in healing. Grandmother Walks on Water–Maimouna Youssef’s mother–wove traditional indigenous vocals into her chilling performance, and the audience was asked to reflect on the equally disheartened violence happening on local streets.
During the evening, IMAN formally announced the Sevyn Ward Trust, a special fund intended to support a strong future for the daughter of slain Green ReEntry cohort member Steven Ward. Chicago’s Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot also took the stage Saturday evening in a gesture of spiritual solidarity, making a commitment to help fight the destructive forces that pit communities against one another, and to allowing us to hold her and her office accountable to working with us to form equitable solutions to some of Chicago’s toughest social justice challenges.
This incredible event would not have been possible without the generous support of our partners at: The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Pillars Fund, and Lyft who provided complimentary rides to and from the venue. We were honored to have such a beautiful crowd in place as we both mourned and uplifted the lives of those lost in New Zealand, Chicago, and around the world in senseless violence.
Stay connected to IMAN’s Arts & Culture work by following #IMANArts on Twitter and Instagram. To get involved, please contact email@example.com.