IMAN Arts & Culture Forming a Truly ‘Beloved Community’

Whether in beautiful Wisconsin lakesides or in the heart of Chicago Lawn, IMAN’s Arts & Culture department invested heavily in building a beloved community around its holistic, accessible programming in 2017. Dozens of artists from across the country—masters of spoken word, various instruments, dance and visual arts alike—gathered this October for IMAN’s latest Artist Retreat. Much more than mere cyphers and jam sessions, the retreat served as an invaluable opportunity for attendees to engage the essence of IMAN’s work, and collaborate with peers who have similarly found inspiration in the organization’s mission.

The powerful bonds formed during the Artist Retreat affirmed the need for a formal cohort of “IMAN artists”; talented and expressive individuals who would be given institutional support as they channel their gifts into projects across various mediums. To make this a reality, Arts & Culture Manager Sadia Nawab led the formation of the IMAN Artist Roster, which allows creatives of all backgrounds to access resources and radically reimagine the role that artistic expression can play in the work of inner-city health, wellness and healing.

On the grassroots level, another layer of community was being slowly handcrafted in a quiet corner on the IMAN campus. Beginning in the soul-soothing days of Ramadan, IMAN’s new Beloved Community Ceramics Studio has since introduced dozens of local residents to the spiritual connections and cultural traditions of the ceramics art form. Whether filled with schoolchildren carving out “what home means to me”, or elders and Health Center patients molding and painting custom kitchenware, the Beloved Community studio was constantly buzzing with activity.

Deepening the program’s intersectional nature has been the expertise and leadership of master ceramicist Khalid Partee. A graduate and current program instructor of the Green ReEntry program, Khalid is actively involved in teaching ceramics to his eager students. Several of his custom vases, chess sets, and plates are available for sale. For more information on the Beloved Community Ceramics Studio, and all things Arts & Culture, please email arts@imancentral.org

Local Dentists Help Boost IMAN’s Oral Health Work

The recently formed partnership between IMAN and the Chicago Muslim Dental Society (CMDS) has already yielded significant, mutual benefits. After the formal launch of a biweekly “working group” last month, IMAN’s Oral Health work has received crucial advice on best practices, generous donations of industry-standard equipment, and a growing pool of volunteer dentists. At the same time, CMDS has been able to make a tremendous impact in a Chicago community that is drastically underserved with regard to oral health.

Volunteer relationships and community partnerships have always been central to the mission and expansion of our larger health and wellness work. Since the launch of IMAN’s Oral Health Clinic in 2016, plans for strategic, holistic expansion have been prepared. What began as basic dental screenings and referrals has now grown into a fully operational oral health center serving a growing number of local patients.

IMAN’s relationship with CMDS pre-dates its Oral Health Clinic, initiated through a bond with a long-time supporter. Understanding the dire need for accessible, affordable dental care on Chicago’s Southwest Side, both organizations brought their expertise to the table in order to build the infrastructure necessary for a meaningful intervention. As IMAN’s Health Clinic offerings-including oral health-continue to grow, the CMDS partnership demonstrates the profound impact of a broader Chicagoland Muslim health community which truly believes in and contributes to delivering dignified care to individuals and families most directly-affected by health crises.

Trainings Engage Emerging Organizers in Chicago & Detroit

This year, IMAN’s Community Organizing Training returned to Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, where 40 leaders gathered to strengthen their understanding of concepts and skills for making change in their communities. This year’s training participants brought together longtime IMAN leaders from our Green Reentry and our organizing campaigns, and included leaders from across Chicagoland and from out of state, working on a range of issues in their communities.

In addition to IMAN’s standard modules focused on the importance of knowing and sharing our stories, relationship building, self-interest, and power, this year’s training highlighted the connection between organizing, the arts, and mental health, which has long characterized IMAN’s holistic model. PHENOM, a longtime IMAN arts leader, performed pieces on power and community building, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Suzanne Chopra led modules around the importance of goal setting and self care.

At the same time the trainees were forging common bonds in Hyde Park, the tragic events in Charlottesville were polarizing the nation. Witnessing the chaotic violence in Virginia’s streets served as a stark reminder of why holistic spaces like IMAN’s Organizing Training and Grassroots Power Hour are essential to establishing a truly beloved community.

A couple weeks after the training in Chicago, IMAN organizers traveled to Michigan and facilitated a special, daylong workshop for leaders from grassroots partner organization Dream of Detroit. The session emphasized the importance of understanding shared narratives, and contextualized key IMAN organizing principles around issues of housing and other campaigns that Dream of Detroit leaders are currently engaging.

God willing, organizers will continue to spread IMAN’s model to leaders throughout Chicago and across the country. For more information on IMAN’s organizing efforts, contact Senior Organizer Shamar Hemphill at shamar@imancentral.org

IMAN Awarded Healthy Chicago 2.0 Grant

IMAN’s Corner Store Campaign was awarded a Healthy Chicago 2.0 Seed Grant by the City of Chicago for its innovative approach toward “promoting heath in a community including access to social services and healthy food, safe public spaces, social cohesion and collaboration.” This grant will fund the launch of the new produce distribution system providing local corner stores with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Building healthy communities requires holistic support, and the Corner Store Campaign’s produce distribution system is designed to address that need in an innovative, sustainable way. IMAN Health Clinic patients will be offered coupons redeemable at local corner stores, as well as at IMAN’s weekly Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market. This produce distribution model—now possible with the Healthy Chicago funding—facilitates mutual, community-wide benefits: corner stores are incentivized to increase fresh produce sales, while residents enjoy easier access to fruits and vegetables.

Individuals and families deserve access to healthy food options, no matter the zip code in which they reside. IMAN’s Corner Store Campaign works to bring this basic right into reality through initiatives like the produce distribution system. For more information about the Corner Store Campaign, or to join this dynamic team of community organizers and leaders, email Campaign Manager Sara Hamdan at sara@imancentral.org.