IMAN, Citywide Alliance Demand Police Accountability

On March 22, IMAN joined fellow members of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) for a press conference at City Hall announcing the release of their Citywide Community Conversations report. Veteran organizers from across Chicago gave testimonials stressing the urgency of this police accountability campaign, and called on city leadership to act now to support community-driven changes to police protocol.

Green ReEntry leader Mustafa Hawthorne spoke powerfully about his experience with the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois correctional system, a story which traces its roots to the era of the infamous commander Jon Burge. Along with other local organizers, the press conference shed light on the devastating harm that police misconduct can have on the individual, family and community levels.

The GAPA report encapsulates months of in-depth focus groups and “Community Conversations” hosted at various sites across Chicago. While stories of frustration and anger were common, the heart of the report amplifies residents’ calls to “fundamentally rethink the role of the police officer, reimagine the way police officers interact and engage with residents, and restructure the way the police department is governed in order to ensure that it embraces the values and priorities of the people it serves.”

IMAN’s efforts with GAPA will continue, as community voices are lifted up and city leadership is engaged in pursuit of lasting change to the status quo. Police accountability is an issue affecting many IMAN leaders, for whom GAPA serves as a promising vehicle through which to counteract the over-criminalization of Black and Brown communities. If you are interested in joining this campaign, contact Organizing Director Shamar Hemphill at shamar@imancentral.org.

Grassroots Power Hour Deepens Organizing Efforts

Recent federal policy decisions around immigration and criminal justice have had a marked impact on the daily lives of many Chicagoans, and particularly those in the Marquette Park area. Recognizing the growing importance of accessible community organizing spaces, IMAN began hosting weekly Grassroots Power Hour sessions to serve the needs of local individuals and families navigating our quickly shifting political landscape.

Grassroots Power Hour is a space for local residents and others from across Chicago to come together for education and relationship-building. Through relationships, IMAN has been able to collectively build power that has fueled our organizing work over the last 20 years. This type of grassroots work allows communities and institutions to build power together, allowing us to push for the types of policies and neighborhood transformation that our communities so desperately need. Grassroots Power Hour also creates space for healing through artistic expression and self-care, access to legal counsel, and training around organizing concepts.

As 2017 continues, Grassroots Power Hour will dig deeper into issues of criminal justice, immigration and national security, utilizing IMAN’s organizing model to equip our communities with the tools and education necessary to navigate the shifting landscape. Grassroots Power Hour is held every Wednesday at 5:30 pm at IMAN’s Youth & Arts Wellness Center. For more information, please contact Sara Hamdan at sara@imancentral.org

IMAN Organizers Train Multigenerational LA Cohort

For the second time, IMAN organizers traveled to California to train Bayan Claremont students and leaders from Islah LA on the essentials of effective, transformative grassroots community organizing. An engaged group of over 40 leaders participated in the weekend-long training, which was hosted in South Central Los Angeles at Islah LA headquarters.

The training touched on all the hallmarks of IMAN’s organizing methodology, from the importance of understanding self-interest to the need for optimistic patience when working towards “the world as it should be.” As the nation transitioned into a new political moment, the group was able to process real-world issues during the training session and begin developing the types of genuine, relationship-based alliances that are necessary to withstand challenging times. The theme of the weekend aligned organically with IMAN’s larger #FightFearBuildPower campaign.

IMAN’s organizing work has long served as a model for grassroots organizers around the country to establish strong coalitions across boundaries of race, socioeconomic status and religion. Organizing trainings are also scheduled to take place in Chicago and Atlanta over the next few months. For those interested in participating in an IMAN training, please contact Organizing Director Shamar Hemphill for more information.

Organizers, Artists Brave Cold to #FightFearBuildPower

Despite freezing temperatures and strong winds, organizers, activists, artists and committed families gathered near Trump Tower for #FightFearBuildPower: Refugee Remix Rally last Saturday to collectively lift up the voices of refugee and undocumented communities. Commissioner Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia reminded the crowd to stay vigilant against individual acts of oppression, while Fr. Michael Pfleger linked the cold weather to the harsh conditions that asylum-seekers of all backgrounds face on a daily basis while seeking justice and stability for their families.

Inspiring artistic expression accompanied the powerful words of support from various community leaders. Syrian-American vocalist Bassel Almadani, along with his band, The Supernaturals, performed a compelling piece based on his relatives’ experience trying to escape war. Libyan-American rapper Khaled M. shared a piece on the struggles his father faced emigrating to the U.S.

The #FightFearBuildPower event series allows IMAN to continuously connect the narratives of those facing injustice and marginalization, and we urge you to stay connected to the effort by joining the thousands of people nationwide who’ve signed the #FightFearBuildPower Pledge. Thank you to all those who attended the rally, followed the action on social media, helped spread the word throughout your networks and continually keep IMAN’s work in your prayers.

#FightFearBuildPower: Refugee Remix Rally was presented by IMAN, sponsored by Zakat Foundation of America and co-convened by Equal Voice Action Network and the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO), with special support from the Catholic Theological Union.