Atlanta Green ReEntry Cohort Graduates

We are proud to announce our Spring 2018 graduates from the Green ReEntry program in Atlanta! These men began the journey as strangers this past January, and finished together as brothers.

The group of ten, led by Green ReEntry Manager Jermaine Shareef and Case Worker Arthur Majid, worked tirelessly to complete a 12-week, intensive vocational training course in plumbing, and to achieve personal and spiritual growth. The Green ReEntry brothers were surrounded by love and support from community members and loved ones who attended the graduation, as they received special recognition for their accomplishments during the uplifting and moving ceremony, which was held in Atlanta on April 21st.

Among those celebrating these extraordinary men was AJ Sabree, former Director of Reentry Services for the Georgia Department of Corrections. He reflected on how essential reentry programs are to communities like the West End area in which IMAN Atlanta operates, and the importance of providing resources necessary to confront the lingering challenges of mass incarceration.

Now that they have reached this milestone, these brothers are ready to apply both their job and life skills as they transition back into the community. They are focused on securing gainful employment and housing, and are seeking to rebuild connections with their families while remaining involved with IMAN’s work.

CommUNITY Café Caps 1st Sacred Cypher Residency

IMAN hosted its first Sacred Cypher residency featuring longtime arts leader Liza Garza, an Emmy-nominated artist, activist, healer and poet. Liza’s work is rooted in her passion for love and oneness, and powered by transformative, intentional listening. Her residency, entitled “Story Cyphers”, used a unique methodology called “story circles”, which originated as a tool used in the Civil Rights movement to create space for people of different races to address and overcome differences.

The residency week began with Liza facilitating a series of story circles in collaboration with IMAN’s Green ReEntry program participants and members of the Behavioral health team where stewardship ultimately will be passed to the participants who will then bring the process into the community by hosting their own story circles. Tuesday evening, attendees of IMAN’s weekly Power Hour were moved by the performance that Liza and her son, Eli Lakes, gave. Wednesday evening, Liza performed at IMAN’s MLK commemoration ceremony at the Marquette Park Field house. Thursday was a powerful moment filled with meaningful conversations and a surprise guest, Chicago rapper, Common. Friday, members of the IMAN community and local artists, joined Liza for a post jummah spiritual cypher session.

This residency coincided with IMAN’s Only Light, Only Love week which also included the Illuminating Love Ceramic Workshop on Monday. This workshop allowed for a diverse and intergenerational group of Chicago community members to shine light via creating an oil burner.

Liza’s residency and Only Light, Only Love week culminated with CommUNITY Café. CommUNITY Café is a live performance experience designed to connect, inspire and organize diverse communities to action. Over 450 community members, friends, families and supporters joined us for a successful night filled with culture, art, light and love. This night was Co-MCed by Chicago Beyond CEO Liz Dozier and Liza Garza. It was filled by an extraordinary lineup which included performances by: Oddisee, Sa-Roc, IMAN Roster Artists: Drea d’Nur, Liza Garza, Eli Lakes, and the band Surabhi featuring Massamba Diop. During the “Café Hour” audiences were invited to engage IMAN’s ongoing community wellness work, support local businesses and artisans, share food, and connect over artistic activities lead by renowned Chicago artists, Lavie Raven and Liz Lazdins.

Coming up: IMAN’s arts and culture department is just getting started with ceramic classes, live performance engagement at corner stores, community cafes, and artist residencies. Our next residency features visual artist, Kelly Izdihar Crosby from June 7th through the 13th. If you are interested in getting more intimately involved with IMAN’s arts work, please email arts@imancentral.org.

New ‘Health Navigators’ Work to Increase Healthcare Access

IMAN is pleased to announce the addition of a new team of Health Navigators to its growing Health Center staff. In collaboration with Chicago Public Schools, Health Navigators will help to ensure that local parents and children are enrolled in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

IMAN trained two current staff members, Medical Assistant Rosa Mandujano, who serves as a bilingual English-Spanish navigator, and Organizer Robert Jones to take on this crucial role. Additionally, Donica Ousley was recruited and hired as a full-time Health Navigator. As a part of their certification process, the trio completed nearly 100 hours of comprehensive training over a four-week period of 4 weeks.

Currently, many millions of Americans remain uninsured, including over 900,000 Illinois residents living without health insurance. Nationwide, ACA marketplace signups so far in 2018 are occuring at a rate 3.7 percent lower than last year’s enrollment period, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Amid steep reductions in federal funding for healthcare outreach and specialized community support like health navigators—not to mention a shortened enrollment period and a climate of political uncertainty surrounding the healthcare laws—IMAN remains committed to
fighting for the health and wellness of Chicagoland communities. Our Health Navigator team is a significant step forward as we continue building trust and relationships with families who need and deserve access to healthcare.

Meet the 2018 Sacred Cypher Creatives

Cyphers are sacred. “Cypher comes from the Arabic word, sifr, meaning the number zero,” Sadia Nawab, IMAN Arts & Culture Manager, explains. “This zero represents a circle, which is the shape of a Hip Hop cypher, and represents communal equality, where no person is more prominent than any other person.” Since the earliest iterations of Hip Hop culture, the cypher has been a critical public space wherein Black, Brown and other marginalized youth gathered to creatively share and challenge their realities. The cypher fosters unity, equality, and support for its participants as they reflect, remind and call the community encircling them to action.

For over two decades, IMAN has cultivated unique artistic spaces that uphold the principles of the cypher through a philosophy of being Spiritually Rooted, Spatially Relevant, and Socially Conscious. Our Sacred Cypher Creatives (SCC) residency is a select group of artists from the recently launched IMAN Artist Roster, part of our ongoing support of innovative art-makers helping to build community and shape the future. Sacred Cypher Creatives will spend a year deepening their engagement with IMAN’s work at the intersection of culture, social justice and community organizing. We are proud to announce our 2018 SCC Cohort:

  • AL-TAWAM – Khadijah and Iman Siferllah-Griffin | Performance: Dance | Minneapolis, MN
  • KAYEM | Performance: Music, Recording Artist, Arts Education, Literary Arts | Chicago, IL
  • KELLY IZDIHAR CROSBY | Visual Art: Painting, Multidisciplinary Arts | Atlanta, GA
  • LIZA GARZA | Performance: Music, Poetry, Traditional/Folk Arts | Atlanta, GA
  • PHENOM | Performance: Emcee, Arts Education, Literary Arts, Poetry | Chicago, IL

Each SCC artist will complete a creative engagement project in collaboration with IMAN Arts & Culture and at least one additional department: Organizing & Advocacy, Green ReEntry or the Health Center. They will receive an Artist-in-Community Residency at IMAN’s campuses in either Chicago or Atlanta, and a stipend to support their throughout the year. Sacred Cypher Creatives will also convene for three in-person gatherings, culminating with the IMAN Artist Retreat this fall.

IMAN is honored to support and collaborate with these inspiring artists invested in radically reimagining our world. We invite you to journey with the 2018 Sacred Cypher Creatives, and experience their creativity in action. The first featured residency will be Liza Garza’s “Story Cypher” during IMAN’s “Only Light, Only Love” event series commemorating of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Her residency is highlighted by our signature CommUNITY Cafe on Saturday, April 7.