Staff, Leaders Further MLK’s Legacy Across Chicagoland

While Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life may have been tragically and violently taken on April 4th, this date has transformed into a revitalizing annual call for reflection on and deepened engagement with King’s legacy. IMAN staff and organizers spent the day playing key roles in several events across the city, responding to the call for building a truly beloved community by helping bridge various communities with a common desire for justice.

Several senior staff members attended a daylong Truth, Racial Healing, and Reconciliation session sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation. Alongside faith leaders, fellow organizers and influential members of the local philanthropic community, IMAN representatives lifted up the struggles and triumphs of those most directly affected by today’s most urgent socio-political challenges. Longtime partner Chicago Theological Seminary hosted the seminar, which concluded with a stirring artistic performance by poet and songwriter Avery R. Young.

Marquette Park’s MLK Living Memorial was the site of a powerful gathering sponsored by Hip-Hop DetoxX, an arts-centered youth empowerment organization spearheaded by Chicago music mainstay Enoch Muhammad. Dubbed “The Apology”, the event brought IMAN staff together with many residents who’d never before visited the MLK Living Memorial. This ceremonial remembrance opened up a unique intergenerational space for local elders to encourage young leaders to continue to strive for healthier community life.

Finally, that evening IMAN organizers and artists joined a diverse crowd of over 500 Chicagoans for the Resist, Reimagine, Rebuild teach-in. Youth leader Selma Dee and longtime IMAN arts contributor Tasleem Jamilah kicked off the event with extraordinary vocals, and organizations across the spectrum of social justice efforts set the stage for a truly special gathering. As part of the #FightFearBuildPower campaign, our organizers continued bolstering key alliances in the city as a means of mutually strengthening one another’s respective efforts.

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 established weekly Grassroots Power Hour sessions to serve the needs of local individuals and families navigating our quickly shifting political landscape. Over 300 community members have been engaged thus far through the Grassroots Power Hour initiative, invigorating our base of local leaders.

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

Throughout the year, IMAN organizers dug deep into issues of food 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. Legal professionals operating in various spheres presented on topics ranging from students’ rights to safe police interactions, creating a practical, community-driven environment. Grassroots Power Hour will resume in 2018, and for more information please contact Organizer 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.