MLK Day Efforts Galvanize Communities in Chicago & ATL

This MLK Day, IMAN presented its first two-city event, Fighting Fear/Building Power: Renewing the Call for a Beloved Community. Over 1,000 attendees gathered, forging new connections with one another and enjoying inspirational artistic performances. Appearances by Talib Kweli and Ilyasah Al Shabazz in Atlanta, and Jay Electronica in Chicago, helped rally the crowds. Newark, New Jersey and Los Angeles, California also hosted “Sister City Gatherings”, where allies live-streamed the events and engaged each other around ways to implement the call for justice. IMAN thanks Lead Sponsor, Marguerite Casey Foundation, and Supporting Sponsor, Zakat Foundation of America, for helping make Fighting Fear/Building Power possible.

The climax of Fighting Fear/Building Power came as dozens of community organizations (over 50 alone in Chicago) united onstage to pledge their mutual support, solidarity and their re-commitment to the vision of Beloved Community that Dr. King put forth over 50 years ago. Particularly in Atlanta, this strong showing of broad-based allegiance served as public notice of IMAN’s deepening impact in the area. With capacity crowds in both cities also standing and making their pledge, coalitions were strengthened and spirits were lifted as we enter a new moment in our nation’s history.

That morning was brightened by heartening displays of solidarity, generosity and hope. In Marquette Park, IMAN hosted its Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Luncheon for over 100 local residents. Guests enjoyed catered meals, opportunities for insightful discussion on the growing relevance of King’s vision for urban communities, and were presented with gift bags prepared by dozens of volunteers and longtime supporters.

We are grateful to the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO) and Equal Voice Network Chicago for co-convening such an inspirational event. Thank you to all guests and viewers who helped the #FightFearBuildPower hashtag trend on Twitter!

Join the thousands nationwide who’ve decided to double down on the work of inclusion and solidarity, and sign the #FightFearBuildPower Pledge today!

Striving for Light

I have always taken great inspiration from the prophetic prayer beseeching the Creator to make us a source of Divine Light. I know these last few weeks have felt a little darker for many of us. Yet, at IMAN, we often talk about aspiring to be a light rather than just curse the darkness.

My prayer is that you and your family can take solace in the fact that people like you have built IMAN over the last two decades to be a source of light and hope in the face of challenging times. For thousands of families from all walks of life that are direct recipients of our services, leaders in our organizing campaigns or attendees at our inspiring arts events, that’s exactly what IMAN has come to mean to them.

There have been several renewed calls for coalition, alliance and community building with our brothers and sisters from black, brown and other communities over the past few weeks. I am encouraged by those calls. Yet, I also know that such work needs more than just impassioned calls at times of great anxiety; it also needs sustained commitments to support and grow that work at the deepest levels.

In light of our current moment, I hope that you do all you can to ensure IMAN remains an illuminating source of inspiration by securing your table at this year’s Annual Dinner on Saturday, December 10th at the South Shore Cultural Center. As the legacy of Dr. King reminded us so poignantly this year, our journey to justice continues regardless of who is in office and how many decades have passed. We hope that you will be with us that night as we reflect and renew our commitment to that journey for the years to come.

Senator Dick Durbin Visits Marquette Park, MLK Memorial

On Tuesday, October 18th, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin joined Marquette Park residents and local leaders for a day of healing-focused dialogue, celebration of new cultural landmarks and recognition of long-standing neighborhood institutions.

Sen. Durbin participated in a community conversation during which SWOP, IMAN and Sinai Health Systems representatives shared reflections and engaged him with calls to action around the pressing issues of trauma and violence in the area. The meeting was hosted inside of Holy Cross Hospital’s newly opened Behavioral Health Center, which offers both inpatient and outpatient treatment.

img_20161026_095310Following the community conversation, Sen. Durbin toured the MLK Living Memorial with IMAN staff and various members of the Local Task Force that helped make the memorial a success. After experiencing the MLK Living Memorial, Sen. Durbin then joined Local Task Force members for a celebration luncheon at historic Beth Shalom synagogue. Fifty years prior, the synagogue served as a safe house for organizers and protestors working to reshape the future of Marquette Park. Now, on that continued journey to justice, a dynamic, diverse collection of community leaders gathered in that same space in order to celebrate the collective successes and reflect on challenges left awaiting.

We thank Sen. Durbin for visiting, and thank all the members of the MLK Living Memorial Local Task Force for their tireless efforts in mobilizing the Marquette Park community behind this project.

Solidarity in the Hood

America continues to witness men and women of color being gunned down in the streets by law enforcement. Whether tending to a stalled vehicle or simply reading inside their car before picking up children from school, these victims are treated as stereotypes rather than as human beings. As a Black father, husband, and Muslim living on Chicago’s South Side, I know firsthand the unfortunate realities of police officers’ implicit biases. Those biases are compounded by the structural racism and discrimination, devastating community disinvestment, failing schools, and economic despair. This is why I organize at IMAN. The issue is bigger than improved policing. The job at hand is to rebuild broken neighborhoods and uplift our fellow community members whose lived experiences are burdened by hopelessness and desperation.

13988248_1398315450194885_988699636317583685_oI believe Muslims have a critical role to play in helping to strengthen institutions like IMAN and support our inner cities in the struggle for equity and justice. It is easy to become frustrated by the seemingly endless news of gun violence in Chicago and police brutality nationwide, but constructively engaging with community organizations can channel that frustration into meaningful action and, God willing, lasting improvements.

IMAN continues to tackle crucial issues with campaigns focused on criminal justice reform that counters the criminalization of black and brown communities. Just this year, our organizers succeeded in getting the Removing Invisible Bars Act passed, a significant step forward in Illinois’ parole reform efforts. As the U.S. Muslim community asserts its rightful place in the American experience, we cannot lose sight of the need to make relevant impact on the people we live with and in the spaces we navigate. One path to relevance is through maintaining real solidarity in the ‘hood, and IMAN’s Corner Store Campaign has provided a vehicle to do just that for years now. Utilizing our resources in expertise to help restore viable job opportunities, holistic health improvements and harmonious interpersonal relationships promises to be a fruitful investment.

The real work begins when we are able to see our stories and ourselves in others; then we can truly want for our brothers and sisters that which we want for ourselves. That’s how lasting solidarity is built, and there is no better time to start this journey than right now.

Shamar Hemphill
IMAN Director of Organizing