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.
IMAN Atlanta is primed to launch its first direct service as 2017 gets underway. After months of preparation, fundraising, securing community partnerships and acquiring property, Green ReEntry will soon begin working with formerly incarcerated Muslim men in the ATL Metro Area. Participants will enter IMAN’s unique and holistic regiment of transitional housing, spiritual development, basic education, life skills instruction, on-the-job construction training, and job placement support.
One of the newest additions to the IMAN team is Atlanta Green ReEntry Manager Jermaine Shareef, a licensed master plumber. Shareef embodies the model of transformation that the program seeks to replicate. As a young man, he was incarcerated for 9 years. While inside, Shareef was recognized as a model inmate: he dedicated his time to both self-help and helping others, took full advantage of his time, and earned various plumbing certifications.
Shareef also owns his own plumbing company, Najee Plumbing, which is widely respected in the state of Georgia. No stranger to the IMAN ethos of relationship-building, he has also organized as a criminal justice reform advocate and a committed mentor to other men returning home from prison. Be sure to stay updated on the latest Green ReEntry progress and all IMAN Atlanta projects by following them on Facebook.
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!
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.