This Is Why We Are Dying

As an active Christian and IMAN collaborator, I’ve had opportunities to join my Muslim sisters and brothers for many Iftar dinners over the years but none as powerful as the one I attended on the first day of Ramadan at IMAN.

Monday night I joined a group of IMAN staff, leaders, and community members who gathered at IMAN’s Health Center with State Senator Jacqueline Collins to discuss Senate Resolution 98—an effort to call out and curtail the deplorable number of preventable deaths in Illinois’ prisons. Some evidence suggests that one third of all deaths recorded within the Illinois Department of Corrections between 2016 and 2017 were preventable.

Beyond the discussion of the Senate Resolution, I heard the powerful and unforgettable stories of IMAN organizers and leaders discuss their harrowing struggles with health in and outside of prison. At one point in the conversation Nasir Blackwell, a full-time IMAN organizer, recalled the grueling deaths he witnessed while in the infirmary and spoke of the hundreds of legal complaints he filed to bring legal attention to these cases. “No one is listening…this is why we are dying!” he exclaimed.

Nasir is right; not enough people are listening. Justice-involved individuals face significant physical and mental health needs and confront a variety of social challenges. As a public health researcher, my work has focused on studying, advocating for and working with organizations fighting to close the health disparities crippling black and brown communities. I also know that the circumstances contributing to the deterioration of health and wellness in low-income areas directly correlates to the mass incarceration of many of our dear brothers and sisters. We know that when these individuals come home, they are faced with even more trauma, returning to under-resourced neighborhoods where more violence and high recidivism is a very probable outcome. In other words: organizations like IMAN and leaders like Nasir understand the link between the conditions in and outside prisons and the impact they have on our communities.

IMAN is forging the way toward building a holistic model to strengthen the link between issues dealing with health, wellness and healing in the inner-city.

I’ve been an active supporter with my time and resources and I hope you join me.

Take action and help this dynamic organization meet its “One-Link, One Chain”: Ramadan Drive goal to raise $1,000,000.

Peace,

Dr. Angela Odoms-Young

ATL Advocacy at the State Capitol

For the third consecutive year, IMAN mobilized dozens of organizers and leaders at the Georgia State Capitol for Justice Day. Throughout the day, IMAN leaders and Green ReEntry cohort members shared their firsthand experiences navigating the criminal justice system. Their narratives—and those of their mothers, children and other family members—highlighting incarceration’s layered impacts spurred deep interest from local legislators.

We also joined our partners at New Georgia Project, which works to increase voter turnout and protect voting rights, and RestoreHER—an organization fighting to protect the dignity of incarcerated women and support their transitions back home—at the Capitol to strengthen a collective platform advocating for our united interests. RestoreHER founder Pamela Winn shared her harrowing experience being shackled while pregnant to illustrate the constant violence faced by incarcerated women. Ms. Winn’s powerful testimony inspired bipartisan support, and IMAN Atlanta organizers joined her advocacy for House Bill 345. The bill recently passed through the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives, and will prohibit the shackling of pregnant imprisoned women once it is signed into law.

Just days after the horrendous attacks on the Muslim community in New Zealand, IMAN Atlanta returned to the Capitol for Muslim Advocacy Day to continue advocating for communities negatively impacted by inequitable legislation. Staff, leaders and Green ReEntry participants stood alongside community partners from Georgia Justice Project, CAIR Georgia, and Muslim Women’s Professional Network. Organizing Fellow Amirah Kahera spoke on the importance of maintaining unity in spite of adversity, and invited Muslim Advocacy Day participants to engage more deeply with IMAN’s larger #FightFearBuildPower efforts.

IMAN Atlanta also recently hosted its annual Community Organizing Training, which introduced a diverse group of emerging leaders to our organizing principles and strategies. During this intensive two-day training, attendees reflected on the vital connections between intergenerational and interfaith leadership, and learned core skills needed to facilitate relational meetings. Those leading the training also drew connections between prophetic example and that of past civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to demonstrate effective coalition building. After completing the training, participants were invited to continue honing their community organizing skills at IMAN Atlanta’s weekly Grassroots Power Hours.

To learn more and get involved with IMAN Atlanta’s organizing efforts, please contact atlanta@imancentral.org

IMAN Launches Fresh Market Stand

IMAN launched the new Fresh Market Stand initiative in early-March, adding another layer to our longstanding Food Ecosystems work in the Englewood and Chicago Lawn neighborhoods. Every Friday at 2 pm, visitors to IMAN’s Youth & Arts Wellness Center may purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, engage with health and wellness specialists, and receive helpful nutrition information. During the off-season of our weekly farmers market, the Fresh Market Stand will help meet the community need and demand for affordable fresh produce. In the first month alone, 420 lbs of produce were purchased at the Fresh Market Stand.

The Fresh Market Stand plays a key role in IMAN’s larger vision of cultivating community wellness through increased access to nutritious food options. Reinforcing the cooperative, sustainable spirit of our Food Ecosystems efforts, the Fresh Market Stand is also an opportunity for Corner Store Campaign partners to buy produce in bulk. Using a cooperative buying model, five partner stores have purchased a total of 280 lbs of produce since March 2019. In addition to reducing waste, this unique business arrangement makes fresh fruits and vegetables even more accessible to local individuals and families.

Our Fresh Market Stand will be open every Friday afternoon through the month of June. Another pillar of IMAN’s Food Ecosystems work–our weekly Farmers Market–will return on Friday, July 12th. For additional information about IMAN’s food justice organizing, and to get involved with any of these exciting campaigns, please contact Food Ecosystems Coordinator Eric Rodriguez at eric@imancentral.org.

Grassroots Power Hour Returns 2019

Grassroots Power Hour, our weekly community forum has officially returned. Power Hour is a space open to neighborhood residents, youth, and others from across the city to build meaningful relationships and find shared values. These sessions will be held on Wednesday evenings in Chicago and on Thursday evenings in Atlanta.

Our staff organizers facilitate these sessions, helping to build collective power and momentum to address issues that impact our families and communities, including police accountability, food access, and criminal justice reform. Power Hours in Chicago will focus on politics at the local level—as we gear up for the February 26th mayoral and aldermanic elections—and at the state and national levels, where we will engage freshman legislators to drive meaningful policy change. In preparation for Georgia Justice Day 2019, our Atlanta team will devote their first few Power Hours to analyzing key issues impacting the community, highlighting the importance of a unified voice, and creating a plan of action.

In order to continue developing our deep network of organizers, both veteran and emerging leaders will be invited as featured facilitators each month. Dinner is also served every week just before the start of each session, giving attendees an opportunity to organically connect.

Be sure to join us for Power Hour in Chicago on Wednesday evenings at 5:30pm, or in Atlanta on Thursdays at 6pm.

*If you are interested in participating in Georgia Justice Day 2019 on Tuesday, February 26, register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/justice-day-at-the-capitol-2019-registration-52325419739

If you have any questions, or would like to get involved in IMAN’s organizing campaigns, please contact Sara Hamdan (Chicago) at sara@imancentral.org or Atiba Jones (Atlanta) at atiba@imancentral.org