I Was Sentenced to Death

I was sentenced to death by lethal injection on February 5, 1992, after being convicted of a triple homicide. The sentence was a result of a terrible moment in my young adult life. I was confronted by the people who killed my younger brother and, in an altercation that lasted only a few seconds, I committed a crime that I will regret for the rest of my life.

The first morning I woke up in prison, I realized that I could fight my death sentence by successfully fighting my premeditated murder conviction. A correctional officer asked me how I would like to spend the daily allowance of 90 minutes outside of my prison cell. I requested to go to the law library. With access to the 6’ x 9’ prison cell with a few old, dusty law books, I committed right then and there to study law and eventually became co-councel on my own case 4 years later, after the Illinois Supreme Court had reversed my conviction, and vacated my death sentence. I would no longer face the death sentence in Illinois’ again.

While incarcerated, I embraced Islam, a spiritual practice that has sustained me ever since. My first Ramadan was in 1997, the year that IMAN was incorporated. I heard about IMAN’s work a few years before my release date and within weeks of coming home, IMAN was the first organization I approached for community and support. I needed insulin for my diabetes and got it at IMAN’s Community Health Center. I needed housing and IMAN placed me into their adult leadership home. I wanted to mobilize other brothers and sisters coming out of prison to clear some of the barriers we faced while re-entering into society, and IMAN hired me as a community organizer. Two years ago, I helped IMAN draft and pass the Removing the Invisible Bars Act, and this year we’re very close to passing our second piece of parole reform legislation, the Path to Restoration Bill.

Everything I have done since returning home has been focused on getting myself and my community off of lists that criminalize and dehumanize us, and onto paths that keep us safe, healthy, and thriving. There are thousands more just like me in cities like Chicago and Atlanta all over the country, and IMAN’s 2018 ‘Off the List, On the Love’ Ramadan Drive will ensure that hundreds more get the love and opportunities they need to realize their full potential.

With your generous donation, you’ll play a part in helping us get off those lists too.

Have a blessed Ramadan,
Nasir Blackwell

Off the List, On the Love

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Too many of our beloved sisters and brothers find themselves on all the wrong lists: on waiting lists to access desperately needed housing, mental health services and employment opportunities; on poverty and hunger index lists; and on criminal lists and registries that perpetually punish individuals, families and entire neighborhoods. These lists contribute to our lack of racial and social equity, and are ultimately rooted in a lack of love.

The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us, and in it, we are called to deepen our consciousness of The Divine and strengthen our bonds of mutual love. A Prophetic tradition challenges us to attain true faith by loving for our community that which we love for ourselves.

This month, we will be attempting to raise $1,500,000 during our ‘Off the List, On the Love’: 2018 Ramadan Fundraising Drive. These funds are absolutely vital to our ability to get our sisters and brothers off of lists that strip them of dignity and agency, and onto a path defined by love, opportunity and a shared vision of what our world could look like.

As always, you have a crucial role to play in this. We ask that you continue to keep IMAN’s efforts in your thoughts and prayers and that you donate generously to help us meet and exceed our goal. All contributions are zakat-eligible and tax-deductible, and can be made via check, stock, cash, or online at our website.

We pray that your support this month lists you among those who have earned the ultimate pleasure and mercy of The Most High.

Police Accountability Community Discussion Schedule

We urge you to attend these discussions, show the aldermen in attendance your support for the GAPA ordinance, and reject the ineffective ordinances introduced by the city!

Tues, May 15 – Corliss High School, 6:30pm-8pm
Sat, May 19 – Back of the Yards High School, 11:30am-1pm
Tues, May 29 – George Westinghouse College Prep, 6:30pm-8pm
Thurs, May 30 – Wilbur Wright College, 6:30pm-8pm
Tues, June 5 – Amundsen High School, 6:30pm-8pm

Please let us know which of the discussions you plan to attend. Contact Organizer Nasir Blackwell, nasir@imancentral.org for more information.

Path to Restoration Bill Pushes Ahead

On April 11, dozens of IMAN leaders and Green ReEntry brothers traveled to Springfield in a demonstration of solidarity and advocacy for issues that are impacting our communities.

The group joined hundreds at the State Capitol for 2018 Illinois Muslim Action Day, organized by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), to meet with legislators and discuss the Path to Restoration Bill (SB 3489), among other policies and Illinois legislation.

Organizing leaders and Green ReEntry brothers talked with state senators while advocating for criminal justice reform including the Path to Restoration Bill, which proposes several amendments promoting transparency within the Illinois registry system tracking individuals convicted of violent crimes against minors. The bill passed out of the Criminal Law Committee 7-2 on April 10th, the evening before the Action Day.

The momentum from the passage of the bill continued through negotiations with the State’s Attorney’s office, whose full support was needed in order to help move the bill along. After gaining the much needed support of the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Department of State Police, Staff Attorney Aaron Siebert-Llera returned to Springfield to testify again in front of the Criminal Law Committee where SB 3489 passed out of the committee 9-0. The bill has since passed out of the Illinois Senate 50-0 and moved to the House during the last week of April.

State Representative Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), who is the primary House Sponsor, completed the first reading and the bill has been assigned to the Rules Committee. The Path to Restoration now must make it out of committee and through two additional readings before being voted on by the full House. The hard work of our organizers and leaders coming to the table has produced satisfactory amendments, making SB 3489 a viable bill and one that has the support of Democrats and Republicans. Passage of the Path to Restoration bill is one of the first steps in our long range vision of broader criminal justice reform and an exciting component of our quickly increasing legal work here at IMAN.