Trainings Engage Emerging Organizers in Chicago & Detroit

This year, IMAN’s Community Organizing Training returned to Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, where 40 leaders gathered to strengthen their understanding of concepts and skills for making change in their communities. This year’s training participants brought together longtime IMAN leaders from our Green Reentry and our organizing campaigns, and included leaders from across Chicagoland and from out of state, working on a range of issues in their communities.

In addition to IMAN’s standard modules focused on the importance of knowing and sharing our stories, relationship building, self-interest, and power, this year’s training highlighted the connection between organizing, the arts, and mental health, which has long characterized IMAN’s holistic model. PHENOM, a longtime IMAN arts leader, performed pieces on power and community building, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Suzanne Chopra led modules around the importance of goal setting and self care.

At the same time the trainees were forging common bonds in Hyde Park, the tragic events in Charlottesville were polarizing the nation. Witnessing the chaotic violence in Virginia’s streets served as a stark reminder of why holistic spaces like IMAN’s Organizing Training and Grassroots Power Hour are essential to establishing a truly beloved community.

A couple weeks after the training in Chicago, IMAN organizers traveled to Michigan and facilitated a special, daylong workshop for leaders from grassroots partner organization Dream of Detroit. The session emphasized the importance of understanding shared narratives, and contextualized key IMAN organizing principles around issues of housing and other campaigns that Dream of Detroit leaders are currently engaging.

God willing, organizers will continue to spread IMAN’s model to leaders throughout Chicago and across the country. For more information on IMAN’s organizing efforts, contact Senior Organizer Shamar Hemphill at shamar@imancentral.org

Atlanta Community Gathers to Support ReEntry Efforts

In 2011, approximately 1,885 individuals were released from state or federal custody each day – that’s 688,384 individuals that year, according to the National Institute of Justice. Returning citizens struggle with unstable housing, inadequate employment and over policing, all issues that often contribute to incarceration in the first place. What can be done to ease their transition back home and back into their communities?

Nearly 100 community members, behavioral health professionals, lawyers and law professors, mothers, and returning citizens themselves attended a two-part IMAN Sessions event: ‘Investing in Lives #BeyondIncarceration’. Discussions revolved around IMAN’s Green ReEntry program, and ways it can continue to offer support to returning citizens via life skills training and workforce development.

Judge Fatima El-Amin and IMAN Atlanta’s Green ReEntry Manager, Jermaine Shareef, spoke to a packed crowd about their personal experiences with the criminal justice system and reentry work. Various points of view and approaches to the criminal justice system were raised. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and the conversation ran deep.

Community members connected and shared additional information after the conclusion of the first #BeyondIncarceration gathering. It became evident to IMAN Atlanta staff that the issues around incarceration and reentry require continued committed, grassroots community space. This realization sparked IMAN Sessions: Investing in Lives #BeyondIncarceration Part 2, which took place in late September.

At that event, IMAN Atlanta’s second Green ReEntry cohort was introduced, and the action plan created at the first #BeyondIncarceration discussion was made public. Thank you to all the guests who shared their valuable perspectives on how to establish effective reentry programs. As IMAN incorporates a holistic approach to meet the needs of Atlanta’s returning citizens, the importance of continuing to engage those most directly affected by the criminal justice system cannot be overstated.

IMAN Awarded Healthy Chicago 2.0 Grant

IMAN’s Corner Store Campaign was awarded a Healthy Chicago 2.0 Seed Grant by the City of Chicago for its innovative approach toward “promoting heath in a community including access to social services and healthy food, safe public spaces, social cohesion and collaboration.” This grant will fund the launch of the new produce distribution system providing local corner stores with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Building healthy communities requires holistic support, and the Corner Store Campaign’s produce distribution system is designed to address that need in an innovative, sustainable way. IMAN Health Clinic patients will be offered coupons redeemable at local corner stores, as well as at IMAN’s weekly Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market. This produce distribution model—now possible with the Healthy Chicago funding—facilitates mutual, community-wide benefits: corner stores are incentivized to increase fresh produce sales, while residents enjoy easier access to fruits and vegetables.

Individuals and families deserve access to healthy food options, no matter the zip code in which they reside. IMAN’s Corner Store Campaign works to bring this basic right into reality through initiatives like the produce distribution system. For more information about the Corner Store Campaign, or to join this dynamic team of community organizers and leaders, email Campaign Manager Sara Hamdan at sara@imancentral.org.

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.