IMAN Roster Artist Maimouna Youssef on Tour with Common

We are excited to announce IMAN Roster Artist Maimouna Youssef’s summer tour in collaboration with IMAN and Pillars Fund. She will be joining hip-hop legend Common for several shows on his “Let Love” tour, as he premieres his book called “Let Love Have The Last Word”. This multi-city tour deepens IMAN’s Arts & Culture work by lifting up the voices of other spiritually rooted, socially conscious, and spatially relevant artists on the current Roster, uniting disconnected people and facilitating transformative collective healing in order to radically reimagine the world around us.

Maimouna Youssef, also known as “MuMu Fresh” is a Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, activist and acclaimed hip-hop artist who was featured on NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” performance series, has been called a “quadruple threat” by The Roots’ Black Thought, and “groundbreaking” by Oscar and Grammy-winning artist Common.

Maimouna is a Baltimore native of Choctaw, African American, and Muslim heritage who was born into a family of exceptional artists deeply rooted in spirituality and activism. She began singing traditional indigenous and African songs at four years old and began her music career at 16 years old. Her deep history with IMAN traces back over a decade to multiple performances at Takin’ It to the Streets, CommUNITY Café, and Artist Retreats, as well as high-level consultations with our Arts & Culture team. She has captivated audiences with what has been described as a “unique” and spiritual” experience and we are excited by the ways that this tour and partnership will continue to celebrate Maimouna’s deep connections to Native and Muslim traditions and identity alongside her longstanding commitment to IMAN’s work and vision.

This summer she is also gearing up to release a much-anticipated album called “Chasing Goosebumps II: The Healing” produced by world-renowned DJ Jazzy Jeff and artists from The Playlist Collective. Maimouna will share this music during the upcoming tour, spreading the message of healing, resilience and empowerment.

Click here for dates and more information

Al Taw’am ‘Bridges’ Communities in ATL

Dance has the ability to connect us in ways unlike any other form of artistic expression. Each intricate movement communicates a message and invokes a unique emotion. Dynamic duo, twin dancers, Al Taw’am, introduced their signature dance techniques and movements to Atlanta during the final Sacred Cypher Creatives artist residency of the inaugural 2018-19 cohort. Their residency, titled “Bridges,” used dance to nurture connections to self, community and family through workshops that celebrate diversity of movement.

Al Taw’am facilitated inspiring workshops, which connected contemporary and vernacular hip hop dance to their West African roots, for high school students, college dancers, and elder attendees in an inviting, warm and engaging way. Many participants found a deep sense of community during these intimate workshops, and some even shed tears during closing reflections. A Spelman College freshman shared how she felt like she was finally at home in the dance studio, as she’s struggled to become acclimated to a new world on campus. During the Community Movement class, participants reflected on the feeling of liberation and confidence as they related to their bodies in new ways. Finally, the “Umi (Mommy) & Me” workshop, was an open space for generations of mothers, grandmothers and children to learn from each other and bond through collective choreographed movement.

In a time when our communities are being divided with hateful rhetoric and polarized by unjust policies, Al Taw’am used dance to connect Atlanta residents across cultures, faiths, and backgrounds. Special attention was given to intergenerational unity, bridging the gap between the youth and their elders. Learn more about Al Taw’am’s residency here.

Finally, the twins culminated their ‘Bridges’ residency as featured performers at the first CommUNITY Café of the year, kicking off the 2019 ‘Celebrating the Sacred Cypher’ series in Atlanta. The Café, held on January 26th at the Washington High Performing Arts Center, also featured IMAN Roster Artists Maimouna Youssef, Amir Sulaiman, Al Taw’am and K-Love The Poet. Through their performances, all of the artists invoked the artistic, cultural, social, and spiritual history of the symbolic ‘Sacred Cypher’, the theme which will connect all CommUNITY Cafés in 2019. Join us at the upcoming Cafés: March 30th, June 29th and October 26th in Chicago, and August 31st in Atlanta!

30 Black Men In the Middle of the Room

This Ramadan really started for me when I walked into a room packed full of black men of all ages taking turns unabashedly expressing their love and appreciation for one another. It was a powerful Latina Muslim artist and longtime IMAN leader, Liza Garza, leading them in the circle.

One year ago, most of these men didn’t know one another and several of them were rival gang members who had once shot at each other on the streets. And yet, less than a year later, the experience they have undergone as participants of the Green ReEntry program has turned these once-rivals into brothers.

For so many of us, this month of Ramadan has been about striving for and struggling to realize our unfulfilled potential, even amid structural barriers that try to deny us that vision of ourselves. Every dollar we are raising is part of a well-planned and calculated budget to help this organization grow its programming, deepen its campaigns, and expand its reach to better ensure the immediate and long-term realization of such a vision. We have come so far towards our larger goal and are grateful for each and every dollar that has come in this month. In the next few hours we will try our very best to close the remaining gap, and in the days and weeks to come, we are hopeful that we will be able to do so with your ongoing support and prayers.

Yesterday, as IMAN staff and leaders were preparing for what would be a beautiful community iftar last night, a neighbor on the block stopped Rami and me as we were walking past her house. She wanted us to know how much she loved and appreciated the young men in our program, who not only always treated her and her children with respect and kindness, but were also attentive stewards of the block. I am still thinking about her words and replaying the image of 30 black men standing in the middle of a room telling each other, “I love you, man”. There is so much more work to do but no matter how many lists my people and my community find themselves on, I know that it is that fierce, formidable, unrelenting love that has the power to transform any heart and any block.

Thank you for your love, this month and always.

Eid Mubarak,
Alia J. Bilal
Director of Community Relations

Handcuffed and Hauled Away

Last week, my husband Bilaal Evans was handcuffed and hauled away to a police station for hours. I was in the passenger seat praying that this wouldn’t turn into another horrific incidence of violence like those we have become all too accustomed to watching on our social media feeds.

For months, Bilaal has been carrying physical proof that he is no longer required to register for Illinois’ Violent Offender Against Youth registry. This mandate was for a crime he committed as a young person himself over two decades ago, and Bilaal has already completed his lengthy prison sentence and parole term. The officer didn’t even give him a chance to pull it out though.

If you’ve been around IMAN for the past decade, you know my husband and you’ve met my family. Bilaal is IMAN’s Green ReEntry Coordinator and has been working there for the last eight years. He has dedicated his life to the work of transforming people and communities. My daughters and son have all grown up around IMAN, participating in organizing campaigns, helping guide the youth council and even serving on IMAN’s board of directors. My family has been on the front lines striving to improve our communities.

And yet, with just one cop and a faulty piece of legislation, none of that mattered. The Violent Offender Against Youth Registry Act has haunted my husband’s life since he was released from prison years ago, and there are hundreds of other people in Illinois facing the same situation. It is exactly these types of humiliating, dehumanizing, and demoralizing encounters that IMAN is working to eliminate.

Thankfully, two weeks ago, IMAN successfully passed the “Path to Restoration” bill, which will enable people stuck on this unfair registry to amend inaccurate information about themselves, and to petition for their eventual removal from the list. This is a huge achievement that my husband and his colleagues at IMAN spent months organizing at the grassroots level to push through.

But it’s still only a drop in the sea of policies that continue to criminalize black and brown people.

The cop eventually let us go—once he actually bothered to find out that Bilaal was no longer on the registry. But lists like these continue to disrupt the progress of many men and women who are simply trying to get their lives back on track and do something positive for their families. And that’s why I’m urging you to contribute to IMAN’s ‘Off the List, On the Love’ Ramadan Drive.

God willing, one day there will be one less list we have to worry about.

Thank you,
Khadijah Ali-Evans