Yesterday at dinner, I let my 10-year-old daughter read the CNN headline to her younger sister—Trump: No More Muslims. “Why would anyone say that?” my younger daughter asked, while I sat angrily listening to their attempts to make sense of this insanity.
It is difficult to witness two young girls try to rationalize vitriol and bigotry.
At this point, it is equally difficult to imagine how more press releases, public condemnations or heartfelt expressions of pain over the perversion of our faith will counter the growing number of Americans who consider Islam and Muslims to be in opposition with “American values.”
Now, more than ever, we must deeply invest in the efforts of organizations like IMAN nationwide. We must double down; we must organize; we must directly engage the issues that are profoundly affecting people every day in inner-city communities like those on Chicago’s South Side. We must continue to build genuinely rooted relationships across ethnic, racial and religious lines to fight for a better Chicago, America and world.
One day, I would like my daughters to see a CNN headline much different than the one they read yesterday. Perhaps “No More Denigrating Muslims” or “No More Dehumanizing Muslims.” This hope is not naive if, along with our brothers and sisters from different faiths, we continue to deepen, strengthen and scale up the work of organizations like IMAN.
You help us to live out this hope through our work, and we need to see you stand up for that work at IMAN’s Annual Fundraising Dinner this Saturday. We expect tickets to sell out in the next two days so I’m personally asking you to reach out to friends, family and colleagues to remind them to secure their seats now.
A corner store in the heart of Chicago’s South Side is not where most of the media attention around Syrian refugees in the US is focused, but that is often where you will find Faiza Kalam.
Faiza has been a key leader for IMAN’s corner store campaign since she recently arrived in the US as a refugee. As she pursues a Ph.D in Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Faiza has been integrally involved in IMAN’s efforts to transform corner stores into more holistic sites for healthy food access and community building.
While hateful and polarizing rhetoric scapegoating Syrian refugees intensifies in the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, Faiza and many like her are deeply engaged with our communities. Meet Faiza and learn more about her work with IMAN’s corner store campaign at our Annual Fundraising Dinner on Saturday, December 12th.
Rhythmic poetry and inspired lyrics emanated from IMAN’s Youth & Arts Wellness Center as the return year of Fresh Expressions, a grassroots, creative safe space, came to a close. After dining on healthy snacks and veggie pizza, talented young artists from every side of Chicago meshed social awareness with oratory flair during the open mic session. Performers hailed from Gage Park High School, the Kuumba Lynx collective, and even IMAN’s core group of leaders.
IMAN Arts Council member Amirah Sackett then took the stage with her unique blend of artistic education and expression. Sackett shared her story of self-discovery, a journey through which she has found ways to embrace both her love of Islam and hip-hop. After a “locking” dance demonstration, she spoke about her group “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic” and fielded questions from the audience.
Community engagement and active dialogue is a crucial component of Fresh Expressions, and this month’s theme was “In Your Feelings”. Guests broke off into groups to discuss Emotional Intelligence in the context of real-life situations. Multigenerational, multiethnic connections are a hallmark of the Fresh Expressions experience, and the passion and wisdom contributed by those in attendance served as powerful reminders of the necessity of this space.
As the year draws to a close, we look forward to the continued growth and solidification of the Fresh Expressions model. Few other places in the city of Chicago offer such a vibrant, youth-led environment for community members of all ages to express themselves and learn from one another. Thank you to all the leaders and volunteers who helped to make this year a success.
Along with Cook County Commissioner Jesus ‘Chuy’ García, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle made her first ever visit to IMAN on Thursday, October 15th. Preckwinkle and her staff were engaged by our leaders on IMAN’s commitment to improved public safety in the Chicago Lawn community, and pushed to increase her office’s support for that effort.
After touring the IMAN Health Clinic and Youth & Arts Wellness Center, Preckwinkle met with the current Green ReEntry cohort. That same morning, the brothers were working through the final stages at the latest renovation project on South Washtenaw Avenue, and detailed for Preckwinkle the ways that their work and presence helps stabilize this community.
García, Preckwinkle, and IMAN staff and leaders then sat down over a light breakfast to further discuss the measurable local impact of IMAN’s work, pathways to program expansion, and the necessity of increased support for initiatives like Green ReEntry by Cook County leadership. Nasir Blackwell, a sharp legal mind and the new manager of the original Green ReEntry home on Washtenaw, introduced the plans for the IMAN Legal Clinic effort he will lead in 2016. Blackwell spoke passionately about the barriers that incarcerated individuals face both inside and when released, citing the need for legislation that is more conducive to helping the formerly imprisoned reintegrate smoothly into their communities.
Talks wrapped up with references to the new Level 1 Trauma Center scheduled for construction at nearby Holy Cross Hospital. While the clear need for high-quality healthcare facilities on the South and Southwest Sides was acknowledged, many variables remain unknown. IMAN thanks the offices of County Board President Preckwinkle and County Commissioner García for their visit.