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

IMAN, The Warriors & A Deep Bench

When I left Chicago six years ago and moved to Oakland to serve as General Counsel and Vice President for the Golden State Warriors, I never imagined that we’d win three NBA championships in such a short amount of time.

Beyond good fortune and some extraordinary players, that success is a testament to our team’s deep bench – an effort that I’ve been blessed to be a part of over the years. “Strength in Numbers” is more than just our slogan, it is a mindset that is central to our success both on and off the court.

When I first got involved with IMAN as a hip-hop artist in 2003, few would have predicted that 15 years later it would grow into one of the most dynamic American-Muslim led grassroots organizations of its kind. Cultivating a “deep bench” of up and coming leaders is among the most impressive, and indeed necessary, accomplishments of the IMAN model over the last 20 years. With a chapter in Atlanta and collaborations across the country, IMAN is now celebrated as a nationally relevant model – one that many of us have helped to build and one whose accomplishments we should all take pride in.

If you’ve been reading the powerful emails from IMAN over Ramadan and keeping up with the ongoing challenges in our urban centers like Chicago and Atlanta, you know that IMAN’s work and reach must continue to grow and deepen to fully reach both the urgent need and its dynamic potential. Supporting their ‘Off the List, On the Love’ Ramadan Fundraising Drive is the perfect way to do that.

David Kelly
General Counsel and VP, Basketball Management & Strategy
Golden State Warriors

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

Double Your Love

There is a certain type of love at IMAN. We can feel it among the young men in Green ReEntry who genuinely understand that our case workers, instructors and counselors desire nothing from them other than their utmost success. We can feel it among families who, when visiting our health center, experience the care, concern and compassion that they would only receive in the living rooms of their closest care takers. We can feel it in the passion of the leaders who build and drive IMAN campaigns addressing food deserts and mass incarceration.

And we’ve undoubtedly felt your love. As support from hundreds of individuals and families across the country has poured in during this year’s Ramadan Drive, your contributions have helped us get more people on that powerful, transformative and prophetic love that we all hunger and thirst for.

We are enormously grateful for the ongoing generosity of a family that has continuously stepped up to double your love. In these last ten days of Ramadan, they will match your donations, dollar for dollar. Please donate generously to help us reach and exceed IMAN’s ‘Off The List, On The Love’ Ramadan Drive goal.

During this sacred month, we’ve shared with you the vulnerabilities of so many of our people—those placed on waiting lists for desperately needed services, on poverty indices that strip them of their dignity and on arbitrary registries that perpetually criminalize them. We’ve shared with you our vision for getting people “off the lists and on the love,” and our commitment is to continue fighting until no one is left on lists that shouldn’t exist.