“It is critical for me to be at IMAN! This is the only place I can be myself and meet other youth across the city,” says Ameenah Ali, a returning leader and one of the participants in the IMAN Youth Literacy Program of 2012. The goal of this program is precisely to provide an open and safe space to youth in the community where they can discover who they, share and connect with youth from other communities, and acquire the writing and technical skills to tell their own stories.
In these most critical times, young people are often being challenged by issues of race, identity and social class. Is it the senseless violence that continues to threaten young people’s futures? Is it the lack of jobs that brings down the desire and chance to live a dignified life? Or could it be that the times have changed and education is lacking across the board? We at IMAN ask ourselves these and many other related questions time after time.
IMAN now has a tradition of creating healthy and sustainable programs that meet the needs of young people across the inner-city and the larger Muslim community. For 2012, we have designed a multi-layered literacy program that is geared to meet the most important needs of young people, where these needs have been determined by what we have heard from the youth themselves and learned in working with them over the years. This literacy program consists of creative writing, video production and leadership development workshops, all aimed to equip youth with the skills to make it in today’s society.
The program kicked off with five open house sessions in February and March that allowed young people to get to know each other, engage in some organizing activities and learn about the overall program. We, then, started our first official program in March. With both Zeid Khater, as creative writing instructor, and Ali Beluch from Tribeca Flashpoint School, as video production instructor, the program is off to a great start.
In each session, the 20+ youth in attendance are learning the skill and technique of writing, while using technology to tell their stories and articulate the real issues facing them in today’s society. Like Ameenah Ali, Yousif Sayes is a returning IMAN youth leader. His experience is typical of the participants, which he sums up as: “As a Muslim, I am proud to be at a Muslim organization that creates a safe space for me to be myself and share my culture with other youth.”