Solidarity in the Hood

America continues to witness men and women of color being gunned down in the streets by law enforcement. Whether tending to a stalled vehicle or simply reading inside their car before picking up children from school, these victims are treated as stereotypes rather than as human beings. As a Black father, husband, and Muslim living on Chicago’s South Side, I know firsthand the unfortunate realities of police officers’ implicit biases. Those biases are compounded by the structural racism and discrimination, devastating community disinvestment, failing schools, and economic despair. This is why I organize at IMAN. The issue is bigger than improved policing. The job at hand is to rebuild broken neighborhoods and uplift our fellow community members whose lived experiences are burdened by hopelessness and desperation.

13988248_1398315450194885_988699636317583685_oI believe Muslims have a critical role to play in helping to strengthen institutions like IMAN and support our inner cities in the struggle for equity and justice. It is easy to become frustrated by the seemingly endless news of gun violence in Chicago and police brutality nationwide, but constructively engaging with community organizations can channel that frustration into meaningful action and, God willing, lasting improvements.

IMAN continues to tackle crucial issues with campaigns focused on criminal justice reform that counters the criminalization of black and brown communities. Just this year, our organizers succeeded in getting the Removing Invisible Bars Act passed, a significant step forward in Illinois’ parole reform efforts. As the U.S. Muslim community asserts its rightful place in the American experience, we cannot lose sight of the need to make relevant impact on the people we live with and in the spaces we navigate. One path to relevance is through maintaining real solidarity in the ‘hood, and IMAN’s Corner Store Campaign has provided a vehicle to do just that for years now. Utilizing our resources in expertise to help restore viable job opportunities, holistic health improvements and harmonious interpersonal relationships promises to be a fruitful investment.

The real work begins when we are able to see our stories and ourselves in others; then we can truly want for our brothers and sisters that which we want for ourselves. That’s how lasting solidarity is built, and there is no better time to start this journey than right now.

Shamar Hemphill
IMAN Director of Organizing

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