Among the things I learned while incarcerated and fighting a death sentence was how to “do time” as opposed to being “done by time.” Your mental and spiritual survival depended on knowing the difference between the two. It was also a simple way of understanding the power of that emphasis on “persevering,” in the sacred Qur’anic chapter on Time, Surah Asr.
As a full-time organizer working on things like police accountability at IMAN, this first week of Ramadan has been both a celebration of the power of perseverance and yet another horrific reminder of why persevering must be the call to action of the day.
On the first day of Ramadan last Tuesday, we received the almost unbelievable news of Cariol Horne’s victory in court. After 16 years of her personal struggle and after a year of sustained calls, mobilizations and heightened attention to her case, this former Buffalo, NY police officer and Black mother of five was finally acknowledged for what she was: a true shero who prevented the strangulation and death of another unarmed Black man at the hands of the police. I met Cariol last October; I was very inspired by her and overjoyed about the larger story that led to her victory, and the effort that IMAN organizers contributed to in making that happen. A story about the role that artist-activist Drea d’Nur and her collaboration with IMAN’s Executive Director on a song and video dedicated to Cariol that premiered at IMAN played was one of the most inspiring news stories I’ve read all year!
Meanwhile, the demand to persevere even while celebrating the news of Cariol Horne was overwhelming last week. The heartbreaking death of a 13-year-old Latino boy, Adam Toledo, and the release of the video this last week that showed the boy complying to the officer’s demands and still paying for it with his life, was beyond infuriating. That, coupled with the murder of Daunte Wright, made last week a really difficult one for all of us still triggered by the news of the death of yet another unarmed Black man at the hands of police.
Yesterday, I walked, stood, and prayed with thousands of others from across the city in Little Village demanding justice for Adam Toledo and his family. Persevering is what I and many organizers and community leaders have been doing for over 24 months in preparing the most comprehensive police accountability ordinance in Chicago’s history. That demand was King’s demand over 55 years ago and we will not stop organizing until that vision for a radically new way of policing is realized for Black and brown communities in cities like Chicago all over the country.
Very soon, a verdict regarding Derek Chauvin’s role in the murder of George Floyd is expected. While we pray for justice, organizations like IMAN will continue to persevere for justice while building communities that are thriving centers of health, wellness and healing on all levels. That is work that could not happen without your ongoing prayers and support.
Aisha is a native of Georgia and comes with a wide array of professional experience and expertise. She has over 15 years of experience in business administration and HR. She is a licensed real estate agent, a notary public, a graphic designer and a certified holistic life coach. She is also the CEO of Sinewy Natural Products, which offers natural, organic and healing products to the community.
Driven by her passion for equity and solidarity, Sadia Nawab currently serves as the Director of Arts & Culture for the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). She has cultivated talented teams in Chicago and Atlanta to produce live performance shows, host artist residencies, and establish a neighborhood ceramic studio. Skilled as a curator and program director, Sadia has institutionalized collaborative program development with artists, experiential curation, production, and administrative practices. As a thought leader in the field, Sadia speaks across the country, is a member of the Leadership Committee of R3 Coalition Chicago, and is a Board Member of Enrich Chicago. After sustaining a career as a DJ, Sadia is now creating her own music as well as a short documentary about the cultural values of Pathan people through the work of her father’s gardening practices.
Mr. Tariq, aka EQLIPSE, is an acclaimed teacher, mentor, hip hop artist, poet, and opera singer. He is a musical prodigy in his own right, rapidly gaining popularity in the local Atlanta music circuit! With a dynamic style of his own, Mr. Tariq masterfully blends educational themes with hip hop beats and rhymes. His work iterates the importance of respecting educators, studying hard, and doing your best, to phonics, counting, ABC’s, and much more.
Born Tariq Mahdi, in Detroit, Michigan, the eldest of 7 children to a school teacher, he began developing his musical abilities early on and was always creating and mastering all things placed in his path. As a teen, he developed a great love for hip hop which would become the inspiration and motivation for his critically acclaimed music. In 1998, Mr. Tariq relocated to Atlanta, where he became involved in many settings involving spoken word, opera, and positive hip hop. He has also appeared in the 2003 Georgia Lottery Change Game commercial and was nominated Atlanta Underground Awards' 2003 Most Creative Artist of the Year. He is also an actor in several major productions by Total Dance Dancical Productions. In 2013, Mr. Tariq became president of the I.Y.E.A (International Youth Empowerment Association), empowering youth in the Metro-Detroit area, throughout America’s inner cities, and internationally.
Reinventing himself with these components has made him one of the most premiered musical artists in Atlanta. Mr. Tariq has volunteered countless hours at libraries and schools to further support and inspire the youth. His passion lies in helping the youth recognize and connect with the genius inside of themselves and be the best in their educational and creative efforts.
Mr. Tariq remains involved at many educational levels as a mentor, tutor, storyteller, motivational speaker, and hip-hop artist. He is currently working on his second children’s educational hip hop album as well as authoring books and creating educational games.
Sadia is the senior manager of planning & operations at IMAN. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture, a Masters in Urban Planning, a Permaculture Design Certification, she is a LEED Green Associate, and is working towards AICP certification.
Sadia was born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada – the slurpee capital of the world. Sadia wants to be a faithful steward of both the built and natural environments, by taking a creative, hopeful and respectful approach to urban design. She hopes to collaborate with bold and courageous partners, across disciplines, to produce a balanced cityscape. She hopes and prays for God’s Grace throughout her endeavors.
Ahmad Jitan is a community organizer at IMAN, where he leads the Corner Store Campaign in addition to supporting IMAN’s other organizing and advocacy efforts. Like many other Palestinians and children of refugees, Ahmad has called many places home. An immigrant to the United States from a young age, he was raised predominantly in the U.S. South, whose culture of resistance and resilience he carries with him to this day. Ahmad has worked as an educator and community organizer advocating for young people, racial justice, and immigrant and refugee rights in Durham, NC; Brooklyn, NY; Beirut, Lebanon; and Nablus, Palestine.
Ahmad passionately brings his experience in settings as diverse as public schools, grassroots organizations, international non-profits, as well as higher-education to IMAN and Chicago where he hopes to learn from local leadership and build collective power. Through IMAN’s Corner Store Campaign and broader Food Ecosystems work, Ahmad strives to transform Chicago’s corner stores from sites of mere transaction or exploitation to ones of solidarity and healing and a model for racial and economic justice.
IMAN employs a dynamic and diverse set of individuals from various backgrounds, who are directly affected by or deeply invested in the organization’s mission.
Olisaemeka R. Okakpu is a cis Igbo-Muslim Earth Steward who has been working through regenerative agriculture on the South Side of Chicago. Mentorship from seasoned Black farmers has helped him reimagine who an Earth Worker can be. Olisaemeka recognizes that Earth stewardship has always been and will always be a part of the dynamic African and African-American experience. In addition to ‘Earth Work,’ he has undergone extensive training in interfaith community organizing.
After going through extreme health complications because of a chronic illness, he was spiritually guided into the path of regeneration through agriculture. Earthwork has not only given him an all-encompassing spiritual and emotional healing but also unveiled the social, economic and ecological injustices and obstructions in his community and the greater community of the world. Never has he been more aware that the state of his illness is not only a reflection and connection to the state of the Earth’s current diseases (Climate change, water pollution, soil depletion, and corruption). Olisaemeka recognizes that in order to heal himself, he also has to strive towards improving the very Earth itself.
Elizabeth Oller is the Volunteer Engagement and Special Events Coordinator at IMAN. She is a lifelong South Sider who came to IMAN after spending 8 years in non-profit higher education. Her personal and professional lives have constantly been surrounded by those in service to their communities, and she enjoys that her role allows her to support all of IMAN’s departments.
Patricia Washington, serves as Grants Manager on the Development team in managing the overall grant efforts as well as facilitates management of solicitation of prospective grant opportunities and support programs and service components to ensure that all compliance, implementation and reporting meet requirements and objectives of funders and IMAN organization and management. She attended Roosevelt University and has over 20 years of experience working in isolated Chicago communities with nonprofits developing funder relationships, starting up new programs and implementing strategies to optimize the grants administration process. Previously employed at the Safer Foundation, she has worked with formerly incarcerated citizens. Ms. Washington is passionate and committed to making a difference in the life of others.
Sohib Boundaoui is a first generation Algerian-American born in Little Palestine, Chicago. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Biology, and began working as an Associate Producer and second camera on the documentary THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED, a film about the FBI surveillance of his community. Sohib’s filmmaking debut is the Tribeca IF/Then short documentary, “Generation One”, which explores the narratives of millennial Arab Americans living in Chicago. Sohib is an alumnus for Kartemquin Films’ program, Diverse Voices in Documentary, and Youth FX’s program, Next Doc. He is the founder of AlMosaic, a collective that facilitates resources and support for artists, and is in production for a narrative web series with Chicago Filmmakers, titled “Arabica”.
Niema Dancy is the Strategic Communications Manager at Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). She is an Emmy-winning journalist turned communications & media strategist. Previously, she worked as a news field producer for CBS station WBBM-TV in Chicago and covered the state’s Capitol at a CBS affiliate. Prior to her time in television, Niema worked as an associate and business producer for CBS Radio. She spent more than seven years working in news, during which a number of her stories were featured nationally. She holds her Bachelor’s in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago and completed work on her Master’s in Public Affairs at the University of Illinois in Springfield. She has served as an education advocate in Chicago’s Kenwood community, remains engaged in social justice initiatives, community activism and organizing. In her spare time, she enjoys working on creative projects including photography.
Arthur Majid is an advocate for returning citizens and opportunity youth. As the Atlanta Green ReEntry Case Manager, his compassion for the program participants is unmatched. Many Green ReEntry alum and staff have lovingly nicknamed him “Uncle Art”. Hailing from the City of Brotherly Love, Arthur exemplifies community service, teamwork, respect, and reliability. He also ensures and prioritizes the safety of IMAN Atlanta staff and the community it serves.
Prior to his work with IMAN Atlanta, Arthur was responsible for facilitating various work readiness components, assessing incoming students, monitoring students’ progress, and preparing participants to successfully re-enter the workforce with sustainable skills. A results-oriented, high-energy, hands-on professional, with extensive experience in customer service and client relations, Arthur holds a track record in providing basic life skills training.
Arthur Majid is a committed Philly sports fan. His favorite message to convey is, ”What does an ex-offender look like?”
Ariya Siddiqui is fascinated by the human side of the enterprise and researching ways in which organizations can alleviate discomfort and provide relief. She is a strong empath and believes in the transformative power of human agency through a systematic approach.
At IMAN, Ariya’s aim has been to radically reimagine the systemic and psychological barriers and stereotypes of access to art, specifically ceramic art, through providing holistic healing and high quality art education. She achieves this by infusing her entrepreneurial spirit into all aspects of operating the Beloved Community Ceramic Studio from leading a team of instructors, creating distinct curriculum, maintaining the logistics of the studio, conducting community outreach, supporting emerging artists in their enterprise, and sustaining regular classes and workshops.
Prior to IMAN, Ariya gained valuable experience as a Producer. An experience that led her to lead her own team and engage various studios as well as artists in the Chicagoland area to produce a bi-weekly web-series. Before that, she lived in Morocco working with a grant that enabled her to interview and document the stories of refugee Artists and and mobilize a volunteer force that helped ensure that these migrants had access to resources and could support themselves through their creative talents and crafts.
Outside of IMAN you can find Ariya playing Lacrosse, a sport she played for her University, rock climbing, commenting on Chicago’s lack of street style, and having unnecessary epiphanies over food. Keep in touch with Ariya on instagram @ariyasadventure
Shakir Dees initially began as a student organizer at IMAN at the age of 12. He grew up in Organizing, to help overcome his struggles as a once troubled teen. He has remained at IMAN to help serve the community and give back the love to his fellow brothers that he received at IMAN.
Rachel Sharp, LCPC provides individual, family, and group therapy services for individuals participating in IMAN’s Green Reentry program. Rachel graduated from Northwestern with a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. She specializes in work with adolescents and young adults, with 7 years of experience in three different community-based mental health settings, working with vulnerable populations to improve their chances for overall life satisfaction, success, safety and emotional wellness. Rachel has developed mental health programming and curriculum in school and outpatient settings. She has a passion for creativity and art, which is very much integrated into her healing approach.
Mujahid Hamilton came to IMAN. In 2017. He is currently the Curriculum Coordinator, in the Green ReEntry Program. Mujahid was an early alum, in HVAC Training, working as a sub-contractor and providing instruction as a Technical Assistant in the GR Program.
Madiha Abid, LMSW, CGC, an advocate for advancing mental health education in underfunded and underserved communities is IMAN Atlanta’s community outreach coordinator. Though an Atlanta native, prior to her work with IMAN Atlanta, Madiha was a behavioral health intern at IMAN Chicago. Madiha completed her graduate studies in social work at the University Of Chicago School Of Social Service Administration. Alongside then Health Clinic Director, Dr. Kaiseruddin, Madiha helped pilot the integration of behavioral health education to health clinic patients.
Returning to Georgia, Madiha continued on to become an LMSW (licensed master social worker) and more recently obtained certification in grief counseling. She has helped certify 23 community members through strategic partnerships to help bridge the gap in lack of access to resources and communities becoming more proactive in approaching an individual experiencing mental illness. Madiha hopes to promote the destigmatizing of community approach to mental health by increasing understanding and empathy for those needing behavioral health support and connecting them to additional resources.
Prior to her work with IMAN, Madiha worked with Mental Health America of Georgia to promote mental wellness for children by facilitating conversations on topics that may directly impact students, such as depression, substance use, peer pressure, and respecting cultural and individual diversity and helping them understand healthy coping skills.
In her free time, Madiha enjoys volunteering with several local non-profits, visiting and spending time with family, especially her niece. Madiha also enjoys traveling and dabbles in amateur painting and photography.
Lisa S. Holmes-Sevier, Finance Manager; has worked for Inner-City Muslim Action Network since February 2019. She finds her job to be very rewarding as it affects the community she lives in. Over the years she has worked for various community based organizations, and believes in a holistic approach of healing the community. She currently holds an MBA with a concentration in accounting. She believes in continued growth and is always looking for new innovative ways to learn more. Her hobbies include writing poetry, listening to music of all kinds, and working out.
Andrea Haidar is a licensed social worker and behavioral health specialist at IMAN. She provides therapy in Arabic, Spanish, and English to patients of the health clinic. She is from southeast Michigan, to a family of Lebanese heritage that emigrated from Venezuela. Her personal background motivates her to work with clients across different languages and cultures. Andrea holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago, where she also completed her undergraduate studies in sociology. Prior to working at IMAN, she completed a Fulbright research fellowship in Jordan. Andrea is also a recipient of the national Truman Scholarship for rising leaders in public service. In her free time, Andrea enjoys creative writing and teaching yoga.
As the Health Center Manager, Maysoon Haleem, RHIT, oversees non-clinical support staff and health navigators to ensure effective operation of the health center program. Effective operation includes, but is not limited to, performing essential functions such as front desk operations, front-end revenue cycle procedures, health information management, and management of medical records.
Maysoon is a mother of three and also a living organ donor, having transplanted a portion of her liver to her infant son in 1992. Her son endured 3 more liver transplants within 4 years. It was during her son’s 4 liver transplants within his first 5 years of life that Maysoon began to learn the intricate workings of the insurance and healthcare system. Post-transplant healthcare is also critical. Thus, through her personal experiences in the past 25 years Maysoon became an advocate for healthcare and an unofficial expert. She made it a mission to ensure insurance companies pay for qualified claims they initially denied. She honed her skills when she went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in 2015 in Health Information Management (the same year her son graduated college). She enjoys the diverse population that IMAN welcomes and serves and is a firm believer that healthcare is a human right, not a privilege.
Atiba Jones grew up in West Philadelphia in a household where he watched both of his parents constantly reach out and help uplift inner-city youth. After high school, he moved to Atlanta where he attended Morehouse College. It was there that he decided to honor his parents’ legacy and dedicate his life to uplifting under-served youth as well. He went on to earn a BA in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. He has worked as a teacher, counselor, school leader, program director, and community organizer.
In 2006, he founded a K-8 private school and acted as its director for 7 years. He has also initiated various urban agriculture initiatives around metro Atlanta. Before joining IMAN, he served as the Program Manager of the Urban Youth Corps of Greening Youth Foundation, which works to train youth in agriculture, conservation, and construction. He is also passionate about urban agriculture and spoken word poetry.
Sara Hamdan was raised outside of Chicago, with roots in Palestine. She has experience in field organizing, policy, and as an organizing trainer through her time with Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). She has worked with community leaders on Chicago’s southwest side and others across the state to mobilize around issues related to community wellness, the justice system, racial justice, and immigration. She received a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration in 2020 and a bachelor’s in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Michael Nasir Blackwell has been an advocate for change as long as he can remember. Having served 24 ½ years in prison, Nasir studied jurisprudence the entire time of his incarceration, and became a staunch advocate while incarcerated. Nasir’s advocacy work within the Illinois Department of Corrections focused around literacy and policy, and he was co-founder of Danville Prison Veterans’ organization DANVETS, where Nasir served as commander for two years prior to his release in March of 2015. Nasir also served on the ACT (Awareness, Change, & Triumph) committee, where the committee was integral with increasing the graduation rate within Danville prison. Since his release, Nasir began working with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network as a Resident Coordinator, and is now a full time organizer.
As an Organizer, Nasir continues to advocate on behalf of returning citizens. Nasir helped write and push for successful passage of SB 2282, removing a barrier that prohibited returning citizens from associating with other parolees while attending religious services, a relative, or doing community work. During the year of 2018, Nasir assisted in writing another piece of legislation making Illinois the 2nd state in the nation to allow a registrant on the Murderer and Violence Against Youth Registration Act to challenge the validity of information requiring the to register. Nasir also works around issues of Police Accountability, voting rights, and access to affordable housings. Nasir testified about voting rights to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Nasir continues to speak around the city of Chicago on matters concerning criminal justice, parole reform, restorative justice, and matters affecting Chicago communities.
Born and raised in Chicago, Binta Kane Diallo is a 1st generation Senegalese and Gambian Muslim American woman. She has always had a passion for faith, community service, art and culture, and creating unique memorable experiences for others. Her experience as a clinical intern for children with Autism, a mentor for young kids, and a wide range of experience in managing events and maintaining personal, professional and community relationships has allowed her to expand her empathy skills and connect with the world around her.
Through volunteering at Takin’ It to the Streets, Binta established a genuine sense of community and witnessed practical ways to further utilize her skills to advocate for issues that ultimately affect us all. From there, she became a regular community member within IMAN and eventually applied her experience with hospitality and event management to grow into becoming the Arts & Culture Manager. In her role, Binta creates safe, welcoming, and accessible spaces for community members and artists across socio-economic divides. She facilitates a smooth, logistical process to ensure a strong artist and guest experience. As an artist herself, Binta knows the value of having a safe space to share your holistic self.
She earned a Bachelor’s degree with concentrations in Psychology and Sociology, and a Master’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. Binta is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta, Sorority, Inc. Binta writes about diversity and inclusion, identity, and African ancestry for MuslimGirl.com. An emerging neo-soul Singer songwriter, Binta, incorporates her mother language of Wolof in her music as an effort to teach others about her culture and to remain connected to her ancestry.
Shamar brings with him vast experience in the areas of civic engagement, community organizing and youth development. Born on the South Side of Chicago. He attended Langston University in 1999 and began studying Sociology. Upon his return to Chicago in 2005, he took a position at the Mosque Foundation as youth coordinator, working with both Arab and African American Muslim Youth. In 2007, Shamar was recruited to participate in Public Allies, a leadership development program started by Michelle Obama. After graduating from Public Allies in 2008, Shamar began working for the Inner-City Muslim Action Network as coordinator for the organization’s youth department. He posses many years experience working in low-income neighborhoods throughout the Chicagoland area, both as an Organizer & Adult Ally to young people.
Mansoor Sabree serves as the Deputy Director for IMAN in Atlanta. Mansoor was hired in 2015 to lead the opening of IMAN’s model in Atlanta; becoming IMAN’s most successful office outside of the city of Chicago.
Mansoor has been a leader in Atlanta for many years serving as the director and resident Imam of Atlanta’s oldest and largest African American Muslim community in the United States, The Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam. Recently he was recognized amongst the “Who’s Who, 40 under 40 Muslim Leaders in Georgia” and was inducted into the board of Religious Leaders at the historic Morehouse College.
Mansoor is a distinguished fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI) from the University of Southern California. He has shared his unique experience as a 1st generation African American Muslim and community leader by lecturing and studying in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Mansoor lives in Atlanta with his wife and 5 children.
Harriet Lewis has an eclectic professional background, and has worked and volunteered in service to others for over twenty years. She has been the executive director of organizations that serve women internationally, local small business owners, survivors of domestic violence, and youth. A former U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer to Guinea-Bissau, she co-founded an organization that served refugee and immigrant women, and has presented internationally to leaders in business, health professions, and government. Harriet holds a PhD from Walden University in Human Services-Social Policy Analysis and Planning, and an MPA in Nonprofit Management from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Alia is responsible for overseeing the organization’s development and communications functions and engaging other organizations and institutions around strategic programs and initiatives. In her over eleven years at IMAN, Alia has worked on development, community organizing, and policy, advocating on issues related to food, criminal, and juvenile justice, and strategizing around creative new ways to get healthy foods and safe physical activities into Chicago neighborhoods.
A native of Chicago’s South Side, Alia graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in International Studies and a concentration in Islamic World Studies. She is a graduate of the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago and was an appointee of the Equity Advisory Council of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. Alia lives with her husband and two sons on Chicago’s South Side.
Dr. Rami Nashashibi is a MacArthur Fellow, a Doctor of Sociology from the University of Chicago, and the founder and Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), a non-profit organization incorporated in 1997 that fosters health, wellness and healing on Chicago’s South Side & Atlanta’s west end by organizing for social change, cultivating the arts and operating a holistic health center.
As a community leader building bridges across racial, religious, and socioeconomic divides to confront the challenges of poverty and disinvestment in urban communities, Rami has successfully unified a diverse set of constituencies around a shared focus of social justice. He serves on the board of directors of the Margaret Casey Foundation and in 2020, Rami made his debut as musician, song-writer and executive producer of “THIS LOVE THING”, a soul-stirring LP. The album’s first single “Mama Please” was dedicated to raising the profile of and advocating for Cariol’s Law, legislation which passed in late 2020 to help transform police accountability in Buffalo, New York. He has worked with several leading scholars in the area of globalization, African American studies and urban sociology and has contributed chapters to edited volumes by Manning Marable and Saskia Sassen.
Rami has lectured around the world on a range of topics related to American Muslim identity, community organizing and social justice issues and has received many prestigious community service and organizing honors. He has been featured in several prominent media publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the Chicago Tribune, and multiple stories on PBS, CBS, and National Public Radio. Rami has also taught at the Chicago Theological Seminary, where he was a visiting professor of the Sociology of Religion and Muslim Studies.