IMAN Staff Doubles Down on Cultivation

IMAN prides itself in cultivating a deep bench of skilled staff and engaged leaders, recognizing the value of empowering each member of the organization to truly embody health, wellness and healing in their own unique way. This past month, the IMAN family made tremendous strides in both personal and professional development.

During the sacred month of Ramadan, IMAN youth leaders and senior staff took a road trip to Centralia, Illinois for a weekend of bonding and rejuvenation. Graciously hosted by a family of longtime supporters, the group spent time in spiritual reflection, enjoying and exploring nature, and connecting with one another’s stories in more profound ways. For some of the younger travelers, this was their first venture to downstate Illinois.

IMAN Executive Assistant Ammiel Mateen and Director of Community Relations Alia Bilal each completed university-based certificate programs last month that significantly enhanced their respective skill sets. Ammiel finished an intensive Human Resources course at DePaul University wherein she studied workforce development and risk management practices. Alia graduated from the highly selective Civic Leadership Academy program at the University of Chicago, further positioning herself as a leader in the city’s civic community.

In the fall, Muslim Run Corner Store Campaign Manager Sara Hamdan will begin her studies at the University of Chicago as well. Sara was accepted into the School of Social Service Administration, one of the nation’s premier social work and social welfare programs. Especially in the current socio-political climate, such opportunities to bolster skills while exploring emerging theories and understanding will only serve to prepare staff to become innovative leaders in the near future.

Atlanta Green ReEntry Graduation

Earlier this year, five returning citizens in Atlanta joined Green ReEntry, an intensive, 12-week training and education course in plumbing and project management offered by Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). Green ReEntry offers support to formerly incarcerated individuals facing barriers to employment, and has been a cornerstone of IMAN’s work since the organization’s inception 20 years ago.

Green ReEntry manager and master plumber, Jermaine Shareef, was teacher and mentor to these five hard-working men. Four of the five completed the program. Tariq Baiyina, Qawi Clark Gerald, Malik Bradley Brantley, and Karim Andrew Vance all disprove the stigmas and stereotypes that are hurtfully attached to the formerly incarcerated. Mr. Tariq Abdullah, a community leader and the CEO of Tarchitects LLC, led seminars on project management, during which the Green ReEntry crew directly applied their newly acquired knowledge and skills to create IMAN Atlanta’s new program office located at 1007 Cascade Ave SW.

On Sunday, May 21, 2017 with a full audience, the crew successfully graduated from the Green ReEntry program and proved that they are greater than what our current criminal justice climate may have us believe. They are committed leaders and inspiring role models dedicated to transforming neglected neighborhoods into flourishing communities wherein our youth can feel safe and supported. The crew is dedicated to fostering the loving environments that were denied to them.

Family, friends, and fellow community members joined in the special graduation ceremony. IMAN Atlanta Director, Imam Mansoor Sabree, and Advisory Committee Chair, Sameera Fazili, attested to the power and strength of these extraordinary men, and the tremendous potential of Green ReEntry to push the criminal justice reform movement forward.

Other special guests in attendance were Dr. Rami Nashashibi, IMAN Executive Director , Alia Bilal, IMAN Director of Community Relations, and Mama Sol, a spoken word artist and activist from Atlanta, who elevated the spirit of #FightFearBuildPower through her poetry performances .

To learn more about IMAN Atlanta; please visit imancentral.org and ‘like’ IMAN Atlanta on Facebook to stay connected and support future Green ReEntry programs and activities.

Ceramics Heal during Ramadan

During the soul-soothing days of Ramadan, IMAN’s resident art instructors hosted a special weeklong class called “Illuminations: Fasting & Ceramic Art” inside the Beloved Community Studio. The intimate seminar explored the spiritual benefits of fasting across various spiritual and cultural traditions, while teaching basic ceramics techniques like molding, painting, glazing and positive/negative space.

The ‘Illuminations’ class was led by Mariana Lopez—a healing practitioner and soon-to-be licensed art therapist—and Khalid Partee—the current Green ReEntry instructor who discovered the restorative power of ceramics while incarcerated. They curated a rejuvenating safe space for dozens of residents from some of Chicago’s most vulnerable communities, helping each student tap into their creative potential and produce incredible pieces of art.

In the coming months, we hope to further transform the Ceramic Arts Studio into the first full-time facility of its kind in the larger Marquette Park area. This project is poised to affect over 750 individuals through a multitude of projects, classes and unique workshops. Be sure to follow IMAN on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to check out some of the beautiful artwork coming out of the studio!

Trump’s Forgotten Muslims & Terror–Fighting Back

While many across the US were celebrating the legacy of Malcolm X, President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia ironically—or conveniently—omitted the historic and dynamic role of Muslims in America. The effects of this omission were exacerbated by the recent horrific attacks in Manchester, London, and other cities carried out by violent extremists determined to perpetuate the false perception that Muslims are agents of terror and barbarity.

I continue to believe that neither a mere condemnation of these acts, nor publicly aligning ourselves with President Trump’s message to Muslim-majority countries, would do much in the way of fighting back against those who pervert our faith and seek to manipulate fear and hate against Muslim communities. Instead, I believe with great conviction that the type of work we are blessed to do at IMAN matters more now than it ever has.

This work commits itself to making a real difference on the ground in some of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Chicago and now Atlanta. This work seeks to operate in alignment and alliance with diverse communities to creatively re-imagine our communities, city and world as they could be. This work is, in every way possible, antithetical to the acts of terror that deranged individuals associate with our faith.

As IMAN celebrates its 20th year, I couldn’t be more inspired by the work that our dynamic team of leaders and staff are driving everyday. This Ramadan, IMAN publicly launched an exciting $1,000,000 Ramadan Drive. We thank our supporters of all backgrounds across the country and the globe. We ask you to keep this work in your prayers, and help us to meet and exceed our aspirations via your generous zakat-eligible and tax-deductible donations.

At a time when divisive conversations about Muslims, Islam and terror continue to circulate worldwide, I hope you believe as deeply as I do that supporting this type of work is one of the most powerful ways to push back against the pervasive forces of hate, terror and despair.