IMAN Awarded 2018 Neighborhood Opportunity Fund Grant

We are honored and excited to receive a 2018 Neighborhood Opportunities Fund grant. IMAN has been dedicated to organizing corner stores for nearly a decade, helping to build a culture of health and increase food access on Chicago’s South and West Sides. Our Corner Store Campaign currently engages a network of 42 stores–with 10 of those stores located in Englewood–and this award helps to augment our work in that community.

Since its inception, our Corner Store Campaign has been comprised of leaders—themselves confronted with persistent issues of inequity and undesirable health outcomes—who call Englewood, Chicago Lawn and other communities home. The 63rd & Racine Healthy Marketplace project prioritizes their voices, and those of our partners in Englewood.

IMAN is inspired by and deeply rooted in local movements that have historically pushed for Black-owned and Black-led businesses. At the same time, our corner store work is committed to healing racial tensions, particularly between Black and Arab communities. The 63rd & Racine Healthy Marketplace embodies these traditions by demonstrating the viability of a grassroots business collaboration between these two communities.

Partnering with the City of Chicago on this project is not contingent on our support for any particular initiative. Like many of our partners and resident leaders in Englewood, we remain deeply troubled by recent policy announcements. IMAN will continue to stand alongside those most directly affected by decisions and strategies that are not in the best interest of the community.

We will also continue to partner with those working in the city, county, and state on projects that will support the establishment of more thriving and dynamic communities. We are grateful for this support, and will continue to raise private funds to cover the larger costs of the Corner Store Campaign’s vision.

Local Seniors Learn Self-Defense

This month’s Senior Wellness Luncheon hosted by the Health Center, focused on providing senior citizens with ways to protect themselves in dangerous situations. Ramy Daoud, owner and head coach of Phoenix Sports Empire in Naperville, introduced the seniors to basic self-defense techniques during the hour-long session. Seniors learned various blocking methods and proper movements to handle and escape a potential attacker. Those in attendance were excited to try something new and felt that learning self-defense skills is extremely useful in today’s environment.

“I have been attacked from behind,” said Jean Davis a 70-year-old attendee who travels to IMAN from suburban Lansing to attend the monthly luncheons, “Nowadays they are attacking everybody, they don’t care.”

The self-defense lesson also included methods for seniors with limited mobility like Rosemary Meriweather, a 66-year-old grandmother using a rollator walker who feared the hands-on session would not be useful to someone like her, “He showed me what I can do”.

Meriweather has been attending IMAN’s luncheons for over a year and says she enjoys coming each month and always leaves with something informative—from recipes to life tips, like how to protect herself and her family. “I am raising two granddaughters and I’m going to teach them some of these moves.”

Self-defense is extremely important, specifically for older adults as they are seen as a vulnerable population. Participants were asked topics of interest and self-defense rated amongst the highest. Instructor Daoud, who has been doing martial arts for 25 years and currently works as a professional fighter, says it is a skill everyone should have and he looks forward to returning to IMAN to lead more sessions.

The senior luncheon highlights a sense of purpose, feelings of belongings, increased self-esteem, confidence and improved physical and mental health. The luncheon allows participants to nurture their soul by socializing, keeping active and building connections with others in the community.

Newest Green ReEntry Cohort Takes Root in Atlanta

“We are a team. One unit, and one chain. We succeed by strengthening each other.” Antonio Jasper, 25, and Ishmael Tillery, 21, recite these powerful words every day alongside their eight fellow Atlanta Green ReEntry cohort members.

Currently living in a transitional home after completing his prison sentence, Antonio heard about Green ReEntry from a mentor: Ms. Patricia Bennett, CEO of Empowering Men and Women on the Move. Antonio was incarcerated at a young age, and thus has not had the opportunity to amass any work experience. After being admitted into the program, he has eagerly embarked on gaining the knowledge and skills that were previously denied to him.

“All I had growing up was the streets, selling drugs. I was in an environment where people were shooting folks. You gotta hide from the cops, gotta constantly look over your shoulder. [But here in Green ReEntry] you can talk to people. It’s a positive environment. Everyone is helping each other to succeed, so that I won’t go back down the same road.”

The brotherly bonds with his instructors and peers motivate Antonio to make positive contributions to this year’s cohort to redirect his life trajectory toward a stable career. In five years, he hopes to attain “master plumber” status, and help create a healing environment for young men in his community.

Ishmael joined the program to explore his passion for plumbing. He hopes to one day work alongside Jermaine Shareef, a certified master plumber and Atlanta’s Green ReEntry Manager. While not a returning citizen himself, Ishmael deeply values the strength and camaraderie of the Green ReEntry brotherhood. “It’s a respect thing. Your background doesn’t matter, because you’re here now [to improve yourself]. We’re here to uplift one another.”

Reflecting on the new cohort, Shareef proudly states: “These guys want to be part of a powerful and meaningful change to prevent others from falling victim to the system.”

Youth Leader Katie Marciniak Joins the Board

IMAN’s Board of Directors voted in its newest member, Katie Marciniak, during the January meeting. Katie, a local community member and recent graduate of Gage Park High School, is no stranger to IMAN and has emerged as a dynamic youth leader and organizer during her several years with the organization. Currently, she serves at IMAN as an Outreach and Wellness Coordinator through the Public Allies program, working with three South Side high schools to engage students around food access and its systematic connections to other issues impacting marginalized communities. Katie recently shared how her relationship with IMAN has fostered her personal growth and helped to define her purpose.

Q: How did you become involved with IMAN?

A: I originally became involved through the farmers market, through an organization that partnered with my high school. At that time Shamar introduced himself as a youth director at IMAN and I then started to engage more. I continued to look for opportunities to further my community work because I knew I was passionate about being deeply involved in my community, but I didn’t really know what opportunities to explore. I believe it was back in 2015 when I first became involved with the youth council, where we had discussions about community issues and how they impacted us. After the youth council, I stayed regularly engaged at IMAN, and then my next opportunity was being part of the MLK Memorial. I was essentially a student representative on the planning committee, and that gave me an opportunity to further the efforts of the people who previously worked to create a project to commemorate King and to continue the efforts of the students from my high school who were there before me. This was my first real opportunity to become deeply involved in a project with IMAN, which gave me the chance to really see a vision come to life.

Q: Did you ever aspire to become a board member at IMAN?

A: Well when the opportunity was presented to me, I thought it was really beneficial as soon as I heard about it. I was interested in bringing my perspective to the board and to be able to enhance the organization as a whole…internally, considering I do have a position currently in the organization, and externally as well to ensure that the services that are being offered meet the community’s needs considering I am from the area and still residing in the community.

Q: What does your new role as an IMAN board member mean to you?

A: It means being able to contribute and being a new voice for the betterment of the organization and the community, especially for the youth. To be that model and to have a direct say in things that go on in our community, and to show that they have the capability to be in a position where their voices can be heard and impact decision making processes on behalf of their community.

Q: How has being involved in the work at IMAN shaped your life?

A: Wow, how hasn’t it shaped my life?! I feel like IMAN has really given me opportunities to better understand myself and the community, mentally and spiritually. And over time I feel like I’ve been constantly progressing through those opportunities especially through leadership as I’ve gained more leadership within the organization. And just being able to use the skills and knowledge that I’ve acquired here, beyond the organization and beyond my community… or just really being able to use my skills in any space. I definitely feel from this point on I will go on to continue to create an impact, large and small, due to everything I’ve learned and gained through my experiences and the people I’ve met.

Q: What is your advice to other young people about getting involved?

A: You don’t have to have a deep educational background or experience to get involved in your community. I believe all young people have a voice, it’s just a matter of exploring those different opportunities, specifically community related opportunities that help you find your voice and find your passion. Don’t be afraid to expose yourself to different people in your community and put yourself in those spaces that help you better understand community issues as a whole and are interconnected. Utilize the knowledge that you have received and take steps to then find your purpose.