I Was Sentenced to Death

I was sentenced to death by lethal injection on February 5, 1992, after being convicted of a triple homicide. The sentence was a result of a terrible moment in my young adult life. I was confronted by the people who killed my younger brother and, in an altercation that lasted only a few seconds, I committed a crime that I will regret for the rest of my life.

The first morning I woke up in prison, I realized that I could fight my death sentence by successfully fighting my premeditated murder conviction. A correctional officer asked me how I would like to spend the daily allowance of 90 minutes outside of my prison cell. I requested to go to the law library. With access to the 6’ x 9’ prison cell with a few old, dusty law books, I committed right then and there to study law and eventually became co-councel on my own case 4 years later, after the Illinois Supreme Court had reversed my conviction, and vacated my death sentence. I would no longer face the death sentence in Illinois’ again.

While incarcerated, I embraced Islam, a spiritual practice that has sustained me ever since. My first Ramadan was in 1997, the year that IMAN was incorporated. I heard about IMAN’s work a few years before my release date and within weeks of coming home, IMAN was the first organization I approached for community and support. I needed insulin for my diabetes and got it at IMAN’s Community Health Center. I needed housing and IMAN placed me into their adult leadership home. I wanted to mobilize other brothers and sisters coming out of prison to clear some of the barriers we faced while re-entering into society, and IMAN hired me as a community organizer. Two years ago, I helped IMAN draft and pass the Removing the Invisible Bars Act, and this year we’re very close to passing our second piece of parole reform legislation, the Path to Restoration Bill.

Everything I have done since returning home has been focused on getting myself and my community off of lists that criminalize and dehumanize us, and onto paths that keep us safe, healthy, and thriving. There are thousands more just like me in cities like Chicago and Atlanta all over the country, and IMAN’s 2018 ‘Off the List, On the Love’ Ramadan Drive will ensure that hundreds more get the love and opportunities they need to realize their full potential.

With your generous donation, you’ll play a part in helping us get off those lists too.

Have a blessed Ramadan,
Nasir Blackwell

Off the List, On the Love

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Too many of our beloved sisters and brothers find themselves on all the wrong lists: on waiting lists to access desperately needed housing, mental health services and employment opportunities; on poverty and hunger index lists; and on criminal lists and registries that perpetually punish individuals, families and entire neighborhoods. These lists contribute to our lack of racial and social equity, and are ultimately rooted in a lack of love.

The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us, and in it, we are called to deepen our consciousness of The Divine and strengthen our bonds of mutual love. A Prophetic tradition challenges us to attain true faith by loving for our community that which we love for ourselves.

This month, we will be attempting to raise $1,500,000 during our ‘Off the List, On the Love’: 2018 Ramadan Fundraising Drive. These funds are absolutely vital to our ability to get our sisters and brothers off of lists that strip them of dignity and agency, and onto a path defined by love, opportunity and a shared vision of what our world could look like.

As always, you have a crucial role to play in this. We ask that you continue to keep IMAN’s efforts in your thoughts and prayers and that you donate generously to help us meet and exceed our goal. All contributions are zakat-eligible and tax-deductible, and can be made via check, stock, cash, or online at our website.

We pray that your support this month lists you among those who have earned the ultimate pleasure and mercy of The Most High.

Police Accountability Community Discussion Schedule

We urge you to attend these discussions, show the aldermen in attendance your support for the GAPA ordinance, and reject the ineffective ordinances introduced by the city!

Tues, May 15 – Corliss High School, 6:30pm-8pm
Sat, May 19 – Back of the Yards High School, 11:30am-1pm
Tues, May 29 – George Westinghouse College Prep, 6:30pm-8pm
Thurs, May 30 – Wilbur Wright College, 6:30pm-8pm
Tues, June 5 – Amundsen High School, 6:30pm-8pm

Please let us know which of the discussions you plan to attend. Contact Organizer Nasir Blackwell, nasir@imancentral.org for more information.

IMAN Recognized as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike

We are pleased to announce that IMAN’s Health Center has been officially designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike! The rigorous effort toward obtaining such a significant status has been nearly a decade in the making. With your support and the hard work of our dedicated staff, IMAN’s Health Center has demonstrated the compassion and high-quality care for patients that impressed federal government evaluators. Health Center Look- Alikes provide services consistent with federally qualified health centers, ensuring health care for all, regardless of ability to pay.

Over the past two decades, IMAN has expanded its medical service to include counseling and dentistry. Now, we are being recognized by the federal government for the community-responsiveness and quality of the entire health program. Such recognition means we’ll have access to additional training and expertise through state and national agencies. Additionally we will become part of Chicago’s larger health safety net able to serve more patients and expand pharmaceutical, dental and mental health services.

FQHC Look-Alikes were established to increase access to quality care in underserved communities by allowing providers like IMAN, that do not receive a federal grant, to participate in the federal program. As an FQHC Look-Alike, IMAN is eligible for increased Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. However, those reimbursements do not cover uninsured individuals, who make up nearly 50% of our patient population.

This designation is a powerful affirmation of our Health Center’s quality and growth. It is also a resounding call to action, as we continue to raise the funds necessary to fully cover the costs of uninsured patient care, fostering health, wellness and healing for thousands more individuals across the inner-city.

This exciting milestone would not be possible without your prayers and generosity, and we are immensely grateful for the long-standing support of many individuals and families, and of several foundations over the years, including, Islamic Relief USA, Chicago Community Trust and Affiliates, Grant Healthcare Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, VNA Foundation, Field Foundation, Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Healthy Communities Foundation, The Crown Family, Polk Bros Foundation, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, and Zakat Foundation of America.