Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Top 25 of IMAN's Community Cafe in NYC

Since everyone on Facebook has some kind of egocentric bug, to restore balance, I'll write 25 nice things about something other than myself. I choose IMAN’s Community Café, held at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Cultural Center on Saturday, January 31, 2009.

But first, a bit of background:

Muslim students, community residents and leaders formed IMAN in 1995. They wanted a response to the pervasive symptoms of inner-city poverty and abandonment. IMAN sought to create a community organization driven by the spiritual ideals of community service, social justice and human compassion. IMAN’s services, organizing, and arts agenda stem from spiritual convictions about community service, human compassion, and social justice, particularly for marginalized people of color.

Community Café is IMAN’s bi-monthly space for artists, entertainers, and activists. IMAN uses Community Cafe to open discussions about organizing around a broad range of social justice issues.

IMAN and Community Café are currently based in Chicago. New York City will hopefully, inshaAllah, be the location of IMAN’s second chapter. The Community Café on 1-31-2009 was a kick-off/triage event.

For more information on IMAN and Community Café, please visit

Now, for the 25:

1. The Venue. The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational C the lives and legacies of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. It is the renovated site of theenter honors sacrosanct Audubon ballroom. Programs at the center promote human and civil rights through knowledge of the history and culture of the African Diaspora. The most gorgeous mural you’ll ever see commemorates El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

2. The Shabazz Family. The carbon copy of her Father, we were honored by Sister Malaak Shabazz and are very grateful to her and her sisters for allowing us to benefit from their most honorable legacy.

3. The Elders. Imam Talib, Imam Amir, Sister Ayesha, Sister Amina, Dr. Umar, Sheikh Sharif, Sister Ashura, Sister Robina, Sister Debbie, Sister Khadijah, Sister Dowoti. May those who I’ve forgotten forgive me; my memory limits me. These are our beautiful parents who fought against racism, assimilation, oppression, and immigrant Islam-o-centrism. They are truly giants and our debt to them is immeasurable and can only be paid back with lifetimes dedicated to service.

4. The Sophia Kizilbash. Organizer extraordinaire, beautiful and intelligent, Ms. Sophia rocked the house—no, she rocked the entire planning process. While wearing the hottest black and white outfit, she maintaining her cool and remembered every detail. She seamlessly navigated a City still new to her, and, well, she is just awesome.

5. The Volunteers. Energetic and welcoming, they inspired every person at the event to become an active participant in IMAN and a volunteer at the next event. Among massive crowds, they showed great patience.

6. The Artists . Every. Single. Performer. Was. AMAZING. DJ K-Salaam, Brother Ali, Pop Master Fabel, Three Generationz, New York Gnawa Ensemble, Revise CMW, Ali ShaheedMuhammed, and my personal favorite, The ReMINDers, created sounds and energies better than I’ve ever heard and experienced (and I used to help organize the Hip Hop conference at the University of Wisconsin, a huge event that draws crowds of 20,000+).

7. EthnoSis AKA Suad Abdul Khabeer and Capital D AKA David Kelly. Professionals by day and badass emcees by night. They were so smooth you’d think they were part of the artists’ crew. Incredibly eloquent and confident, they gave the event a very solid foundation.

8. The Standing Room Only. It’s so great to see Muslims pack a room for a positive, cultural, musical event!
9. The Price. It was right. Suggested $5, no one was turned away for lack of funds, seating was first come, first serve, there was no hierarchical ish, no VIP section, no tiered sections, nothing. It was one community, one spot, one price. Naturally, and as it should be, elders sat in the front, kids in the front on the floor, and everyone in between stood if they couldn’t find seats. And no one complained.

10. The Crowd. Diverse in age, race, geography. People came from all over NYC and all over the east coast. A few even showed up from California! Thanks May!
11. The Chicago Crew. They knew the value of being on-site to make a successful event; distance planning just isn’t the same. Better than that, they acted as consultants and allowed New Yorkers to really take ownership. True leaders build leaders.

12. The Evaluation. Having surveys was a sign of dedication to this program’s sustainability in NYC. Data is the key to funding.

13. The Food. Halal fried chicken, cornbread, and tossed salad from The Soul Spot in Brooklyn was delicious. Supporting local businesses is always the right thing to do.
14. The Registration Process. Very Obamaesque, organizers collected every single attendees email address and phone number. Excellent way to build a database of future IMAN supporters.

15. The Program. The artwork was great—New York centric with a skyline and subway sketches, and of course, hand drawn images of the emcees, performers, and Malcolm.
16. The Security. Besides being necessary for crowd control, Security was cordial and added the “this event is that hot” feel.

17. The Green Room. Food and extra water awaited the performers and volunteers as they sought moments of refuge from the high-energy crowd. Media also had access, allowing interviews to happen throughout the night.

18. The Mini-bazaar. This was great because the artists that brought CDs were great. I love an opportunity to support good people.

19. The Intention. IMAN has it right—put service and art at the center of a Muslim-American identity. Music is what’s going to bring together the 2nd generation immigrants and indigenous folks. Service is our joint responsibility.

20. The Collaboration. Several NYC organizations came together to make it happen, from all disciplines, all missions, all neighborhoods, all populations. Thank you Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, NYU Islamic Center, Turning Point for Women & Families, Islamic Relief, CAIR-NYC, Muslim Consultative Network, TriState Muslim Media, Arab American Association of NY, Arab Muslim American Federation, American Muslim Law Enforcement Officers Association, Muslim Public Affairs Council-NY, and Muslims in Hip Hop.

21. The Cleanup. Swift, efficient, plenty of people helped. No one sat idle (except me; I sat on the floor, shoes off, eating fried chicken because it was that good).

22. The Fashion. Muslimahs, Muhajabas, MashaAllah! Everyone was at his or her urban best. Colors, jewelry, hats, boots, in retrospect, there should have been a runway as well.
23. The Photographers. Conspicuously captured every moment. And had awesome cameras! Next time, we should have a mini-red carpet where everyone can take pictures in front of a giant IMAN sign. Think of the exposure and press possibilities!

24. The Move to NYC. It’s about time! New York City is ripe and ready for the righteousness that is IMAN.

25. The Bright Future. I see full functioning IMAN chapters in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Oakland, DC, and Houston. I see Community Café travel, opening “special editions” everywhere from Milwaukee to Richmond to Charlotte to Albuquerque. This is what our tradition is all about. Service to all, starting with the most marginalized people. Our Prophet, peace be upon him, was an orphan, illiterate, and poor for much of his life. It’s in his honor that we humble ourselves and give of ourselves.

**For more about the artists, visit their websites:
Brother Ali
Three Generations
Pop Master Fabel
New York Gnawa Ensemble
DJ K-Salaam
Live Art by Revise CMW
Capital D
Ali Shaheed Muhammad

***Images courtesy of:
Jameelah Shukri

1 comment:

Hena said...

this is wicked. that bit about everyone on facebook being egocentric was HILARIOUS, and sadly true.

good job fappy