We'd like to raise funds to facilitate the long-distance road trip of a group of 15 youth and 6 volunteers from Southeast Washington, DC, to IMAN's Takin' It to the Streets festival in Marquette Park, Chicago. Can you help us get there?

 

Takin' It to the Streets is a unique gathering that brings together artists, community activists, leaders, and a diverse audience of tens of thousands of people from all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds to celebrate the possibility of hope and positive social change through a dynamic urban festival. It is organized every few years by IMAN, a Muslim-led organization based in Chicago which works on social justice issues, delivers a wide range of direct services, and cultivates the arts in urban communities.

 

This trip would serve as a landmark experience in the lives of these youth. For some of them, getting out of their immediate environments is something that rarely happens. Those who've taken trips with us before speak very nostalgically about their experiences. Trips like this open their mental taste buds to new places, new ideas, new possibilities, and a general healthy spirit of exploration and adventure. They also create important opportunities for reflection and bonding.

 

What We Need

The goal is $4,500 which will go toward transportation (van rentals & gas), lodging, and food. Any assistance is deeply appreciated.

You will be remembered in the du'as (prayers) that we will make, insha'Allah (God-willing), before we depart for Chicago.

If we are not able to reach our entire goal, there are a few possibilities:

  • Less youth and volunteers will attend than initially intended.
  • Youths' parents/guardians will be asked to provide money for meals. This may be a hardship on some families.

 

Our Past Experience

Three years ago, on late Thursday, June 17, 2010, a group of about 30 volunteers and youth set out from DC for a momentous journey. After a lengthy ride filled with laughter, tears, prayers, games, bathroom breaks, and bonding, we arrived at our destination: Chicago. This was the weekend of theTakin' It to the Streets festival, an event organized every few years by IMAN, a Muslim-led organization which works on social justice issues, delivers a wide range of direct services, and cultivates the arts in urban communities. 

On Friday, we rested briefly at a hotel before getting a tour of IMAN's headquarters, including a computer lab and health clinic, as well as a renovated house that was home to the Green Reentry project, which converted a foreclosed property into a vibrant, environmentally sound (green) transition home for formerly incarcerated Muslims who are reentering the community as leaders working to stabilize violent and troubled blocks in Chicago's Marquette Park community. Needless to say, light bulbs went off in many people's heads. 

On Saturday, we enjoyed a full day of artists' performances, community workshops and discussions, and the company of each other and tens of thousands of others. This was the first time I saw Muslims engaging the broader community on a massive scale, in such a natural way. It was clearly a Muslim-organized event, yet fully open to the public; in fact, there seemed to be as many non-Muslim attendees as there were Muslims. In an age of misunderstanding, the message being given was "Come, enjoy, let's get to know each and work together for a brighter future for our communities." Barriers were broken as the event brought together community activists, leaders, and artists to celebrate the possibility of hope and positive social change. The youth definitely enjoyed themselves, as evidenced by this video

For many of our youth, this was the first time that they were given a concrete picture of how our Islamic values can translate into relevant community institutions (i.e., relevant for them), while also seeing how arts and activism can blend together in a vibrant and dynamic way. However, this was only the beginning. The trip was followed by a 10-week summer youth program, and within just a few months, Project REACH was born in DC. 

The trip to Chicago has remained an unforgettable one. Even after other long-distance trips, the youth have continued to draw back on their experiences in Chicago.

This year's trip to Chicago would truly serve as a highlight of our broader Real Talk youth program, which integrates life skills training, Islamic values, and applied critical thinking into a series of weekly discussion circles and an upcoming group project. For this summer, we are in the process of planning a community beautification project in Southeast DC's Anacostia neighborhood. This project will provide a constructive and artistic outlet for youth and allow them to practice skills learned in the weekly sessions.


Other Ways You Can Help

Even if you are not in a position to give, this does not mean that you cannot help. Please share this with others among your family and friends. We would appreciate if you send it to those near and dear to you, to your personal networks; anyone who may be willing to give, even if it's a little. Help us get the word out!

 

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