In Chicago Lawn, IMAN ‘Doubles Down’ to Combat Virus Fallout

The Chicago Lawn and Marquette Park neighborhoods on the city’s Southwest Side lie in a zip code that’s seen some of the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported a total of 2,836 cases of the virus in the 60639 zip code.

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One neighborhood organization that’s both pivoted and “doubled down” its operations in response to the pandemic is the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). 

Interactive: More from our series, COVID-19 Across Chicago.

The group operates many different services and programs out of its headquarters in Chicago Lawn, including a community health clinic and a reentry program for people returning from the Cook County Jail.  

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, IMAN has shifted most of the appointments at its health center to telemedicine while ramping up COVID-19 testing just this week. The group has also partnered with other community organizations on the South Side to deliver food packages to seniors, and is continuing its reentry work. 

IMAN Executive Director Rami Nashashibi says across the communities his organization serves, the pandemic has exposed “the profound inequities and disparities in the city.” 

“These neighborhoods continue, on every single occasion, to be on the losing side of all of these types of circumstances, whether it’s a heat wave, pandemic, circumstances related to violence, economic crunch, whether it’s foreclosures … we always see the pain is much more acute in the same set of neighborhoods,” he said. 

He says the high COVID-19 numbers are directly linked to those economic and health inequalities in Chicago. 

“The stay-at-home order just works differently for communities of color,” Nashashibi said. “People who are undocumented, communities that are struggling to maintain large families in small dwellings, don’t have as many options as others in the city. So like other ways, this unequal — uneven, if you will — reality for our urban centers bares out sometimes in the testing results.” 

IMAN also works with a wide range of artists and musicians, usually organizing events and offering art therapy. Since the pandemic began, it’s started hosting online concerts to keep artists and community members engaged with each other. 

Nashashibi says that virtual work “allows us to support our artist base, and allows us to reach out to individuals across the city, but also across larger geography to produce these intimate spaces … artists will perform something very personal, and people react and respond. It puts people into community.” 

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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