CHICAGO—The Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) held its grand opening of Go Green Community Fresh Market, located at 1207 W. 63rd Street, in the heart of the Englewood neighborhood and hundreds of city residents came out to support and celebrate the effort.
“The idea of the grocery store comes from a long history of do for self from the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and organizers and activists who have been fighting for dignified quality access to food options. The idea of giving back to the community,” said IMAN executive director Rami Nashashibi.
“My people are Palestinian, and a lot of the Arabs that came to the South Side and opened businesses and ended up contributing to the pain and suffering, instead of lifting the residents up. We have to challenge one another. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated, ‘You help your brother whether he is the oppressed or the oppressor. How do we help him when he’s an oppressor? You stop him from oppressing.’ ”
“The Go Green Community Fresh Market is built on the foundation of 14 years of IMAN’s flagship Corner Store Campaign. In 2007, an IMAN-led study in partnership with the Applied Research Center at the Chicago Community Trust affirmed two things:
Racial tensions existed between Arab corner store owners and predominantly Black residents, and many residents were using these stores for their primary access to food,” according to IMAN, which is a community organizing and community building non-profit.
“Recognizing that food access was not only about food—but also about relationships—IMAN officially launched the Corner Store Campaign, intervening to challenge detrimental behaviors and business practices, provide solutions and incentives for stores to improve access to nutritious food and build meaningful relationships with residents,” said the non-profit.
After a fire in 2015 destroyed one of IMAN’s partnering corner stores “R.A.G.E. member, and Corner Store Campaign leader, Ms. Cunningham, helped to plant the seeds for this model store and community market.”
The Go Green Community Fresh Market is a special business. Not just driven by bottom lines and profits, but a commitment to offer fresh produce and healthy choices to combat community health challenges.
With “above average rates of obesity and disease, resulting in life expectancies for Englewood residents that are 30 years shorter than that of our downtown neighbors. Poor diet has been linked to mental health challenges, including depression,” IMAN noted.
“In this context, the Fresh Market will not only make healthy eating accessible for at least 6,000 residents for whom this will be the only fresh produce store within walking distance, but also play a critical role in healing the community through creative placemaking.”
The store also represents a determination by residents to build up their neighborhood and overcome challenges related to health, public safety, economic development and lack of opportunity.
So for those gathered March 8, it was a happy day. “I was part of the research committee, where we looked for an establishment, and determined the types of food that the people wanted. This grocery store offers healthy food directly in our neighborhood. The most important thing is what we’re eating physically and what we’re eating mentally,”
Said Englewood resident and successful entrepreneur Imani Muhammad, founder and owner of Imani’s Original Bean Pies & Fine Foods. The market will carry her products and others to give opportunity makers a bigger economic stake in where they live.
Keeping with the market’s motto: “A model corner grocery store built by the community, for the community,” many of the things offered will come from local vendors.
And there is profit to be made: “Englewood currently sees up to $55M in grocery dollars leaving the community each year, largely due to the absence of quality and affordable options. The Fresh Market will fill this gap and seize the opportunity to localize spending,” IMAN noted.
As people shuttled and flowed in, out and around the space, there was an air of happiness and celebration. IMAN staffers, political leaders, media folk and others shared stories, hugs and a sense of a new beginning in a new space.
The store offers a wide affordable selection of conventional products to organic and eco-friendly counterparts.
Nazar Muhammad, a past community resident, observed, “This is part of the program of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, so to have it in the community, I had to come and support.”
“It was shocking to know that access to food, something as basic and fundamental as food, is an issue in this time period in a country as rich and powerful as America. We need to have a market,” observed Sana Syed, business developer for IMAN.
“I have so many prayers for the store. I pray the store inspires people to think more about their own health and their own well-being,” added Alia Bilal, IMAN deputy executive director.
“To know that we have a store of our own, so I had to come and support. We have to start somewhere, one store can lead to many stores, and we must support them,” said Katilya Stroman, who came out to show her support.
Go Green Community Fresh Market is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT daily. For more information, visit https://gogreenonracine.com/fresh-market.
Final Call staff contributed to this report. Shawntell Muhammad can be contacted at