PAST SACRED CYPHER CREATIVES 2020-04-15T17:59:53+00:00

2019-2020 Sacred Cypher Creatives

Frank Waln

                                                   Music: Performance, Services | Chicago, IL

Tuesday, March 3 | 3:00-6pm

Sage & Clay 

Join Sacred Cypher Creative, Frank Waln, and fellow Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist, Rollie Raps, for a special edition workshop in which you will learn a hand building ceramic bowl technique, while learning about the healing properties of smudging sage and a connection to our Earth.

 *Limited space available RSVP at

Wednesday, March 4 | 5:30pm – Dinner | 6:00 pm – Program 

Grassroots Power Hour

Learn about how art is used as a form of healing and resistance amongst Indigenous communities. RSVP encouraged via

Friday, March 6 | 6:30 – 9:00pm 

Songs and Stories from Lakota Country 

Through music and poetry, this workshop-styled performance will take attendees on a journey to Lakota Country by engaging the ancestral Lakota approach to songwriting that facilitates healing and resistance while exploring colonization’s impact on the struggles of Indigenous communities and other oppressed people. Light refreshments will be available.

*RSVP at*

Saturday, March 7 | 2:00-6:00pm

Private Studio Recording Session

Unleash the power of healing and expression through an intentional creative process and record your own poetry during a private studio session. Because space is limited, all attendees must receive approval from hip hop artist and producer, Frank Waln. Friday evening event attendance is required to be considered. Location will be shared with confirmed guests. Inquire via

Frank Waln is an award-winning Lakota Hip Hop artist, producer & audio engineer from the Rosebud Rez in South Dakota. A recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, he attended Columbia College Chicago where he received a BA in Audio Arts and Acoustics. His awards include three Native American Music Awards, the 3Arts Grant for Chicago Artists and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development Native American 40 Under 40. He has been featured in The Fader, Vibe, NPR, Paper Magazine, ESPN, and MTV’s Rebel Music. Frank Waln travels the world sharing his story through music and presentations focusing on self-healing and expression of truth.

Bassel Almadani

                                                  Music: Performance | Chicago, IL

Monday, October 21st 

6-8p | Emerging Artist Series 1 

IMAN | 2745 W. 63rd St.

  • Sacred Cypher Creative, Bassel Almadani, will lead a two-part workshop on achieving a sustainable career in the arts by developing a mission & brand, setting goals, building a team, coordinating logistics, budgeting, and more. 

Tuesday, October 22nd 

2:30-4:30p | Staff workshop

  • A private workshop for IMAN staff. 

6-8p | Emerging Artist Series 2

IMAN | 2745 W. 63rd St.

  • Sacred Cypher Creative, Bassel Almadani, will lead a two-part workshop on achieving a sustainable career in the arts by developing a mission & brand, setting goals, building a team, coordinating logistics, budgeting, and more. 

Wednesday, October 23rd

10:30-12:30p | Green ReEntry workshop

  • A private workshop for members of IMAN’s Green ReEntry program.

6-8p | Emerging Artist Series 3

IMAN | 2744 W. 63rd St.

  • An opportunity to have personalized one-on-one time with Bassel to discuss your artistry goals and needs.

Thursday, October 24th 

3:30-5p | Music Moves Institute Workshop

  • A private workshop for community members of the Music Moves Institute. 

5:30-8p | Enrich Chicago 5-year celebration 

  • A private performance for the Enrich Chicago community. 

10:00p | The Re Up Media Interview 

  • Check back for the interview link.

Friday, October 25th 

7 p | Words, Poems, and Music of Resilience

Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center | 4048 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, Illinois

  • Performances will promote tolerance, cultural understanding, equality and justice through the lens of the Afro-Puerto Rican and Muslim American communities’ history and diversity. 
  • *Limited free tickets available* Please email to claim your free ticket. 
Bassel Almadani is a Syrian-American artist, producer, and logistics professional based in Chicago, IL. Born and raised in Northeast Ohio by immigrants from Aleppo, Syria, he now leads the nationally touring soul & funk ensemble Bassel & The Supernaturals in addition to booking and producing events, studio productions, and speaking engagements around North America.
With over 20 years of experience as a performing artist, Bassel has been raising awareness around issues of social justice facing Arab and Muslim communities for much of his professional career. He planned charity events with numerous organizations while earning two degrees from The Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University in Logistics Management and International Business. Bassel now collaborates with schools, arts centers, and cultural centers on performances and educational programs highlighting his Syrian-American heritage in an effort to build empathy and cultural understanding during a humanitarian crisis that has deeply impacted his family as well as over 10,000,000 others.

Amir “Tubad” Gray

                                                  Music: Performance, Arts Education | New Orleans, LA

12:15p – 1:30p | Human Piano Staff Workshop
  • A private workshop for IMAN staff. 
5p – 7p | Human Piano and Drum Circle
  • A private workshop for youth in the ATL area. 
2:30p – 4p | Even the Kitchen Sink 
  • A private workshop for youth in the ATL area.
6p – 8p | Drum Circle
  • Glenrose Gardens Clubhouse; 85 Mount Zion Road
  • During this interactive public workshop, participants will explore the metaphor of community through creating music with percussive instruments.
  • Please RSVP here.
2p – 4p | WRFG 89.3 Interview 
6p – 8p | Human Piano
  • Held in partnership with IMAN’s weekly Grassroots Power Hour, this workshop will get participants to create music together through non-verbal communication driving the point of team work and communities working together. 
SATURDAY, AUGUST 31 | 6p – 9:30p | Sacred Cypher
  • Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center; 3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur, GA 30034
  • This Sacred Cypher is an intimate, immersive artistic experience that will invite attendees to dig deeper into IMAN’s issue areas and holistic model and will feature performances by IMAN Sacred Cypher Creatives: Tubad and Jasiri X. Co-hosted by  AläZ and Sadia “Ms. DiJa” Nawab.
  • Please RSVP here

Amir ‘Tubad’ Gray is a multi-talented tuba and trumpet player, rapper, and producer. He has been a student and practitioner of music since his youth. Hailing out of Chicago and having spent formative years in New Orleans, he is a classically trained artist influenced by Jazz, RnB, Hip-Hop, and Soul music. The sounds and culture of New Orleans has influenced his musical and performance style. Tubad is passionate about working with communities to facilitate collaboration and resourcefulness through making music together.

Jasiri X

                                                  Music:  Arts Education, Performance | Pittsburgh, PA

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2  |  6p – 8p |  Fight Fear Build Power: Labor Day Town Hall
  • Atlanta University Center; Exact location will be emailed upon RSVP here
  • Through a dynamic panel discussion on Labor Day, active community members will discuss how communities-under-attack can show up as authentic solidarity partners to each other, and what unity looks like on an artistic and economic level.
Two-Part Emerging Artist Series: Hip Hop, Activism, and Technology
  • IMAN Office; 1523 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd
  • This interactive workshop will educate emerging artists on how art and technology have changed how social justice movements are born, how to combat negativity within Hip Hop as an artist, and Jasiri X’s personal success in making a viable career as an artist and an on-the-ground activist.
  • Attendance for both workshops highly recommended; RSVP here.

Jasiri X is the first independent hip-hop artist to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate, which he received from Chicago Theological Seminary in 2016. This recognition grew out of the spiritual/political urgency he shared on songs like “Trayvon” and “Strange Fruit”, which documented the unjust police killings of Blacks in the Millennial Generation.

He is the founder of the Pittsburgh based organization, 1Hood Media, which teaches youth of color how to analyze and create media for themselves. Jasiri is a recipient of the Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellowship, USA Cummings Fellowship in Music, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Fellowship.

K-Love the Poet

                                                   Poetry: Performance, Public Speaking | Chicago, IL

K-Love the Poet is an international Spoken Word Artist/Motivational Speaker. She’s shared stages with arts & activist legends as Angela Davis, Ameena Mathews, Ava Muhammad, Jessie Jackson, Common, just to name a few. A recipient of several awards for her community work and humanitarianism, she also has titles to her credit of actress, author, and mentor. In 2009 she co-founded LYRIC Mentoring (Let Your Rhymes Inspire Creativity), a grassroots endeavor that has become one of the most impactful youth movements in Chicago.

2018-2019 Sacred Cypher Creatives


Al Taw’am

                                                   SCC Residency: Bridges | January 22-29, 2019 |  Location: Atlanta, Ga

Al Taw’am’s residency, “Bridges,” uses dance to nurture connections to self, community and family through workshops that celebrate diversity of movement.

WEDNESDAY, JAN 23 | 6-8:30p | Giffen Studio Sessions Master Class Series: Connected Rhythms
  • Presented by Spelman Dance Theater, Department of Dance Performance & Choreography
  • Both known for their fast tempo and lively energy, this workshop will explore the connections between Sinte from the Nalu people of West Africa, and House, a social dance from Chicago. This class is suited for advanced dancers.
  • Spelman Wellness Center Multipurpose Room A/B | 350 Spelman Ln SW, Atlanta, GA 30354
  • RSVP required no later than Tuesday by emailing

THURSDAY, JAN 24 7:30-9p | “Body to Self”

  • With the intention to create a fun and supportive space for women to move their bodies, this workshop bridges body movement to individuality and sense of self by exploring the movement of different tempo and textures in a follow-the-leader format. Class content will be influenced by the concept of “body part initiation.”
  • Movement Labs | 1384 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd SW, Atlanta, GA 30310
  • RSVP required at Women’s Community Movement Class – Open Levels

SATURDAY, JAN 26 | 6p | CommUNITY Café: Celebrating The Sacred Cypher

  • Be inspired by local and national artists at the intersection of arts, spirituality, and community.
  • Washington High Performing Arts Center | 45 Whitehouse Drive SW
  • $10 Tickets Here

SUNDAY, JAN 27 | 12-2p | Umi & Me

  • During this workshop, designed for youth and their mothers to bond through dance, Al Taw’am will discuss their journey of dance that began under the direction of their mother.
  • YogaSkills Kemetic Yoga Studio | 1536 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd SW, Atlanta, GA 30310 
  • RSVP required at Umi & Me

Why do you do what you do? What drives your work?

As we evolve as artists, our work reflects the experiences we encounter as young, African-American, Muslim women. What we see and feel inspires how we move our bodies and create art. We speak with our bodies through dance, as a way to convey feeling, emotion, and a state of mind…as a way to connect. We are the creators and directors of a local dance collective titled S.H.E. (She Who Holds Everything). We established this collective to increase the presence and involvement of women and girls in the Twin Cities’ Hip-Hop dance community.

What are the roots that inform your work?

Our creative style can be traced back to the movement and philosophy of Hip-Hop/Urban styles, West African dancing, and Modern dance. Hip-Hop culture has always been a relevant aspect of our lives, since our early childhood. Exposed to the Hip-Hop movies and videos of our parents, our bodies developed a natural instinct to move. As African-Americans, we have come to identify Hip-Hop as a platform for Black voices, movement, and art. Our creative style can be traced back to the movement and philosophy of Hip-Hop/Urban styles, West African dancing, and Modern dance. Studying these genres cultivated our ability to merge them into a movement style unique to us; Al Taw’am.

2016 National YoungArts Award recipient and the youngest 2-time Minnesota Sage Cowles Award for dance recipient, Al Taw’am (Arabic for “The Twins”) are  nineteen-year-old, identical twin sisters, Iman and Khadijah Siferllah-Griffin from Minneapolis, MN. See Al Taw’am’s Full Bio and Artist Page.


                                                   SCC Residency: Emcee Skool  |  Dates:  October 23-31, 2018  |  Location: Chicago, IL

Phenom’s “Emcee Skool” residency will offer training to develop young artists into community organizers and professionals by providing them with tools to deliver impactful projects for peace-making and humanity-building strategies.

Residency Activities – **Denotes events that are free and open to the public. Use links below or contact to RSVP.

  • Thursday, 10/25 – “Inspiration for Change” | IMAN** 
    • **Workshop: Learn PHENOM’s journey as an artist and community leader and Emcee tools @ IMAN , 2744 W. 63rd St. , 11-2p.
  • Friday, 10/26 – **Fresh Beats & Eats Farmers Market:  @ IMAN, 2744 W. 63rd St., 2-6p.
    • Celebrate the closing farmers market with PHENOM and a special appearance by fellow Roster Artist, Maimouna Youssef.
  • Tuesday, 10/30 – Grassroots Power Hour: @IMAN, 2744 w. 63RD St., 5:30-7p.
    • Join PHENOM and Green ReEntry participants as they share their work during this weekly community organizing forum.
  • Wednesday, 10/31 – The Platform: @ The Flatiron Arts building, 3rd floor, 1579 N. Milwaukee 8-11p. 
    • A platform for artists to present and express their work, open mic style.

Why do you do what you do? What drives your work?

Over years of working with youth development and social change programs in Chicago, I saw that there was a need for truth to the youth. Nobody was telling the youngsters what the real end-of-this-path that they are on holds for them. When you speak to young people in real language, that’s more beneficial to them. So that’s what I do. I motivate the youth, I translate the message and I speak to them in a language where they can understand that, “Hey, this path that I am on needs some reconsideration.”

What are the roots that inform your work?

I was raised as a community development person. My grandmother was known as “Sister” in the community. I woke up with so many friends of the family in the house that everybody was my family.  I want to build a school of young people who can help translate and continue this legacy.  Emcee Skool exposes these eager young artists to the matrix of event hosting, promoting, copyrights/publishing, artist development, branding, and marketing. The approach that will be used to engage the participants include open cyphers and jam sessions, guest speakers and professionals of the craft, as well as varied classroom based and multi-media learning environments. Emcee Skool represents a whole different level of Hip Hop, as more than a culture. It’s tofu for the spirit. You can put whatever seasoning on it — it’s the substance.


                                                   SCC Residency: July 2-8 2018  |  Location: Atlanta, GA

Kayem’s SCC Residency project is a collaboration with IMAN’s Green ReEntry and Youth Programs featuring a series of facilitated conversations and workshops using free-writing, poetry and hip hop to empower personal stories, explore identity and examine how we can harness our past as a tool to positively shape our future.

Residency Activities – **Denotes events that are free and open to the public. Use links below or contact to RSVP.

  • Monday, 7/2 – Workshop: “Writes of Passage” w/ Urban Youth Corps @ Greening Youth, 12-2pm.
  • Tuesday, 7/3 –
    • Workshop: “Recalibrating our Spirit” w/ IMAN’s Green Reentry Apprenticeship Cohort @ IMAN Atlanta, 1523 Ralph David Abernathy, 12-2pm.
    • **Workshop: “What is Home?” w/ The Muslim Mix @ IMAN Atlanta, 1523 Ralph David Abernathy, 6-8pm.

Son of a Libyan revolutionary, Kayem is a Chicago-based hip hop artist who was born into the struggle. Yahoo! Music listed Kayem’s showcase at South by Southwest 2017 as “The 6 Best Things We Saw at SXSW” and he was listed as one of CNN’s “Most Interesting People.” See Kayem’s Full Bio and Artist Page.

Why do you do what you do? What drives your work?

I want us to dig deep inside of ourselves, address the uncomfortable, push through the adversity, and progress hand-in-hand in perpetual growth. I think as opposed to a diversion, art can serve as a compelling tool to help uplift others. My work aims to tell stories as authentically as possible. I think when artists share their own stories, especially those of personal struggle, it connects with others on a deeper level and the relatability helps create inspiration. Instead of making overt art about every cause, we can share our personal stories and add to the spectrum of marginalized communities in the public sphere. Connecting with people on a social or personal level and just being you can break barriers that academic discussions about politics cannot.

What are the roots that inform your work?

A lot of my art focuses heavily on identity, and being a child of the diaspora. I’m extremely interested in the stories of our forefathers. We all have them. Whether our parents came from Africa like mine, or they moved to Chicago from Mississippi as part of the Great Migration. In Lexington, KY, I was raised in a community of political activists who sacrificed everything they had to live a life of exile and work towards the freedom of their beloved homeland. My late father was a poet, and I grew up with him singing around the house and sharing his work with us. He lived his life as a writer, fully believing in the power of words to initiate change. The Lexington Muslim community also had a profound impact on my path. Masjid Bilal was built by Black Muslims in the 70s, as is the case in a lot of American cities. We never had one Imam who ran the masjid. We always had four rotating Imams giving the Friday sermon: an American who founded the masjid, a Libyan American, a Somali American, and a Pakistani American. The Masjid was always run by a diverse board including men, women, various ethnicities, and most importantly: youth.

Kelly Crosby

                                                   SCC Residency: Waging Beauty  |  Dates: June 7-13, 2018  |  Location: Chicago, IL

Kelly’s “Waging Beauty” residency will focus on collaborating with IMAN’s Organizing & Advocacy and Health Center departments to bringing beauty to neglected public spaces (corner stores, abandoned homes, etc.) through murals and visual art.

Residency ActivitiesContact to RSVP.

  • Thursday, 6/7 – Pop-up Art: “CornerStore Cypher” w/ IMAN Organizing & Advocacy @ NIA Marketplace, 63rd & Racine, 2-4pm.
    • Painting Workshop: Sneaker Painting @ Kuumba Lynx Hip Hop Theater Festival, 4501 N/ Clarendon Ave, 5:45-6:45pm. 
  • Friday, 6/8 – Live Interview: Radio Islam @ WCEV 1450AM (Chicago) or Listen Live Stream @
  • Monday, 6/11 – Ceramics Workshop: “Paint ‘N Iftar” @ IMAN, 2744 W. 63rd St., 6-8pm
  • Wednesday, 6/13Open Air Studio: Live Painting @ IMAN Community Iftar, 2744 W. 63rd St., 6:30-10pm.

Why do you do what you do? What drives your work?

My personal artistic motto is taken from the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). “Allah is beautiful and loves beauty.” So, I consider myself a beauty maker. Beauty is necessary to fight those committed to the ugly states of injustice, oppression and despair. I call my work “Waging Beauty” for these reasons. As an artist and as an arts-activist, I use my art as a tool for dialogue, education and a visual means of communication. To be spiritually rooted for me means to be committed to the expression of beauty and the goals of social justice.

What are the roots that inform your work?

I’m a native of New Orleans, Louisiana—born and raised—and I think that shows in my work. Anyone who has traveled to New Orleans has seen our bright, bold and beautiful culture. Everything is loud, festive and ornate; from the architecture of our homes to the brashness of our music. My color schemes are the same way. New Orleans is predominately African-American and my work often includes African-American themes or African-Americans as a part of the subject matter. Through exposure to Arabic calligraphy, Islamic art, architecture, and Middle Eastern culture, I became interested in the artistic cultures of Muslims around the world and began to mix influences from West Africa, North Africa (Morocco, in particular) and South East Asia into my paintings.

Kelly Izdihar Crosby incorporates intricate patterns and unconventional colors schemes to create art that is emotional, bold and evocative. Her art focuses on multiculturalism, women in Islam, stylized Arabic calligraphy and social justice. See Kelly’s Full Bio and Artist Page.

Liza Garza

                                                   SCC Residency: Story Cyphers  |  Dates: April 2-7, 2018  |  Location: Chicago, IL

Liza’s “Story Cyphers” residency is rooted in a passion for love and Oneness, and centered in the transformative healing power of intent listening. Liza will guide a series of story circles in collaboration with IMAN’s Green ReEntry and Health Center where stewardship ultimately passes over to participants who will then bring the process into the community by hosting their own story circle. 

Residency ActivitiesContact to RSVP.

Why do you do what you do? What drives your work?

I am passionate about Oneness, connection and transparency. I describe my work as an artist to be that of a bridge-unveiler, with reverence for our ancestral communal ways of witnessing.  Whether by way of writing, reciting poetry, singing songs, facilitating healing spaces or impromptu singing circles, my intention is to uncover the deep connection that we have to each other and our Creator. This uncovering allows us to see how similar our stories are, it creates a trust between us. I believe this is the first step in forming a unified community and, in turn, unified action.

What are the roots that inform your work?

I am a Xicana woman, single mother of three, born and raised on the north side of Flint Michigan. In order to tell you about myself and my background I must tell you about my parents. My parents who are devout Jehovah’s Witnesses have the shared experiences of being from families who valued the power of song and story. Not only were they each in a family band when they were younger but they were also migrant workers and brown berets. My life’s work, and trajectory, is directly informed by my parents and the city where I was raised. From them I inherit their love for justice and truth and also their commitment and dedication to their relationship with God.

Emmy-nominated Liza Garza is a lightworker, mother, activist, poet, vocalist, healer and facilitator who is passionate about Oneness. From her soulful sounds of Mexican folk tunes with the intricacy of Hip Hop rhyme schemes she bridges the ancestral with the modern. See Liza’s Full Bio and Artist Page.