This Ramadan really started for me when I walked into a room packed full of black men of all ages taking turns unabashedly expressing their love and appreciation for one another. It was a powerful Latina Muslim artist and longtime IMAN leader, Liza Garza, leading them in the circle.
One year ago, most of these men didn’t know one another and several of them were rival gang members who had once shot at each other on the streets. And yet, less than a year later, the experience they have undergone as participants of the Green ReEntry program has turned these once-rivals into brothers.
For so many of us, this month of Ramadan has been about striving for and struggling to realize our unfulfilled potential, even amid structural barriers that try to deny us that vision of ourselves. Every dollar we are raising is part of a well-planned and calculated budget to help this organization grow its programming, deepen its campaigns, and expand its reach to better ensure the immediate and long-term realization of such a vision. We have come so far towards our larger goal and are grateful for each and every dollar that has come in this month. In the next few hours we will try our very best to close the remaining gap, and in the days and weeks to come, we are hopeful that we will be able to do so with your ongoing support and prayers.
Yesterday, as IMAN staff and leaders were preparing for what would be a beautiful community iftar last night, a neighbor on the block stopped Rami and me as we were walking past her house. She wanted us to know how much she loved and appreciated the young men in our program, who not only always treated her and her children with respect and kindness, but were also attentive stewards of the block. I am still thinking about her words and replaying the image of 30 black men standing in the middle of a room telling each other, “I love you, man”. There is so much more work to do but no matter how many lists my people and my community find themselves on, I know that it is that fierce, formidable, unrelenting love that has the power to transform any heart and any block.
Thank you for your love, this month and always.
Alia J. Bilal
Director of Community Relations