Originally published 6.15.09
(Blogger’s Note: NOI Student Minister Willie Muhammad has been a registered member since 1994 and has been heading Muhammad Mosque No. 46 in New Orleans since 2002. Brother Willie and others have launched the Hour of Power Campaign to go into the crime-ridden areas every Saturday to forge change.)
Brother Jesse: What has been the response from the community during the Hour of Power push every Saturday?
Willie Muhammad: Overwhelmingly positive. People who live in the neighborhoods that we visit from young to old ALWAYS tell us how much they appreciate what we are doing, how more people need to do the same and they give us words of encouragement. Being there in the community gives us an opportunity to make a proper diagnosis of the ills, the challenges and the needs of our people. Too many people want to make a diagnosis from behind a desk, rostrum, podium or news camera. There is no substitute for getting out and meeting the people where they are.
Brother Jesse: What qualities do you think young so-called gang members look for in those who offer help before they open up to them?
Willie Muhammad: The quality of concern/care that goes beyond “talk.” Its like the saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” They know that their fellow gang members will be there for them, pretty much regardless of the situation. They know they can get financial help and even support that may involve violence if needed.
People profess their love for Jesus because he gave his life for them. These young brothers know that their homeboys will do the same and that spirit produces a love more powerful than fear. Scripture says that you know when you have made the transition from “death to life” when you “love the brotherhood.” Its unfortunate that their love is based upon activities that are not in accord with righteousness.
Other qualities are that “super star status.” Being part of a gang in addition to providing you with protection and back up, it also adds to your street cred and popularity. You are running with people who have money, clothes and the affection of the good and bad girls. You become ghetto fabulous and begin to get the kind of attention and praise many of them have never experienced from their own families.
Brother Jesse: Why do you think people shy away from going into crime-ridden areas?
Willie Muhammad: Fear along with a disbelief that any real change can take place. Remember what the scripture says, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” That’s how people feel about the people in those areas. What is sad is that the people in these areas feel forsaken themselves and feel that no one cares. Then those who have the education, the finances, training and skills to help don’t believe that the people can be transformed. This mindset can be found in the church and is also starting to be present even in some Islamic communities.
People did not want to approach the grave of Lazarus because of his stench. Same with our communities. But love is long suffering, the love that we need is that “agape love”, which is unconditional and not based on sight. Do you know that in the New International Version of the New Testament, the word compassion is only mentioned EIGHT times, seven of the eight times when it is mentioned it is mentioned by Jesus. Every time he mentioned it was to describe how he felt about the people he was raised to serve.
NOT ONCE was the word compassion used by the disciples to express how they felt toward the people. This is why they were not able to cast out demons like the Master Teacher they claimed to be students of.