“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” said Frederick Douglass, an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, writer and statesman who lived in the 1800s.
The third annual Boys To Men conference, organized by Shahid “The Math Doctor” Muhammad, was held May 13 at Mosque Maryam in Chicago to empower and motivate Black and Latino male youth through workshops on financial literacy, health awareness, expungement, spiritual empowerment, conflict resolution and more.
Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) Outreach Coordinator Abdelhamid Omran was invited to speak at the event. He discussed how ZF uses zakat and donations as a means for social change rather than stopping after providing temporary relief.
“Poverty is like a family tradition sometimes,” Mr. Omran said. “The grandparents were poor, so the parents were poor, so the children are poor, so their children after them are poor. ZF’s goal is to empower individuals and uplift communities to break out of generational poverty cycles.
He continued sharing how ZF empowers others: “That’s through our livestock distributions, our water wells, our education programs, our vocational training centers for women. Just those four things are very broad: we do a lot with that.”
Mr. Omran also tied back to the theme of the conference: what it is to be a man. He mentioned that as Muslim men, it is a duty to serve others and give back to the community.
“ZF transcends national, racial and religious boundaries,” Mr. Omran said. “It’s the same thing for you as a man. When somebody comes and asks you for help, you do not care where they’re from, you do not care what they believe, you do not care about the color of their skin. All you care about is helping them and serving them for the sake of Allah. That should be your ultimate goal.”
Helping others is what strengthens societies. As religious people attending some of the best schools and receiving the best guidance, these children can be the best members of society. Mr. Omran sat in on a workshop that used hip-hop to solve problems and demonstrate the powers of communication and collaboration.
One exercise required groups to build towers out of paper without talking. Another had youth sit back-to-back with their arms hooked and stand up together. It showed how hard the task is if just one person tried to stand up, as opposed to if both tried standing up at the same time, using each other’s backs for balance. The more people participating in the exercise, the easier it became, Mr. Omran said.
The workshop also discussed approaching others, and what to do if someone instigates a fight. Participants discussed how to handle the situation without violence.
“I felt like if every kid in America heard what was being said at the workshops at that conference, we would have a better America,” Mr. Omran said.