Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mixed feelings

So as expected the last day of Ramadan was last Saturday September 25Th, and I had a big turn out at the soup kitchen. On Sunday morning, I went to Eid,( the big after Ramadan community prayer) with my daughter and spend the rest of the day visiting a couple of friends. It was interesting the number of Muslims that call Portland Maine home now. I counted close to a thousand two hundred...
Unfortunately for me that Saturday was not just the last day of Ramadan 09, it was also the last day for an 18 year, young man who to me represents what I have always believed ' most young people are not bad they just make bad choices' and with the right resources and support , they can turn their lives around'
I met Guy Kitoko when I was working for PROP'S (People Regional Opportunity Program) Peer Leader Program at Riverton Park, one of Portland Maine's so called 'not so good' neighborhoods' . The program is one of three 'youth resiliency project' that PROP provided to youth in low income neighborhoods who the system have tagged as 'At Risk Youth'
Guy(ghee) was one of many teen boys that I was very close to, I will go to their schools and make enquiries about their progress or otherwise, go to their homes and check in with their parents on how they were doing and of course they thought I was a 'pain' but we did had a kind of mutual respect. Our relationship have had its ups and downs in the course of the years that I was there. Guy was one of the kids that I find very interested and challenging because he was very reserved and quite.Any time there is a problem , he was the one that was hard for me to get any information out of, because he will not 'snitch'. The only information I can get out of him is about Him, if he knew or took part in whatever it was and its not much of a problem most of the time. Its either someone took the keys to the food closet whiles I was not looking to go and bring out some snack I was saving for another day, or something silly happened at school and I was trying to get to the bottom of it, it doesn't matter if the issue is small or big, Guy will not tell on anyone.
In June 2008 the program was closed after 25 years of service to young people, that did not stop the relationship we had with the youth we were serving. Below is a newspaper story on him.. Rest in Peace My friend..

my quote for the day is ;

'We are not here forever, Treat Each day,Each friendship,and Each person in your life like a gift from the Heavens, Share your Heart and your Passion with the world'.... pious ali

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Beauty of America.

On Friday afternoon I had the privilege of hanging out with a group of kids from an after school program in Portland I was invited by the staff to come and be part of adults who are sharing their traditional holidays with the kids. Not only did I shared but I also learn from others. Some are similar to mine others are very different but at the end of the day, I left there reflecting on how the Beauty of this country lies in its diverse nature.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I hope that this time of year empowers us to involve ourselves in acts of social justice, tolerance , acceptance and taking care for the ‘other’, this week is one of the most spiritual and cultural diverse week of the year. I pray that we will take another step towards getting to know each other and accept others for who they are, I hope we will join our neighbors, friends co workers in celebrating their holidays and ours as well.
If you are reading this and you are celebrating any of the holidays that will be listed please feel free to comment and share the importance of the holiday with us all. That way we all get to learn from each other. If there is any holiday missing from the list please feel free to add it.
Monday Sept 14 was ' Holy cross day ( Christians remember the death of Christ on the cross)
Today is lailat Kadr, or Islamic Night of Destiny

Saturday -Sunday RushHashanah, (Jewish New Year)

Sunday /Monday Eid al Fitr (end of Ramadan feast)
Its going to be a long weekend of festivities and prayer and service .... as you embark on this long festive weekend please remember those who have less than you and share what you can with them...

Monday, September 14, 2009

A call to action....

6:30 AM
My phone rung at 6:am and the voice at the other end said 'hey we are on our way' it was my friend Jonathan Sherman who lives about 45-60 min South of Portland calling to let me know that he is on his way to come joined us at the soup kitchen, where I have been volunteering on weekends with a group of young people mostly Muslims as part of their service in the month of Ramadan , but this morning I have a different group of young people they are very diverse , they are here to join their Muslims friends as they perform a religious and community service.
All the youth I am volunteering with today have one thing in common, they have all been to the Seeds of Peace camp except two . We spent the next hour prepping and cooking breakfast for the homeless population who are waiting outside for the soup kitchen to be open.The Youth were excited about the whole process and were giving it their best, for me it is an experiment in bringing this young people from different faith and culture background with the passion to serve others, together under one roof working side by side. I am going to continue this after Ramadan, it will be a monthly process after which we will have debriefing moments and see how I can work with this young people in translating this process into working with each other to help our community solve the current tension that is going on between the youth and the police. Ramadan ends in a couple of days we have another week end reserved for us to volunteer. I have a meeting with the NAACP youth council I m going to invite them to join us and the youth from another organisation, the Root Cellar, a christian non-profit in Portland Maine that serves very diverse group. I hope we have a big turn out next Saturday which will be the last time we will be volunteering this Month. I am hoping to turn this into a coalitions of young people who are ready and willing to change our community...

I had a very fulfilling weekend, I and a group of young people from different backgrounds went to the preble street wayside soup kitchen and had fun prepping, making and serving breakfast.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Eight years ago at exactly 9-11 am , this country's path was redirected and the history of the world was change, a change that will be a catalyst to many more changes that affected every one in the world who was alive and every person that will be born for many generations to come. But for me one of the change is the fact that it did prompted a lot of people to actually reach out to others and to engage each other, not only in this country but through out the world than ever before.
For me today is a day that I will continue saying good morning to the stranger I will meet in the elevator, at the post office or simply on the street. Today represent taking the time to ask the homeless person sitting on the bench how their day is going ? or ask the the young person I will sit next to in the bus about their day at school.. Today is a day I will pray for a peaceful world where people are treated just because of who they are, irrespective of their social status, age, faith , race,education or sexual orientation. Today I pray for all the victims of 9-11 dead or alive May you have peace.

today's quote is:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). Quran 4:23

Friday, September 4, 2009

An Opportunity to Serve Others.....

Its been almost 2 weeks since Ramadan began, for the past 3 Ramadans , Myself and a group of Muslims youth from Portland go to the soup kitchen every Saturday to volunteer , to give back to this community that have given so much to us as immigrants. Islam requires us as members of our community to volunteer especially in Ramadan. I remember when I was growing up my grandfather will always ask me and my cousins to go around homes of older people and others who are less fortunate than us to pass bags of provisions ( milk, sugar and bread) it is a tradition that have been in my family for generations and anytime we show sign of being tired , he will say ' this is an opportunity for you to learn how to serve others don't let it pass by' that is the kind of giving that shaped my perception of community as I was growing up.
I am very fortunate to have equally determined young friends who are willing to give their time in the service of others in Ramadan. This year due to the high volume of volunteers (as a lot of people have lost their jobs) we are able secure only two Saturdays the 5Th and the the 19Th of September.
I also did ask my friends on FB to donate one lunch to a soup kitchen during the month of Ramadan and I did get response from close to 25 people from across the world saying they did or will donate more than one lunch. I don't think any one should go hungry because they cant afford to buy food. Ramadan ends in two weeks please if you haven't yet, there is more food in the world now than ever, Please donate one lunch to a soup kitchen near you before September 19TH.

Todays quote
"Give to the near of kin his due, and also to the needy and the wayfarers. Do not squander your wealth wastefully; for those who squander wastefully are Satan's brothers, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord." (Qur'an 17:26 - 27)