SHARE Atlanta and The Day of Dignity
The Event Coordinator Looks Back
by Thamani Akbar-Williams, Board of Trustees, SHARE Atlanta, Inc.
A sunny autumn Saturday was the perfect backdrop for the variegated colors of humanity and bright spirits and hearts of those assembled to share and receive the special gifts of a day of significance. So appropriately called, The Day of Dignity on September 20th was a beautiful happening. SHARE Atlanta teamed up with Islamic Relief to host a wonderful Ramadan event at the intersection of Martin Luther King and Broad Streets in downtown Atlanta. They provided food, health screenings, voter registration, and giveaways to 1500 of Atlanta’s homeless and needy.
The Day of Dignity took place in eighteen cities across the United States, including Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, and Phoenix in the West; Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis in the Midwest; New York, Newark(SHARE), Elizabeth, and Paterson in the Northeast; Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta in the South. In Ramadan 2007, an estimated 30,000 people nation-wide were fed through this event. In Ramadan 2008, Muslims again joined together to serve Allah and reach out in the spirit of Suratul-Ma’un, inspiring hope and offering kindness, respect, and dignified treatment to those in need.
At 8 a.m. 200 volunteers representing thirty masjids in the surrounding Metropolitan Atlanta area appeared. One volunteer showed up from Houston, Texas, excited and ready to help! Pharmacy students from the University of Georgia in Athens came to screen for diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol, while a team from Fulton County Health and Wellness provided HIV/AIDS screening and shared information on dental health for children. They offered blessings with their dedication, kind treatment, and courteous interactions to recipients expecting only a warm meal.
Several organizations of Muslims joined with SHARE Atlanta to provide the delicious food and serve those waiting in line. The methods used to package the prepared foods are a testament to the organizational skills of SHARE Atlanta Chair, Khayriyyah Faiz. She also is Chair of Sisters United in Human Service, Inc., an organization that consistently feeds the needy and has done so for the past eleven years.
This Muslim-sponsored event set a high standard in service and accommodations, of which SHARE Atlanta and its partners are especially proud. Many places in Atlanta that offer meals have no place to sit and comfortably eat the food. On the Day of Dignity, recipients ate at large tables arranged under twenty-foot tents in an environment of comfort, dignity, and human regard.
After the meal, two trucks pulled up and volunteers distributed 100 cases of Hygiene Paks sent by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints along with blankets and tote bags donated by Islamic Relief. Vision International handed out $50,000 worth of sheets and comforters. Headed by Rahan Sayeeb, this group of young Muslim entrepreneurs are the wholesale distributors of linens for Costco and Family Dollar stores. Raja’ee Naim Mujahid, another young Muslim entrepreneur and designer of ACOUSTIKAL T-shirts, donated $20,000 in T- shirts. (Recipients wearing the shirts were seen the following day at other feeding locations.) We thank Allah the Most High for the generous spirit of charity so richly demonstrated during our holy month of Ramadan. We pray this continues throughout the year.
This was the first time that Atlanta was represented in the Day of Dignity. As a Board member, I represented SHARE Atlanta and had the fine experience of meeting members of various organizations from the participating cities. As the Event Coordinator, I attended a training weekend in Dallas, Texas in May to prepare for the event. It was a challenging four months to coordinate the frame of the event, gather the volunteers, raise funds to support our big vision, secure permits, coordinate security, street closings and other tasks. SHARE Atlanta board members pitched in on every level to assist with the implementation of this event, knowing that the mission and vision of this undertaking was clearly the Will of Allah, The Most High!
Each participant I spoke to felt recurring peace and joy. Many shared sincere expressions of gratitude—“God bless you.” “We really appreciate what you did.” An elderly gentleman on a cane summed it all up for me that afternoon: “I came to thank you personally. This is the nicest thing anyone has done for me in many years.” He limped away slowly, clutching his new comforter. His words filled me with a resounding joy and deep gratitude to Allah. It was truly a blessed endeavor—a blessed Day of Dignity.