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Our Summer as DREAM Interns

To kick off our summer, we attended a two day orientation that covered the history and vision of DREAM. We had a wonderful time as we went around the neighborhood and listened in on the insites, history, and events that brought our community to where it is today. This was a kickoff to all of the work and events we would be planning and working on for the next 2.5 months in our neighborhood. 

Highlights

A big project we worked on was taking over the social media content by starting Dream Through the Years. We gathered all of DREAM’s progress and activities over the past nine years into a series of short comprehensible posts. 

One of our most successful projects was planning and executing DREAM’s July movie night. Through this process, we were able to experience elements of intentional community-building firsthand by planning and promoting the event, handling all logistics, and then setting up on site and running the movie night. This served as a major learning experience to us as we navigated the ins and outs of event planning while specifically customizing it for our neighborhood.

Our first fundraising campaign was the Buena Vista campaign. This was a project close and dear to us because in order to properly campaign for this project, we had to dive deep into Br. Dawud’s story and document it from all different perspectives. Br. Dawud is the Project Homecoming transitional house manager and we were able to see and experience first-hand the depth, value, and hard work that individuals had on the development DREAM (and the local mosque) and were able to translate this content into a message of action to the rest of the world.

Another big project one of us worked hard on was producing a 2021 Impact Report that highlighted our past and current work for our upcoming 10th year anniversary. She worked hard to format and design this report over our summer. 

To hear more highlights, check out our videos on DREAM’s Instagram.

Engaging in the Community

Throughout the summer, we made a particular effort to involve ourselves within the community setting. A week before the internship started, we all made it out to the Motor City Makeover where we worked hard with the rest of the volunteers to clear and further beautify the parking lot and areas around the Muslim Center.

We also got to involve ourselves even more in the neighborhood with some of our local canvassing projects. We went around the blocks distributing and advertising for their movie night. Later on, we also partnered with the Block Club to go around the ten Longfellow blocks and record every home that didn’t have a recycling bin. Throughout that week, we succeeded in ordering over 100 recycling bins and had them delivered directly to the residents. 

Towards the end of the summer, we got to attend a Longfellow Block Club Meeting. We got to see members of this and neighboring neighborhoods collectively engage in dialogue and decision making to make change and progress within their community.

Experiences as a Team

Some of our favorite memories are the work we did to directly influence the neighborhood. We worked on the Project Homecoming house by building furniture and putting up wall decorations to beautify the home for its beautiful residents. 

Earlier on, we may have started to voice frustration about sitting in the office all day. So Mark took us out to meet John Throne from the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance. This was an organization that did work similar to DREAM except on the East side. This meeting succeeded in giving us a sense of a bigger effort in Detroit. Seeing the progress on the East side strengthened our resolve to reinforce progress on the West side. 

A couple of weeks ago we also met councilwoman Amanda Jaczowski. She is a highlight for us and a huge inspiration because, but not restricted to, her religious background, the challenges she overcame, her resolve, and the love she has for her community.

A fun day for us was when we went out to lunch at The Congregation. We had great food and then went on a walk as we once again explored the history and circumstances that brought that neighborhood to where it is today. 

 In Their Own Words

Iman Abdallah 

‘Working at DREAM gave me a newfound respect for people who work for no applause; who put in so much time even when there isn’t always visible progress. This is the most important work as it is the foundation for the successes and progress that come later. ‘

Ajwa Aziz

‘My favorite part of working with Dream was experiencing the teamwork and the camaraderie of the community. Everyone is so welcoming and kind to one another. ‘

Lamond Ridgeway

‘Being able to participate in the making of our events was a highlight for me this summer.’

Buraq Oral

‘I love the culture of neighborliness that is instilled at DREAM and I hope to bring these same values to any space that I enter in the future. ‘

Zahra Basha

‘It’s empowering and inspiring to understand just how much this community and neighborhood had to overcome to get to this point. The individuals here are so welcoming and make working here such an incredible learning experience. ‘

 

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Getting Free (Juneteenth)

In the weeks since George Floyd was murdered brutally by police, we’ve witnessed the faultline of racism crack open across the country and the world with a force many of us have never seen in our lifetimes. Protests that started in the name of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have given way to demands to defund police, change the way we memorialize history, and reinvest in Black communities.

Many of us have marched, donated, and educated or been educated. Yet when the protests wane and streets empty, what do we do? How can we continue to raise the banner of affirming the value of Black life?

Today, on Juneteenth, we’re asking you to keep raising that banner by re-committing to helping us build a liberated community on the westside of Detroit. A community that protects itself. A community in control of its own future. A community of people who have been agitated and awakened and empowered. An organized community.

Since its inception, DREAM has bridged cultures. We’ve connected Muslims from urban and suburban communities, descendants of those enslaved and descendants of immigrants. We’ve tied our Black Muslim community even closer to the folks living around us in our 90%-Black neighborhood. And we’ve tied our faith community to movements for racial and social justice in Detroit. Why? Because we have a moral imperative to oppose oppression, to fight racism, and to do the work of supporting our neighbors—the people we’re in community with.

DREAM’s staff, interns, and volunteer leaders have been busy over the past few weeks. We’ve spoken to hundreds of people in the metro Detroit area about racism and this moment of change that we’re all experiencing together. But we’ve also continued the daily work of rebuilding our neighborhood—moving a new family in just last weekend, repairing damaged homes, relocating our office to make space for more residents, and deepening our work with partners.

We’ve worked before and through this moment because we know full well that when the mass outrage fades, the media finds a new focus, and we’re all absorbed by our own problems again, the work for real liberation still continues. We hope that when that time comes, you’ll still be right here working with us to get free.

May all our hearts turn toward justice and may you be blessed with well-being in this time and always,

The Dream of Detroit team

P.S. Here’s a look at some of the programs we’ve been involved in over the last few weeks and a quote from one of our volunteer leaders in the Ann Arbor News:

 

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“This House Has Literally Changed My Life!”

“I live in the most awesome neighborhood in the world. I am blessed and fortunate to have a DREAM artist residency on this street. This house has literally changed my life. It’s given me a haven for my children and a place to call home during the pandemic.”

That was how our neighbor and artist-in-residence Tasneem Maryum happily described being in our community for an incredible Michigan Radio (NPR) segment that you have to hear:

From festivals to weddings to Eid celebrations and community memorials, Sister Tasneem’s photography has captured so many moments of true Detroit history. It was an honor having her join the neighborhood as the first artist-in-residence at Indus Detroit. And now, we’re happy she’ll be staying our neighbor—she’ll be moving into a renovated home just around the corner.

This story is only possible because of the community land trust we’re establishing to create permanent affordability in our neighborhood. The work to get here has been powered by this community and so we’re asking for your help again. Can you chip in to this emergency LaunchGood campaign so we can add the next renovated home to our land trust?

 

Over the years, our neighborhood has been ravished by foreclosures and bad appraisals. As our partner Eric Williams from the Detroit Justice Center shared in the radio segment, “People who are renting a home on a community land trust or who are leasing the land there, are much less likely to go into foreclosure than people residing in other circumstances.” That’s why this is timely and critical.

In the interview, our executive director Mark Crain is quoted critiquing speculators who hold onto property in Detroit neighborhoods and says, “We think there’s a big return now.” For DREAM, that return isn’t necessarily financial, it’s helping more people like Sr. Tasneem call our neighborhood home.

 

We’re preparing this home for the most lovely new yelder (young elder) couple you’ll meet this year. If we can raise $100,000 , we can have this home move-in ready for them by December, God-willing. Can you chip in to help this family AND our Community Land Trust? 

 

We’re building a model that provides homes for families, stabilizes our housing and raises its values, while locking in permanent, affordable housing to protect our neighborhood from gentrification. Even as we’re scaling this work, we’re also doing this house by house—with the help of our community.

Whether it’s to keep a gem like Sister Tasneem in our neighborhood or helping a new couple start life together close to their mosque and community center, our community’s support is what makes this work and service possible. Today, we’re asking for your help again.

 

Please donate today and share this page to help another family, our land trust, and our campaign get off to strong starts.

Peace & Blessings,
The Dream of Detroit Team

P.S. The NPR interview also touched on the ongoing mortgage crisis for Black Detroiters, with Crain saying, “What we’re seeing is that they are predominantly going to white folks.” Here, we were referencing Detroit Future City data that indicates 27% of Black applicants are denied mortgages in the city today, compared to just 13% of whites. Upper-income Black applicants are actually rejected at a higher rate than moderate-income white applicants, 23% to 20%. Under these circumstances, our work for housing equity and justice are absolute necessities.

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Sankofa: Black Muslim Legacy Convening

Sankofa is a word from the Twi language in Ghana, which means “go back and get it.” Conceptually, it means to look to the past and reclaim our heritage as a way to move our people forward. We thought it was the perfect word to describe an oral history project that was initiated by and is further inspiring a progressive community development organization.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we embarked on a journey to capture oral histories from as many of the living legends and emerging leaders in our community as we could. We called them our Storytellers. We started by recording  on zoom because we were so uncertain about gathering back then, and later moved onto in-person interviews.

Our Storyteller interviews featured people from across generations, with an emphasis on elders in our community who have given in service for many years. They were conducted by a team of eight young interns, high school and college-aged, who learned the process of ethnographic interviewing as well as skills in videography. By working with professionals like anthropologist Dr. Alisa Perkins, radio,TV and film producer Malikah Shabazz, and documentary-maker Razi Jafri, we prepared these eight interns to produce the best content possible.

Two years later, on May 14th, 2022, we gathered with our community to officially launch the storytellers project to celebrate and recognize the work our young interns have put in to collect 50 precious oral histories from our local Black Muslim community. At the Sankofa event, we also were given the opportunity to recruit another cohort of youth for another 50 testimonials that will further move the project forward.

From there, students at several universities helped edit and transcribe the interviews so they could be stored in a fully-accessible public archive, available for anyone to benefit from, now into the distant future. We believe that authors and researchers will find priceless value in these recordings for years; that people of every age and background can find inspiration in these stories; and that other communities will find a model for documenting their significant histories as well.

 

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I Left My Job Because of DREAM

Dear DREAM Supporter, as salamu alaykum.

My name is Dawud Clark and three months ago I left my job because of DREAM. I wanted to tell you why.

You see, when I got introduced to DREAM in 2019, I was living in a hotel, riding my bike back and forth to the Muslim Center masjid. I had a job, thank God, but not having a stable, long-term place to call home was a huge struggle.

Well, DREAM gave me that home. They invited me to be the first resident at Project Homecoming, our transitional home for formerly incarcerated men. Then, earlier this year, Brother Mark reached out and asked if I would become the House Manager. It was a part-time position and I knew it’d be the perfect way to help brothers who were in the same position as I had been in. Shortly after that, I was able to join the Facilities team at the Muslim Center too! I’m there every single day, and it’s a serious blessing.

So you see, I left my job because, thanks to DREAM and this community we’re building together, I’m getting to do everything I ever asked when Allah gave me another chance.

That’s why I hope you’ll support us to DREAM BIGGER with a donation to our campaign today.

Image of Dawud Clark

The support that you and others have provided so far has ben critical in helping our first residents get back on their feet after long-term incarceration. A lot of times, brothers end up in places that are highly transitory, loose environments, full of drugs and alcohol. It’s the exact opposite of what’s good for them. At Project Homecoming, we put brothers in a stable environment with loving rules, supportive programs, real community, and nothing in the refrigerator that’s not halal!

These days, I’m in touch with 30 or so brothers inside the Michigan Department of Corrections to spread the word about our house and to work with brothers as they approach parole. When we reached out to our first 10 people to explain what our program offered, every last brother said, “alhamdulillah, this is what we need. How can we help?” And then they started making connections.

I’m excited for this year. We get to start with our study circles again. We have several residents in the pipeline. We’re planning new job training. I hope we have a lot more to share with you in the coming months.

If you appreciate what we’re trying to do, please do start this year by making a small donation to support the work.

Dawud Clark
House Manager
Project Homecoming

Donate Today

 

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Humbled by our Largest Gift Ever

A Bigger Dream

Dear DREAM Supporter,

As salamu alaykum! Peace be upon you.

I wanted to share some big news!

DREAM has now received our single largest grant to date: $250,000 from The Henry Luce Foundation over the next three years to keep capturing our histories, telling our own story, and re-framing the narrative through DREAM’s Detroit Muslim Storytelling Project!

In the midst of a pandemic that’s had a toll in our community that hurts to think about sometimes, we’ve been blessed to capture the lasting stories of individuals and families who have helped to sustain and continually transform Detroit’s Black Muslim community over the last five decades. Eventually we’ll launch a dynamic, virtual home for these stories, but we’re also storing them for posterity in an archive at Western Michigan University, where they’ll always be accessible, God-willing.

This gift, one of several to projects examining and reframing race, justice, and religion in the U.S., will allow us to expand the oral history project as well as truly professionalize a more a forward-looking documentary piece that explores our work in the neighborhood.

Post from The Henry Luce Foundation

This project started as a nugget of an idea at a volunteer iftar in 2019. By early 2020, we had some initial funding from our friends at Pillars Fund and were ready to start recording oral histories and planning for a really short documentary. We all know what happened then.

But we persisted! We went virtual with our oral histories, and recorded 18 of our first 50 interviews on zoom. Guided by our professional support team, we trained local youth in community ethnography skills, as well as interviewing and filming. Support from the Whiting Foundation allowed us to continue this work all throughout the worst of the lockdown and start to plan for a larger project.

This latest grant will now be instrumental in doubling the output of our oral history project and turning a 15-minute video into a 60-minute documentary, God-willing.

[DREAM] enlisted filmmakers, activists, and young people from metro-Detroit’s Black Muslim communities to take leading roles in gathering oral histories and producing a documentary about Detroit-based African American Muslim leaders and the communities they serve. “This approach recognizes that insider community members have the most grounded and reliable knowledge about the issues that affect them,” said Dr. Alisa Perkins, Project Director & WMU Associate Professor

We’re so grateful to the Luce Foundation for recognizing our work and providing the resources for us to take it even further.

And we also want you to know that these gifts are made to organizations like ours only after we’ve shown a substantial and consistent base of supporters. So thank you for making this type of opportunity possible.

Peace and Blessings,

The Dream of Detroit Team

P.S. Here’s a look at five of our interns reviewing some of their work during a videography and interview training this summer with radio, T.V., and film producer Malikah Shabazz.

Images from Training from Summer

Donate Today

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A Revived Vision for DREAM

Dear DREAM Supporter,
As salamu alaykum! Peace be upon you.

As we enter the second week of our fundraising campaign, really our first like it in almost eight years, I want to start by saying thank you, and re-introducing you to Dream of Detroit.

What started as a charitable home rehab on an ailing block in 2013 has turned into a staffed community development organization that engages thousands of people and has a bold vision for tomorrow: to build new homes in a left-behind neighborhood, open innovative businesses on our economic main street, and engage ten times as many residents and volunteers in our organizing and service work.

Our mission is clear: to combine community organizing with housing and land development to revitalize our neighborhood and build a healthy community. And we have a real track record of rehabbing houses, bringing new economic activity to our area, and building relationships that help the residents in our neighborhood have the best quality of life possible.

On a personal note, I’m grateful to finally have the chance to lead DREAM full-time as Executive Director after years of growing this project as one volunteer among many, all of whom had other full-time endeavors. Giving this organization my total attention has been a dream 😉 for a long time, and the conversations I’ve recently had with people — ranging from our earliest supporters to new senior foundation relationships, to folks both young and old — have left me humbled, hopeful, and inspired about our organization’s future.

And in the spirit of inspiration and the future, I want to formally introduce you to the new and inspired look of Dream of Detroit:

Dream of Detroit

Every part of our new logo means something:

Dream of Detroit

I’m so grateful that you’ve been along this ride with us so far. Please stay close as we enter into this next phase.

Check out our new website when you get a chance.

And don’t forget to chip in to our crowdfunding campaign. Remember, every small gift matters, and the sharing is just as important. My best to you and yours — and looking forward to sharing more with you over this next month.

Peace and blessings,

Mark Crain
Executive Director

 

Donate today

 

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We’ve Been Quiet this Year

Dear DREAM Supporter,
As salamu alaykum! Peace be upon you.

This second year of the pandemic has posed some interesting challenges for DREAM. Uncertainties around public health rules, vaccine and mask adoption, and public willingness to gather all made it difficult to plan. On top of that, some capacity crunches made it harder for us to stay in touch with you than we normally like.

Still we wanted you to know that we made the most of this year, and we wanted to make sure you saw some news and photos from some of this year’s biggest events.

Please check out these event recaps and photos below. And stay tuned, because we’ve got some special stuff to share starting on Tuesday.

Motor City Makeover

Motor City Makeover

When about 40 of us gathered for Motor City Makeover in the Spring, it was our first event in nearly 18 months. Thankfully, we had a wonderful turnout and spent the day planting a flower field, spring cleaning the Muslim Center, and picking up garbage around the neighborhood.

Longfellow Block Club

Longfellow Block Club

The Longfellow Block Club had an eventful year. After meeting over zoom for several months, we finally met outside for some valuable in-person time. We hosted a listening session for the City’s American Rescue Plan funding and almost helped bring a new school to the neighborhood. It didn’t pan out ultimately but it was an incredible learning opportunity for us.

Coalition for Property Tax Justice

Coalition for Property Tax Justice

The Coalition for Property Tax Justice has been active all year, pushing for our three goals: stopping the continued over-assessment of Detroit properties, halting the property tax foreclosure of owner-occupied homes, and getting compensation for Detroiters who lost their homes in the property tax foreclosure crisis. This year, owner-occupied homes were exempted from the Wayne County Tax Auction. This was ostensibly because of Covid-19, but it didn’t happen without a lot of agitation from our coalition and a direct meeting with the Treasurer’s office by DREAM and our partners. We’re aiming for the same in 2022, God-willing.

New Commercial Property

New Commercial Property

This summer, we launched an emergency 48-hour campaign to raise funds to purchase the ideal commercial lot in our neighborhood. Our supporters are so incredible, so we were able to raise the funds we needed and win the auction to secure this important piece of vacant land, six parcels in total. We’re now planning the next steps and have already had some promising conversations with potential partners.

Day of Dignity

Day of Dignity

We were able to bring Day of Dignity back to the Westside of Detroit this year working with our partners at Islamic Relief USA. Some 500 folks received clothes, coats, hygiene items, school kits, warm food, and more. Partners like the HUDA Clinic, Detroit Training Center, and others provided information and referral services.

DREAM 2021 Leadership Retreat

DREAM 2021 Leadership Retreat

After a two-year hiatus, nearly 20 of us were able to gather for the second-ever DREAM Leadership Retreat just a few weeks ago. It was an incredible opportunity for re-grounding ourselves in our values, for relationship building, and for visioning together, as we enter an important phase of our work.

Thanks for taking a read! If you want to share it with others, you can share a webpage version.

We really can’t wait to share more with you in the coming weeks, God-willing.

Peace & Blessings,
The Dream of Detroit Team

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Saturday: Day of Dignity 2021

Dear DREAM Supporter,
As salamu alaykum! Peace be upon you.

Day of Dignity is back at the Muslim Center in 2021… Come on out this Saturday!

Each year, Islamic Relief USA partners with local organizations across the country to host Day of Dignity, an opportunity to provide neighbors with essential household and personal items as we get into the colder months.

Here in Detroit, we also work with our local partners like the HUDA Clinic, various job placement services, and social service providers to make crucial resources and referrals available to community members.

This year, Day of Dignity will take place from 9:30am to 1pm this coming Saturday, and there’s still time to spread the word or sign up to volunteer.

Day of Dignity

Photo of Day of Dignity

Peace & Blessings,
The Dream of Detroit Team

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Thank you!

Dear DREAM Supporter,
As salamu alaykum! Peace be upon you.

Absolutely incredible. In just two days, we came together and raised $55,000 to purchase a critical piece of land in our neighborhood! While our campaign came up just a bit short, we were able to work with a couple key supporters to make sure we had the difference and could pay the seller on time.

We can’t say thank you enough to everyone who donated, shared, prayed, or hoped for the success of this drive. Finally, after years of waiting, we own the most ideal future site for DREAM’s first commercial development.

We’re in the beginning of an important strategic planning period right now, thoroughly assessing all that we’ve done so far and where DREAM is headed in the next 5, 10, and 20 years. Now, we can factor this potential cornerstone property into our plans.

We’ll be in touch again about this location when we have some significant updates. Thanks again for all your continued support.

Peace and Blessings,

The Dream of Detroit Team

Capturing Community: Digital Storytelling and Community-Driven Archives Speaker Series

Don’t Miss this Special Event Coming Up Thursday

Thursday, September 23
7:00pm et
Webex Meeting

Join DREAM’s executive director Mark Crain and Western Michigan associate professor Dr. Alisa Perkins to learn how the Detroit Muslim Storytelling Project is capturing and documenting oral histories in order to build and disseminate knowledge about the history and scope of African-American Muslim community leadership in Detroit. Register today for the virtual event.

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"The true life that God wants for all people—not one people—their true life is a life of cooperation… community life!"
- Imam W.D. Mohammed