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This One’s Hard to Write

Dear DREAM Supporter,

As salamu alaykum! Peace be upon you.

This email’s hard to write. But in the spirit of radical honesty and transparency, I’m just going to say it: we need your help to put the finishing touches on our transitional home rehab for formerly incarcerated men.

Rehabbing the nearly 100-year-old homes in our neighborhood can be hard sometimes. Especially when you start in the winter months, the timelines start to stretch out and budgets can wear thin. That repair your contractor estimated at $1,000 is actually $2,000. That roof you thought was secure? Turns out it had a sneaky leak at the chimney causing you to re-do work to fix unexpected water damage.

Anyone who’s ever worked in construction will tell you that these things happen. But none of that matters to the brothers in need of a place to start fresh right now. What’s a time and budget issue on paper for an organization is a daily struggle for the person anticipating a stable place to call home for a while. And that’s why it’s eating away at me.

Honestly, sending this email feels a little bit like failure because we’d hoped to have this home ready by Ramadan, but I have no choice but to humble myself and ask:

Can you make a tax-deductible donation today to help us finish this important rehab?

If we can raise $5,000 right now, we can get this thing done and move on from transforming a house to transforming lives, God-willing.

Any amount that you can give will help — and I’ll personally match the first $1,000.

Of course, as always, if you can’t give financially right now, your prayers are welcome 🙂

Thanks for your continued support.

Peace & Blessings,

Mark Crain and the Dream of Detroit Team

P.S. Some of our current neighborhood residents have fallen on hard times this past year and we’re collecting zakat for their expenses. Click here if you can support and help keep a roof over a family’s head.

P.P.S. Today, our local community is laying to rest an elder and longtime community servant, Brother Kofi Royal. He was a caretaker of the earth who touched many many lives. Please remember Brother Kofi in your prayers on this last Friday in Ramadan.

Bro. Kofi, center, planting a tree outside the Muslim Center at DREAM's first tree-planting day in 2015.

Bro. Kofi, center, planting a tree outside the Muslim Center at DREAM’s first tree-planting day in 2015.

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Tomorrow: Live ‘Diffused Congruence’ Recording in Inkster!

Dear DREAM Supporter,

As salamu alaykum! Peace be upon you.

We wanted to make sure that a few upcoming activities are on your radar!

Please join us tomorrow at Zaman International in Inkster, MI for a live recording of the Diffused Congruence podcast, with our project director, Mark Crain, Imam Dawud Walid of CAIR Michigan, and Hajjah Najah Bazzy of Zaman International.

RSVP here on Facebook and please share the event if you can!

Diffused Congruence

A Special Talk for Youth

Tomorrow afternoon, Imam Dawud Walid will lead a discussion, specifically for youth, at the Muslim Center about the topic of one of his latest books, Towards Sacred Activism. We highly encourage youth in the Detroit area to attend!

Save the Date: June 15 Neighborhood Cleanup

Saturday, June 15 is National Arab American Service Day and, in partnership with ACCESS, we’ll be bringing hundreds of volunteers to our neighborhood for a neighborhood cleanup and beautification day. On April 27, thanks to CrossFit in the D, you’ll have an opportunity to support the cleanup through fitness activities. Check out more:

Gift Fit For A Cause

Peace and blessings,

The Dream of Detroit Team

Donate Today

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Did You Catch the Detroit News Earlier this Week?

Did you catch the Detroit News earlier this week?

They ran a story about some special news: Islamic Relief USA granted DREAM $25K to support our LightWalk and Park!

We’ll be transforming an alley that leads right to our neighborhood mosque and community center into a beautiful, well-lit, walking path.

Gifts like this go a long way, especially for special projects like our LightWalk, and we’re incredibly grateful to Islamic Relief USA for their support.

Peace & Blessings,

The Dream of Detroit Team

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What Imam Zaid said about DREAM…

As salamu alaykum Dear DREAM Supporter and Friend,

I hope this note finds you in a state of good health and high spirits as the year winds down.

I’m reaching out to express my gratitude for your ongoing support, after what has been an incredibly inspiring year.

We set out 2018 with a vision to really cement our work in the areas of housing and community organizing. As a result, we’ve welcomed eight new neighbors to the area, and joined in two incredible coalitions to keep people in their homes and build safer communities. Then, on course with our long-term vision to see thriving businesses in the neighborhood, we graduated our 35th entrepreneur program student and brought out 1,800 people to our August Street Fair. And so much of that work has been done through the direction and the development of our volunteer leaders, with all sorts of support from folks like you.

One of my favorite events earlier this year was our “Building a Prophetic Hood” conversation with Imam Zaid Shakir. As Imam Zaid closed, he said, “And that’s how I see the Dream of Detroit–the fulfillment of a big dream of a lot of people, the fulfillment of the duas of a lot of people with many histories and many different roots.”

Truly, our work has brought together an inspiring array of people, rooted in shared values, respecting of rich histories, and committed to an empowered future. I consider it a blessing to be in this work every day.

Today, as 2018 is coming to a close and we try to hit the ground running in 2019, I hope you’ll consider making a donation of any amount to support Dream of Detroit.

As the new year rolls out, I’ll be excited to share with you our plans for the next 12, 18, and 24 months. Plans that are ambitious but achievable, and will take our efforts to an entirely new level, with the continued work and donations and prayers of this community that we’re building together.

Peace and blessings,

Mark Crain
Project Director
Dream of Detroit

P.S. If you want to see Imam Zaid’s full closing remarks from our event in March, click here:

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A Win for Detroit Homeowners

Dear Dream of Detroit Supporter,

As salamu alaykum! Peace be upon you.

This week, Detroit homeowners got a big win in City Council when the Homeowners Property Tax Assistance Program Ordinance was passed. The work was led by members of the Coalition to End Unconstitutional Tax Foreclosures and codifies agreements made by the city in an ACLU settlement earlier this year. While the Coalition sees other opportunities for improvements in the process to allow even more homeowners access to resources to save their homes, here’s what a spokesperson said about this week’s victory:

“This ordinance secures many gains that will undoubtedly make it easier for homeowners in need of relief to obtain the exemption they are entitled to, and in the process, keep more families in their homes. As a coalition, we will not stop until everyone who is eligible for the exemption receives it.”

It Just Got Easier For Poor Detroiters To Get Poverty Tax Exemptions

Here are a few photos from the Community Workshop on the Property Tax Foreclosure Crisis that we hosted a few days before the hearing:

Community Workshop on the Property Tax Foreclosure Crisis

Amazon Link

Shop locally, but if you’re using Amazon, select DREAM of Detroit as your beneficiary when shopping at smile.amazon.com today.

We’ve Extended the Art Auction deadline!

We’ve extended the deadline for several of our pieces until next Friday, November 30. Check them out and make your bid today:

Art Piece

Support Our Work – Donate Today

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Our Project Homecoming Transitional House Has Hit its Goal!

 

We’re excited to share that, thanks to the Most High, the crowdfunding campaign for our Project Homecoming transitional house has hit its goal! Soon, we’ll be underway with the rehab for this welcoming place to call home for returning citizens.

DREAM is striving to rehabilitate more than just homes—we want to rehabilitate our entire neighborhood. That means being in and working with communities hurt by institutional racism, poverty, and the violence of the prison industrial complex.

Helping brothers come home to a more stable and rewarding life and maintain the transformation and redemption they’ve undergone is some of the most important work we can do—and we can only do it with community support.

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Restoring Dignity

Dear DREAM Supporter,

As salamu alaykum. Peace be upon you.

Today, I stood beside a family on the Westside of Detroit whose home was taken from them through an illegal foreclosure. Sonja Bonnett and her family bought their first home for $20,000 in 2012, after saving for years. But in 2015, after the City of Detroit overvalued the house and demanded an inflated property tax payment, the Bonnett’s lost their home to property tax foreclosure. Wayne County then sold it to an investor for just $500. Today, it still sits vacant.

This story can be told at least 10,000 times—that’s the number of families that had their homes foreclosed on because of illegal property assessments between 2011 and 2016.

Today’s event marked a positive outcome. Working with the Coalition to End Unconstitutional Tax Foreclosures, Mrs. Bonnett and her family were gifted a new home through the Dignity Housing Restoration Program. It’s an initiative that seeks to model what the city, county, and state governments should be collaborating to do—namely, paying back the thousands of families whose lives were interrupted because of bureaucracy, mismanagement, and a lack of basic concern and respect for our neighbors.

I was proud to stand next to Mrs. Bonnett today as she delivered powerful remarks calling for an end to this crisis. But I was on the verge of tears thinking about the literally countless individuals who won’t find this same opportunity. Mrs. Bonnett herself talked of feeling guilty that she was one of the few to receive this gift.

Mrs. Bonnett and a crowd of people behind her

This was a stark way to end my Ramadan—a month of restraint, of increased giving, and of heightened sensitivity to the world around us. The world we’re charged with stewarding with justice and mercy by our Creator.

When injustice has become the norm, we almost forget the debilitating impacts it can have on its victims. It’s good to be reminded on days like today that restoring dignity is at the core of our work.

It’s central to our work to preserve a neighborhood decimated by these same foreclosures. It’s central to our work to provide housing and a second chance for brothers coming out of prison. It’s even central to our work to train a new wave of small business owners, empowered to earn their own living and become helpers of others. Dignity restoration is central—period.

I’m also ending this month grateful for the immense generosity of our Dream of Detroit community. In less than three weeks, you’ve brought us within a few thousand dollars of being able to start the rehab on the Project Homecoming Transitional House, and made it possible for us to host our street fair for the second year in a row. I’ve met countless people this month who have asked when they can come volunteer or bring their youth to get involved. And our core group of volunteers—our leaders—are stepping up in all new and inspiring ways.

So as I close this email, I’m feeling both challenge and resolve. And I’m as thankful as ever for the opportunity to serve this community.

Wishing you and your families a blessed Eid al-Fitr,

Mark
Dream of Detroit Project Director

Donate to Dream of Detroit

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Project Homecoming – A Letter from Imam Mika’il

I’ve had the honor of serving the Detroit Muslim community for more than half of my life—first under the leadership of the late Imam Luqman Abdullah, later as the imam of Masjid al Aqabah, and as the Assistant Director at al-Ikhlas Training Academy, Detroit’s only K-12 Islamic school.

These roles have given me a broad and holistic view of our community. And I can tell you from that experience that Project Homecoming, DREAM’s new transitional house project, could be a gamechanger for us.

That’s why, as these blessed days of Ramadan wind down, I’m writing to ask for your support.

When I was at Masjid al Haqq on Detroit’s Westside, we had a strong outreach program to local Muslim inmates. And brothers knew that when they got out, they could come to the masjid for refuge—for a place to stay and to find brotherhood.

There was no judgment—our imam believed in total redemption and reconciliation. That’s the spirit we can offer brothers with Project Homecoming as well. But what’s more is that we can provide a path for these brothers to become forces for good in their community.

Personally, I’ve seen it happen before. At Masjid al Aqabah, we operated a neighborhood patrol that, among other things, kept a sense of peace at night and secured the early morning school routes for children.

You can’t tell me that these guys don’t love community or that they’re not going to protect people with their lives. Because they come from another reality, where that was never a problem. They’ve protected things that were worth less with their lives. Many times, brothers see an opportunity to serve in this way as part of their path to redemption.

A project like this is worth investing in because it can have a truly transformative effect—on individual lives and the community as a whole.

So many brothers falter as the leave the prison system and realize that Muslim communities out here don’t quite function the same way they do inside. That reliance on prison culture impacts their ability to be truly free.

I believe that our job is to be organized, to systematically and compassionately integrate these brothers into our community, and to lend a hand in helping them thrive.

We appreciate you being a part of this critical work. On behalf of DREAM, thank you for your support. May the Most High accept all our good deeds this month and always.

-Imam Mika’il Stewart-Saadiq

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My Sentence Started with 2 Charges of Armed Robbery—But it Ended with Somebody Committed to Reforming Himself

My prison sentence started with two charges of armed robbery—but it ended with somebody committed to reforming himself.

I was guided to this way of life in 1987 and I’ve been on a journey ever since. A journey that’s taken me through various Shia and Sunni communities, including the community of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, through multiple prisons, and through the traditional beliefs and practices taught by the Tayba Foundation. Just as it has for thousands of other incarcerated students, Tayba helped me grow in my education and in my moral foundation. Helping students with successful reentry is the next step.

That’s why I’m excited to be a part of the Project Homecoming transitional house with Tayba and DREAM, and why I’m asking you to consider donating today.

Along my journey I learned to speak, read, and write Arabic—but in prison, getting access to Arabic-language resources on Islam is nearly impossible. All across the country, prison staff are known to discriminate against Muslim inmates. And that discrimination turns into policy.

It means no books to learn and teach the deen. It means no halal food in the cafeteria (I can’t tell you how many years I lived on peanut butter and jelly and ramen noodles). It means that a lot of us are left unguided.

And what’s worse, is that if and when we’re finally able to come home, a lot of us are also left unsupported. You might face condemnation from your family. Often times, you won’t find any place to stay. By the grace of God, a local imam allowed me to start serving at his masjid and provided me a room. Had it not been for him, I would have been homeless. But I was blessed, because that’s not something that can work for everyone.

So even if you reach the point of learning to focus on the internal struggle of improving yourself, you have to face the hardest external struggles just to get by.

Having studied with Tayba while incarcerated, and having seen Dream of Detroit’s work in the community, I’m committed to Project Homecoming. That’s why I signed up to be the first house manager, to share whatever I’ve learned to help brothers get back on their feet.

I hope you’ll make a donation today so that we can be sure the Project Homecoming house can open up this year—that we can finish the house rehab and get started with the important work of welcoming brothers home.

I can’t tell you how crucial it is to be in a safe, drug and alcohol-free environment. To have help getting your essentials like a license and health care. And to be surrounded by other brothers all encouraging each other down a positive path. For some brothers, this could be their one shot at survival.

With the help of the Most Gracious, we’re going to make this work. And in the years ahead, God-willing, hundreds of brothers will successfully pass through our house. Meaning that today’s donations from supporters like you could change lives for years to come.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. May God bless you in these final days of Ramadan.

-Abdul Bari

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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