Rooted in Faith: Justice for Juniors
Originally published on March 29th, 2019
Originally published on DAH Blog
let’s talk about race
By: Hanan Seid
“Our Actions should include actions to uphold justice: Our prophet upheld justice not only for his own community but for others outside his community, standing with those who are marginalized, and oppressed; standing against supremacy that harms not just our community but has harmed other communities before us, for generations, (the Seerah of our Prophet (SAW))”
Black history month isn’t just celebrating the accomplishments and sacrifices but recognizing the flaws in the system, black history month is never over for some of us. As of 2015, Black and Latino’s youth make up about 15 percent of the United States population yet this minority group continues to make up about 56% percent of the incarcerated population (NAACP). The racial disparities remain astounding, year after year.
Often a lot of people question how racism can be systemic especially in today’s “post-race,” “post-feminist era.” What’s the saying? Once is a chance, twice is coincidence thrice is a pattern. We see what we want to see. We see black culture through the lens of white culture and assume that because of that, they deserve to be incarcerated. “Black people are loud and talk back, of course, they are going to jail.” This thinking is dangerous and allows this system by algorithms to be consistent, and unchanging.
Every year depending on how many black males are born a new room is built in jail for them to inhabit. When a black male is in juvie, another room is secure for them as a convicted felon in a maximum-security prison cell. It is the loophole that keeps sucking them back into incarceration. The must-see Netflix documentary, Thirteenth, encapsulates the thirteenth amendment. The amendment that abolishes slavery has a loophole. The only time slavery is allowed is when it comes to incarceration. Across the country, inmates are forced to fight fires in California, and many of them were being left behind in North Carolina during the hurricane. They work for less than 25 cents per day/hour, forced legal slavery, see the PBS Documentary, Slavery by Another Name.
“Its 1960s for these kids,” Deputy Outreach Director, Fazia Deen says. For the past four years, she has been the DAH central force with volunteer-mentors to the Youth Services Center of DC. Why Washington DC? It’s the Nation’s Capital, where laws are passed, less than a 20-minute drive from our Virginia Mosque, and our Interfaith and Outreach work. This interfaith mentorship program often overlooked, and yet, among other community short- and long-term benefits, it attempts to reduce recidivism among the youths of all faiths detained. Over the years, the number of volunteer-mentors has dwindled due to new increased and burdensome application hurdles competing with other private programs.
How many black youth make up the Youth Services Center of DC you ask? About 99%. The rest: Latino. The retention rate is close to a staggering 80%. Some detainees may prefer to remain detained, where they are fed, schooled, and, sheltered away from the streets of violence, even if it’s just for a Court-Ordered time.
It’s essential that we take advantage of being part of their lives. The youth of today are the adults and leaders of tomorrow. Justice for Juniors is an interfaith mentorship program that involves many different churches, universities, and Dar Al-Hijrah. Although dawah is not our primary mission on Monday evenings, our hijabs become a source of religious knowledge for the curious detainees. They wonder and ask questions, this begins the conversation. Many converts who claim Islam as their belief, mostly learn their religious duties from the streets. Others can come from households where some families might be Muslim.
What should you expect?
Detainees, young men, and women are segregated by gender at the Center. From the outside, the facility doesn’t look like a typical detention center. Mentor-volunteers must present a picture ID upon entering the first security checkpoint. Mentors meet in the classroom halls at the back of the facility. At least once per year, we arrange training for new mentors, where the facility directors go over protocols for the pods and rules for communicating with the detainees. Lead mentors go over weekly lesson plans, then, mentors are divided into groups. Security badges are provided and mentors are then ushered by officers to the pods upstairs. You will be assigned a pod with a group of mentor-volunteers. The time spent is limited as our program leaves just one hour before they are free, and bedtime. Sometimes, they are frustrated by the interruption; and other times, they look forward to our mentorship especially when the lesson plan allows room for organic deviation and is more interactive.
Expect the unexpected. Fazia Deen recalls a time they were finally allowed into the young women’s pod, “We walked in, and were immediately greeted with hostility when one of the detainees cursed at us, was abrasive in demeanor for about five to ten minutes. Being seasoned mentors, we sat patiently and listened to her, when she finished, we started to read the lesson plan assigned for that day; as we came to the description of a young girl growing up without parents, she snatched the reading plan away and said, ‘ you don’t have to read this, I can tell you my story…’ Fazia remembers how quiet everyone became as they listened to the horrors of the detainee’s life. Everyone, even the officers in the room became saddened. “After we exchanged communication. The young detainee allowed Fazia to hug her.”
How can you make a difference? There are many impactful stories to tell. I would like to personally say that Fazia Deen, goes beyond the call of duty, and she has stepped up in so many ways, often without seeking credit. Our Outreach and Government affairs departments are doing a lot of empowering things.
What do you need to know?
Day: Mondays — mentor-volunteers meet at 5:00 pm and return at 8:00 pm.
In order to volunteer for mentorship, contact Sr. Fazia in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When volunteering for Justice for Juniors, remember the privilege you carry; the community benefits, the experience to gain. This privilege can include improved communication and social skills, resume building rewards, and most importantly the privilege of impacting or changing the life of a young teen who lives daily without stability.
“Freedom is never given; it is won.”
— A. Philip Randolph,