Two violence-interruption stalwarts have launched a mentoring program in honor of the late Amin Muslim, a highly regarded community advocate who worked to build a bridge between disaffected residents and D.C. officials and agencies.
The program, named Amin’s Angels, aims to pair D.C. adolescents and young adults with adults who exemplify the qualities needed to overcome obstacles. Warees Majeed, co-founder of Amin’s Angels, said it will continue the work done under YAAY ME, his local youth and family education nonprofit.
“Amin Muslim taught me how necessary mentoring was and how he wouldn’t be where he was without a mentor,” Majeed said.
On Oct. 11, Majeed and fellow youth mentor Duane Cunningham will celebrate the renaming of their youth mentoring to Amin’s Angels during the inaugural Denim & Diamonds Fundraising Celebration.
D.C. radio legend Donnie Simpson, local reporter Leon Harris, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Peter Newsham and MPD Assistant Chief Robert Contee have been confirmed to appear that evening at the Blue DOT/DC Water headquarters in Southwest. Black Alley will also grace the stage.
Proceeds from the Denim & Diamonds Fundraising Celebration will support Amin’s Angels, the name of which alludes to Muslim’s impact on women and men who later formed similar bonds with young people.
Majeed said Muslim, who he met in 2006, inspired his foray into youth and community advocacy, part of which would include YAAY ME. At its inception, YAAY ME hosted workforce development, after-school and summer programs and major events. In recent years, it expanded into the returning citizens space; 50 people completed YAAY ME’s Pathways Program at the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.
“Some brothers like myself and Cousin Wayne [Duane Cunningham] were the people Amin invested in years back,” Majeed said. “We’re starting to see our investment growing. Those people [we mentored] are productive citizens and mentors in their own right. It’s a ripple effect more than anything.”
In the mid-2000s, Muslim, a returning citizen and telemarketer, parlayed his communication skills into a community resource specialist position at Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative. Throughout the next few years, he helped shape DC Parks and Recreation’s Boxing Under the Stars and Project Empowerment, a Department of Employment Services workforce development program.
In 2012, Muslim co-founded the DC Muslim Caucus and launched an annual Iftar dinner at the Woodrow Wilson International Building.
At the time of his April 16 death, Muslim had served nearly three years as a supervisory community outreach coordinator with MPD. In that role, he developed a newsletter that kept ANC commissioners abreast of crime trends, safety measures and MPD programs. He also helped crime investigators form relationships pivotal in closing cases, identified community resources and played a part in improving staff development.
Before his tenure at MPD, Muslim oversaw constituent services in Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander’s office between 2007 and 2016. Muslim also served two terms on D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s Commission on Reentry and Returning Citizens Affairs.
In that role, Muslim and at least 14 other people advised then-Mayor Gray, the D.C. Council and the director of the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizens Affairs on reintegrating the formerly incarcerated into society.
Gray, now a Ward 7 council member, reflected on what he described as Muslim’s tenacity.
“Amin was somebody who let people know he overcame obstacles and mastered life,” Gray said. “He was deserving and did so much for so many. He’s a dear friend and someone whose efforts should be emulated [because] so many of our young people are trying to overcome obstacles, some not of their making.”
In the Spirit of Innovation
A study by Wallethub said D.C. had the highest youth poverty rate out of all the U.S. states and territories. The study also ranked the District as second-highest in its percentage of youth drug users.
Youth safety has also been a concern; D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education recently launched the Safe Spot initiative as a means for students to safely commute to and from school.
Amin’s Angels will maintain a presence in two D.C. schools before expanding throughout the city. District youth, regardless of whether they’ve interacted with the judicial system, will be eligible for mentorship.
Upon completion of a vetting process, mentors will implement a curriculum centered on healthy decision-making and navigating adulthood. An educational component focuses on helping young people outline their short-term and long-term goals. YAAY ME also addresses public safety issues affecting District youth and their families.
Brittney Muslim, Amin Muslim’s widow, expressed her desire that Amin’s Angels carry on the spirit of her late husband, specifically his way of connecting people and breaking the mold. She said that the latter proved to be the case during his tenure at MPD.
“One idea Amin had before his transition was bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community,” Muslim said. “Amin felt law enforcement played a major role in how we conducted ourselves. Both sides needed to be educated; just bridging the gap by getting the police to understand the culture of the neighborhood. He really believed there was something in that relationship.”