- Zahra Chowdhury and Zainab Malik
Community Leaders: Sameer Mansour
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This month, PVS students Zahra Chowdhury and Zainab Malik sat down with Sameer Mansour, a native Memphian and founder of 901 Ummah, to discuss his contributions to the city and how growing up in this city has shaped and inspired him.
Zainab Malik : What is the 901 Ummah, for those who may not know what it is? What was the idea behind creating this organization? And what inspired you to start it?
Sameer Mansour: 901 Ummah is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was started in Memphis that is dedicated to fostering and developing and providing a platform and opportunities for young Muslims aged 13 to 30. We give them a platform to help them find themselves and also have this outlet in an organization where they can give back to the community at the same time. Young Muslims are passionate about politics, community service, religion, spirituality, media, and so many others topics. They can hone in on these talents and passions and use it to give back to the community, whether it be Memphis as a city or the Muslim community specifically.
Why I chose to start it: I was born and raised in Memphis at a time when we were just building buildings not investing in people which resulted in so many talented people having to leave the city to find their purpose and how to use those skills. This gap was especially prevalent in college and young professionals. We wanted to create something to ensure an ongoing space where young people call their own to where they can develop within and have people around them they can relate to. A lot of masajid were being built but young people didn’t see themselves being represented. With 901, you are surrounded by people like you that have the same mindset as you, are from the same generation, and a space to grow and have positive passionate energy around young people.
My generation grew up in Memphis and didn’t have this space or these resources for ourselves and we wanted to provide a space for ongoing generations that didn't rely on one person or one masjid. We wanted it to be a city wide effort org that continues to grow with people and that is driven by the young people and their what they're passionate about.
Zahra Chowdhury: Where do you envision 901 Ummah 10-20 years from now?
Sameer Mansour: I envision 901 Ummah being able to have its own space to where people can come out and not replicate a masjid but a place for young people to come out and hang out and learn, having a system in place that is ongoing and not dependent on one person and a space that continues to grow. While I would love to see a physical space packed with people, I do not want that to result in a decrease in the quality and value of our goals.
It’s important that the quality and energy and goal continue regardless of whose in 901 Ummah or where the space is. While membership quantity is important, the quality our work and our mission is more important. I’d also like to see continuing on with community wide partnerships, like the partnership with masajid. It would be amazing to get more involved in city wide partnerships like the ones we have with MIFA and BRIDGES. From the Muslim community aspect, it would be wonderful if 901 Ummah was able to have masjid space in each masjid. We’d also like to have a system in place to develop people to be future imams, youth directors, executive directors, whatever they choose to pursue in an Islamic career and continuing our city wide mentorship program
Zahra Chowdhury: What 901 Ummah project or campaign are you the most proud of?
Sameer Mansour: Yearly retreats are my favorite because everybody comes out with a renewed sense of spirituality and iman boost. People come out with new bonds, new relationships with their faith, their community, and the people they met. Overall, I feel like when you come back, you miss the environment and seeing each others, but you get to reflect on the memories and theme of retreat.
Zainab Malik: Do you have any advice for the students at Pleasant View?
Sameer Mansour: I know it sounds cliche, but you’re the future. Every single person has a specific talent or skill whether you know it or haven't discovered it yet. Find your skill and use it to give back to the community. I tell young people to take every door and opportunity presented to you. The abundance of talent in this city makes me feel like the future is bright for Memphis just because of the great amount of talent. My last piece of advice is don’t forget to give back to the community that raised you!