Bridging the Gap: Chicago’s Muslim Youth and Cultural Enrichment Experience Morehouse Glee Club

By Tariq I. El-Amin

CHICAGO, Ill. – On March 6, 2012, in South Holland, Ill., a south suburb of Chicago, 20 Muslim youth attending Bridging the Gap’s ( a 501c3 @www.webridgethegap.org) “Taste of the Other” cultural enrichment outing, took a visit to Chicago’s Harris Theater, just blocks away from Millennium Park in downtown Chicago.

They were there to see, and celebrate, the Morehouse College Glee Club (MCGC) and their Centennial Performance. And even though many of the youth had never heard of MCGC, and in some cases had not even heard of Morehouse, they were here to get a taste of music they had not before encountered.

Simply put, they were there for an experience they weren’t likely to have everyday.  So we entered the theater with a group of young people, pre-teens, tweens and teens. They were here to expand their musical horizons and equally as important, they were witnessing young men who look like themselves – their brothers, uncles and fathers – singing in harmony.

It was a harmony hard sought and sacrificed for. A harmony effusing the traces of rehearsals that assuredly went late into many a night.  A harmony which sacrificed brilliant individual voices to give rise to one rich, deep, sweet, commanding voice.

The group harmony intertwined a distinct cadence and measure, which seemed to push the well placed solos to even greater heights.  Thus, giving these young listeners something to reflect on: “Our strongest individual efforts will often pale against our strongest community ones.”

Indeed, this performance was about community; it was about being a part of something greater than oneself and the celebration of realized potential; it was about producing something beautiful and witnessing the appreciation of that beauty born of sacrifice and commitment.

After the performance, as we headed back to the bus, we offered our Isha prayer and began to discuss the night’s experience with our Muslim youth.  Reviews were mixed, however the candor and thoughtful way they expressed them were admirable.

Some lamented about how long the performance was, while others asked why they didn’t sing any songs they’ve heard on the radio? Nevertheless, they all agreed that what they saw took hard work, preparation and unity.

As they unloaded the bus, while telling jokes and listening to their i-pods, we reminded them of their 30-day Qur’an challenge (visit website www.webridgethegap.org for more information).

With the nonchalance only teens can muster, they assured us they were on top of it and offered a quick thank you, as they departed toward their waiting parents.

With this thank you we, at Bridging the Gap, said “All praise is due to Allah, for all that is good comes from Him.”

We, at Bridging the Gap Inc. (501c3), continue to serve our community by serving those charged with its future survival – our youth.

We seek to Bridge the Gap between potential and achievement, ignorance and knowledge, ability and service, want and plenty, past-present and future.

“Does any of you wish that he should have a garden with date-palms and vines and streams flowing underneath and all kinds of fruit, while he is stricken with old age, and his children are not strong (enough to look after themselves)? That it should be caught in a whirlwind, with fire therein, and be burnt up? Thus doth Allah make clear to you (His) Signs, that ye may consider ….” Qur’an 2:266

(Tariq I. El-Amin is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridging the Gap, a 501c3 organization. For more information about Bridging The Gap’s programs and on how you can support/donate, go to www.webridgethegap.org.)

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