On Thursday, April 6th, Mayor Eric Adams attended an Iftar dinner for the Muslim community hosted by Democracy Prep Public Schools. The Iftar is the evening breaking of the fast by Muslims during Ramadan. The event was attended by Imam Souleimane Konaté of Masjid al-Aqsa; Senegal Consul General El Hadji Amadou Ndao; Mohammed Mardah, the Executive Director of the African Advisory Foundation; and Emmanuel George, New York Superintendent of Democracy Prep Public Schools. Mardah introduced and welcomed Mayor Adams.
Mayor Adams started off his speech by greeting those in attendance with the traditional Muslim greeting. Mayor Adams thanked LittleAfrica News founder, Mona Davids, for inviting him to the Iftar. During his speech, Mayor Adams compared the efforts needed to see positive change in New York City to a personal experience, training for boxing.
“I often talk about as a child, that I used to learn how to box and I used to do well in the gym and then when I got in the ring I always got knocked out. My trainer said, ‘Eric, you’re leaving your best fight in the gym’,” Mayor Adams said. Adams went on to compare his endeavors training for boxing to attending religious services. He said that services in houses of religion prepared people for the battle of life going on outside houses of worship.
“The real fight is in our streets, where we are seeing gun violence that’s taking the lives of innocent children. The real fight is in our school system where 65 percent of Black and brown children never reach proficiency,” Adams said.
Mayor Adams made sure to mention the elderly residents of New York City and how taking care of them was one of the challenges faced by many people. He further spoke of the continuous challenges of drug use and depression that the youth are facing. Adams said that the suicide rate amongst children as young as 9 years old had increased.
“We are seeing so much devastation in our community. My call today during Ramadan is that let’s not leave our best fight in the gym. Let’s make sure that our fight is out there in the ring of life that needs us. We have a million Muslims in New York City. They must register to vote. They must raise their voices,” he said to applause.
Adams said that there cannot be this much devastation in the city, with a million Muslims living in the city. He pointed out how Islam did not only require committed worship but also the practice of being a good citizen.
“Let’s not just be good worshippers, because to be a good worshiper, you must be a good practitioner. Now is the time for us to be good practitioners. If we do that, we won’t leave our best fight in the gym,” Mayor Adams concluded. The mayor was given a warm welcome at the event, with several people including students clamoring to have photos taken with him.
Democracy Prep Regional Superintendent Emmanuel George was present at the Iftar. He said, “It was an easy decision for us to open up our doors to host an Iftar dinner at one of our middle school campuses. We have a preponderance of Muslim scholars that attend our elementary, middle, and high schools. We want to share in their customs with not only them but with members of the community as a whole.”
George continued, “At Democracy Prep, we pride ourselves on exposing our scholars to customs around the world through our Global Citizens Program which allows scholars to travel around the world to countries such as Canada, Italy, Ecuador, South Africa, and Senegal. This was an opportunity for us to be Global Citizens by embracing customs here in our own city. It was an honor to mark this occasion with community members as leaders such as Mohammad Mardah, Senegal’s Consul General El Hadji Amadou Ndao, Imam Souleimane Konaté, and our mayor, Eric Adams.”
Many Democracy Prep students were present at the Iftar, including Matida Diatta, a student in the 10th grade. She said, “I think it was really fun, and should be something that happens annually because I feel like it brought a lot of us closer together, as we are of the same religion. I also think praying and breaking fast together really topped everything, because a lot of us were strangers, and praying is something so personal to all of us, and being able to do that together was really nice. Seeing the mayor and the African delegates was awesome! Their showing support means a lot to the Muslim community.”
Rahimina Ouro Guezere, a 9th-grade student, said, “The best part was praying with other members of our community who we don’t normally get to pray with. Having Mayor Adams stop by and pray with us shows us the strength of the Muslim community in Harlem.”
Michelle Gieg, Democracy Prep’s Chief of Staff, commented on the Iftar held at the school saying, “Democracy Prep is grateful to be a part of the community in Harlem and in the Bronx, and we hope that our first annual Iftar Dinner demonstrates our commitment to partnerships and honoring the diverse cultures that make up our school communities. It was a beautiful evening, and we look forward to making this an annual event.”
Akinde Agnes Kodjo-Sanogo, the Lead Organizer for African Communities Together, said, “I am so grateful to have attended the Iftar Event with Mayor Eric Adams, organized by Democracy Prep. I felt at home seeing superintendent Georges, who taught my children. Democracy Prep strengthened my daughter’s skills by creating a safe learning environment, and for that, I remain grateful. This brought out her full potential, and it’s a blessing to see her acquire her bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College.”
Mohammed Mardah, Executive Director of the African Advisory Foundation, said, “On Thursday, April 6, at exactly 7:24 PM, the Adhaan (Call to Prayer) echoed in the gymnasium of Democracy Prep Charter School in Harlem for the first time, and what I hope would become an annual event, as the School hosted its debut Iftar, not only for its Muslim families but the community in general, and the Maghreb prayer was performed right there, led by Imam Souleimane Konaté, one of the most revered African religious leaders in New York City.”
Mardah, who is also the Co-Director of the Africans Help Desk, continued, “It was such a refreshing experience to see a school celebrate and acknowledge the diversity of its students. Not having known much about the school, I was happy to learn from the PowerPoint presentation of Superintendent Emmanuel George, not only about the rigorous academic curriculum but the effort to develop a holistic student, with a goal of ensuring college admissions for all graduates. This was bolstered by the testimony of Mrs. Akinde Sanogo, a parent whose two children graduated from the school, and she is currently trying to enroll her other two children.”
“I believe that in order for any child to succeed in school, there must be an effort by the school to engage the parents and vice versa. This was quite evident, as I witnessed the seeming familiarity between the school staff, the parents, and the students. This engagement is critical, and on the surface, it seems Democracy Prep has it right,” Mardah said, commending Democracy Prep for hosting the event.
Mardah continued, “I must mention the biggest surprise of the evening – seeing New York City Mayor Eric Adams join us for Iftar. He was quite gracious and affable, as usual, as he seemed the happiest when the children wanted to take “selfies” with him.”
In his final remarks, Mardah said, “I must also commend the Consul General of Senegal, Elhadji Ndao for gracefully breaking the fast with us. I would like to thank the Superintendent of Democracy Prep, Mr. Emanuel George, for hosting the Iftar. There was plenty of food, enough for people to eat and take plenty home. I am definitely looking forward to more of such events, not only this school, but other schools in New York City, as a way of celebrating the beautiful mosaic that is New York City, and showing the world that we are indeed the capital of the world.”