Imam Talib Writes About Baltimore Area Council Volunteer Recognition Dinner in "Muslim Journal"
With G’d’s Name, The Merciful Benefactor, The Merciful RedeemerImam Talib Shareef Gives Invocation at Baltimore Boy Scout Volunteer DinnerOn March 21, Imam Talib Shareef was one of two persons invited to give theinvocation at the 2013 Volunteer Recognition Reception for the Baltimore Area Councilof Boy Scouts of America (BAC/BSA). Imam Shareef was one of four religious leadersgiving the invocation last year. He had so impressed the BAC leadership that he wasinvited to return this year. Bishop William Lori of the Archdiocese of Baltimore was alsoinvited to help open up the program. The Baltimore Area Council of Boy Scouts has atradition of including representatives of various faith communities at all of its events. Forthe past four years, it has contacted the Concerned Muslims of Annapolis (CMA), toprovide an Imam. This year’s dinner was well attended, with approximately 600 parents,politicians, scouts of all ages, salaried and volunteer staff personnel, and hundreds ofvolunteer leaders. A tribute was paid to the late artist Norman Rockwell, who didextensive work painting selected Scouts on the BSA magazine covers and calendars. Theannual event showcases the dedicated, tireless work of scouting leaders, without whomthe programs would not be a success. Each of the volunteers who have been nominatedfrom the 13 districts making up the Council received a plaque and commendation fortheir work. The Reception recognized some volunteers with the presentation of the SilverBeaver Award. The highlight of the evening is the badge presentation to and introductionof the Eagle Scout Class of 2012.The 2013 Volunteer Recognition Reception was held atMartin’s West. Martin’s Caterers is a premier catering company in the Baltimore -Washington, DC, offering receptions, conferences, and conventions at its seven locations.As usual, Martin’s served the guests buffet-style, with a wide variety of delicious cuisine.Archbishop Lori gave the first invocation, extolling all in attendance to receiveG’d’s blessings. Imam Shareef also thanked Allah for blessing us to come together forthe worthwhile event. He identified the attendants as part of the “family of Adam”. Hecontinued on by recognizing the contributions of our armed forces, who he said, “havesustained America as the greatest country in the world”. He called them the “nation’sfinest men and women”. Imam Shareef prayed for their safe return and for “peace in theafterlife for those who make the ultimate sacrifice.”What is an Eagle Scout?Becoming an Eagle Scout is the highest honor a Boy Scout can achieve. It isconsidered a title one carries for life. It is said that “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.” Atthe 2013 Reception, 200 scouts were given an Eagle Scout badge indicating that each ofthem had completed a project reflecting service and leadership, two values that embodythe Scout Spirit through the Boy Scout Oath and Law. The scout has to be younger than18 years of age and a member for at least 6 months. He has to organize, lead, and managethe project. Some examples from the 2013 Reception program booklet were:1. Built four benches for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center2. Built a 10x10 arts and crafts stage for a children’s play area at Oregon RidgeNature Center
23. Aiding in bringing the kitchen of Hiss Methodist Church to cleanlinessstandards and codes4. Replaced an old wood set of steps, retaining wall and railing with stonematerials at St. Peter’s Episcopal ChurchMost boys find a need at their sponsor’s place, usually a church, synagogue ormosque. Some tackle community spaces. They submit a written explanation of theproject, noting what, how, when, and where they will complete the project. The Scoutleader will assist them with ideas, but the scout must lead the renovation, building, orrestoring. The scout must explain how funds will be raised to complete the project, eitherfrom donations or from fund-raising events. The project reflects the scout’s creativity,initiative, and persistence. The project must address an identified need and must becompleted before the age of 18. The scout must have earned at least 21 merit badgesbefore starting the Eagle project. Twelve of the merit badges are mandatory and 11 areelective. Among the mandatory badges are First Aid, Personal Fitness, and Swimming,Hiking, or Cycling. In January 1, 2014, cooking will be added, bringing the requiredmerit badges to 13 (www.wikipedia.com).The BSA was founded in 1910. The first Boy Scout to receive an Eagle badgewas Arthur Rose Eldred from Troop 1 in Long Island, N.Y. He received it in 1912. Manyblack leaders participated in scouting and some famous ones achieved Eagle. Three well-known men are Ernest Green, a member of the Little Rock Nine; Guy Bluford, Jr., thefirst black astronaut in space; and Stanford Bishop, a US representative in Georgia.There are many fewer African-American Eagle Scouts compared to whites. Formany years, the first person identified as an Eagle Scout was Edgar Cunningham, Sr. Heearned the badge from the first all-black troop 12 in Waterloo, Iowa. The National BSAdid not keep records on ethnicity until recently and since then it has been discovered thatscout Harry Cooper of Troop 92 in Kansas earned an Eagle Scout in 1920, earlier thanscout Cunningham. The official history is still being researched(www.wiki.answers.com).In 1982, some American Muslims established a partnership with the National BoyScouts and created the Islamic Council on Scouting of North America and the NationalIslamic Committee on Scouting (www.islamicscouting.org). However, troops of AfricanAmerican Muslim scouts have been in existence at various Masajids under the leadershipof the late W.D. Mohammed, long before this 1982 partnership was established. It takesdedicated, hard working adult leadership to establish and maintain a troop. Boy Scoutleaders are both male and female. It takes even more dedication to help young adolescentboys become Eagle Scouts.
3Sonia Lewis---Phenomenal Eagle Scout LeaderAt the Volunteer Recognition Reception, 15 persons were honored. Sonia Lewiswas the only woman to be recognized in that number. Ms. Lewis has mentored fiveEagles and has three others that she is inspiring now to achieve the Eagle goal. With sucha low percentage of African-American youth in the general BSA population, even lessachieving Eagle status, having six Eagles is truly phenomenal!CMA first met Ms. Lewis in 2011 when she provided Eagle Scout, Malcolm X.Dirton, to us. We were co-sponsors of a program featuring the grandson of the late ElHajj Malik Shabazz. The grandson is named Malcolm Shabazz. Ms. Lewis introduced usto an Eagle Scout named Malcolm X. Dirton, named for the iconic El Hajj MalikShabazz. Eagle Scout Malcolm is now in the Air Force, stationed in New Mexico. Ms.Lewis, not only helped these six young boys develop into manhood, she stays in contactwith them encouraging them to lead a positive life. As a troop leader she demands that allher boys graduate from high school. She serves as the chair of her district (ThurgoodMarshall) in inner city Baltimore. The Baltimore Area Council has 13 districts. ThurgoodMarshall is one of the few predominately African American districts.Ms. Lewis, a native of Baltimore, is a computer systems analyst. She is a divorcedmother of three. One of her sons was adopted at the age of 13 and is an outstanding EagleScout who now uses gospel rap to minister to urban youth. The other Eagle son ismarried and has become a veterinarian. Ms. Lewis reports that that son showed a love foranimals early in his scouting life and has been able to achieve his goal of caring for them.Her daughter is a sophomore at a Maryland state college. Ms. Lewis has been a BoyScout leader for 16 years, serving as a cub master, den leader, council committeemember, and merit badge counselor. She is known as the Pied Piper of youth in herdistrict, a volunteer that launched a summer camp, and is active in feeding the hungry ather church, St. Ambrose in Baltimore. Reflecting on being honored, she commented, “Ididn’t do this for awards. I like what I do. I like the boys.” On March 21, she received theSilver Beaver Award, given to volunteers who implement the scouting program,performing community service through hard work, self sacrifice, dedication, and manyyears of service. It is given to those who do not actively seek it (www.wikipedia.com).Ms. Lewis’ first scout achieved Eagle in 2006. He remodeled a soup kitchen at thechurch where the troop met. He put up new walls, did plastering, and put up a ceiling. Hesolicited donations from the community and did some fund raising. He received paintbrushes and masks from Home Depot and a former scout donated paint and roomsupplies to him. She is a proud parent of two of “The Six Eagles”. They are her sons: oneis married and a veterinarian. He demonstrated a love for animals early in life and had anopportunity to learn about them through scouting activities. The other son—adopted at 13—uses gospel rap to minister to urban youth. A fourth Eagle is finishing college, afterhaving to help his mother when she was undergoing treatment for brain cancer.
5The fifth Eagle is young Malcolm, now on active duty. The sixth Eagle, who graduated toEagle with Malcolm—Arnold Mears -- now volunteers with her troop and recentlycompleted a 20 mile hike with younger boys. She introduced us to three younger scoutswho she is already inspiring to earn Eagle status.CMA is fortunate to be in association with an organization that represents thesame values as Islam upholds—submission to the Creator, trust, good will, andcommunity service. Extolling the teachings of Imam Wallace D. Mohammed, we supportthose organizations that honor positive role models for the youth and hold highexpectations of youth progression into adulthood. We thank Imam Shareef, Imam SultanAbdullah, Imam Bilal Omar, Imam Rauf Abdullah, and Imam Benjamin Haqq fordonating their time and energy to Baltimore Area Council Boy Scout activities. We alsothank Boy Scout Administrators for recognizing the need for faith-based diversity --Barry Williams, Chairman of the Executive Board, Ethan Draddy, Scout Executive, RonMcKinney, Joe Spellman, Aziz Karim, Brian Debease, Casey Snyder, and Janet Fields—all Scouting executives with whom we have had the honor to meet.Saisa Neel,April 3, 2013