Interfaith, Uncategorized

Taqwa Ministry Connects Oak Cliff School with Interfaith Group

Southern Dallas Interfaith Council works to unite community

Featured Photo: Local Muslim leader Memfis Madyun, Taqwa founder Charles Mosley, and Church of Jesus Christ Interfaith Coordinator Chris McCarty pose beneath Martin Luther King quote: “The time is always right to do what is right.” Photo by Mary Ann Taylor.

Old friends, new neighbors, and strangers came together on a drizzly December night in 2023 for fun and food. Students from the John Lewis Social Justice Academy performed skits and dances. Afterward, they joined their parents in the lunchroom for dinner. The event’s title, the Taqwa Ministries/O. W. Holmes Middle School First Annual Turkey Dinner, does not tell the whole story of this remarkable celebration.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped to provide food for the event with its youth serving.

Taqwa Ministries and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided the food, with serving help from the church youth. The Academy is currently meeting in William B. Miller Elementary School while its new campus is being built. And while the turkeys were brought from both the neighborhood and as far away as Waxahachie and Lancaster, the goal of the event was the same: Bring these communities together.

Charles Mosley and Stephen Coles established Taqwa to serve a variety of needs of youth, the elderly, and individuals whom Mr. Mosley calls “returning citizens,” those who have left prison to begin new lives. The group restores houses, provides work boots and clothes, and runs a food support program.

The Arabic word taqwa means “being conscious of God,” Mr. Mosley explained. The goal is to build community through action.

Charles Mosley and Sharron Jackson.

Currently, they are repairing a home in Fort Worth that was filled with dry rot. The 94-year-old resident needed help beyond her means to get the work done. Taqwa volunteers have stripped out the interior, replaced drywall, taped and bedded, and are ready to paint.

C. Memfis Madyun, another local Muslim leader, added that he served as an imam in the prison system for over ten years. Locally he works in interfaith efforts. He came to the dinner to assist as part of his current relationships both with interfaith and in the DeSoto Muslim community.

Sharron Jackson is the principal of John Lewis SJA. Besides social justice, the school is a dedicated fine arts center. She explained that one of the skits the students wrote and presented included “letters” to Santa asking for things they knew he couldn’t really bring: ways they wish the world would be different.

When Jackson asked Charles Mosley to support the school’s vision of building community, he invited Chris McCarty, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ representative on the Southern Dallas Interfaith Council, to supply cooked turkeys and helpers to serve the meal. Within a few days, everything was in place. It wasn’t McCarty’s first turkey project this year, however; recently, he helped orchestrate the delivery of 120 turkeys to families in the Oak Cliff area.

Additional assistance came from kitchen staff at Miller Elementary. Brtere Chandler and Dakeisha Porter worked after hours to keep the food warm, organize the side dishes, and train the youth in how to serve the portions. Ms. Chandler has been at the same school for the past 45 years, a remarkable achievement that continues because she loves to see the children as they come and grow and return with their own children and grandchildren. She said she is “considering” retirement, but Ms. Porter doesn’t support the idea. She has been at Miller for 17 years but said, “I’m too new. She can’t retire yet!”

Ms. Jackson looks forward to the completion of the academy in 2025. She made this clear when the campus was announced:  “To actually have a state-of-the-art, a brand new secondary school, or middle school, here in the southern part of Dallas, it’s phenomenal. It’s huge. It’s history being made.” 

Everyone left smiling—everyone had plenty of food and fun. Whether participants came from a few blocks away and had lived nearby all their lives or had moved from other states and countries (El Salvador, for example), all shared in the spirit of giving time and talent while building the future. To echo Ms. Jackson, history is indeed being made.