You know the saying, “Different strokes for different folks?” That’s how I view hijrah (migrating for The Sake of Allah). Recently, there has been a few snide comments by a couple of American Muslim Converts, on another blog, about my decision to make Hijrah to KSA. In their haste to point out the good things about America (none of which I have ever denied), they forgot that there are “different strokes for different folks.” Not to make a race issue out of it, but it just so happened that the comments were by white converts, who I can say without a doubt (with the exception of Umar Lee) that their America was quite different from my America. As a matter of fact my husband is a white convert and he can not believe half of the stuff I tell him about people I know or experiences I have had.

The only dead people he knows are his grandparents and he was grown when they died. I told him that almost every boy that I grew up with in my neighborhood is dead and that funerals are social events and reunions. Not to mention most of the funerals I went to were in Funeral Parlors and not places of worship and you had to be brave to show up there but since they provided such good entertainment you wouldn’t miss it!

For a glimpse of the America I knew, check out OUR AMERICA.

This heartbreaking and inspiring book goes a long way toward fulfilling the wish one of its authors, LeAlan Jones, makes in his epigraph: “You must learn our America as we must learn your America, so that, maybe, someday, we can become one.” Based on hours and hours of taped interviews that Jones and Lloyd Newman, two high school students, conducted for two National Public Radio documentaries they prepared in 1993 and 1995, Our America is a no-holds-barred look at the devastatingly poor Chicago neighborhood in which they live. It’s a world where elementary school students learn about sex and drugs before they learn how to read, and where many boys do not expect to live to be 20. You finish the book marveling not that so many of those who people it are trapped, but wondering that anyone survives at all.[Emphasis mine]

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Not in the projects like these kids, as a matter of fact I had never been in the projects until I started working for The Department of Children and Family Services. I was raised in a decent working class neighborhood. I saw the good and the bad. However, after I graduated from University and started a career in Social Services, I only was exposed to the worst cases you could ever imagine. I saw both sides too. First I worked for DCFS, so I saw abused and neglected children and worked with all involved -natural parents, foster care, group homes, schools, courts, etc. Later I worked at the largest Juvenile Detention Center in the world. The Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center. Here I saw the results of all the abuse and neglect. It got to one point that I thought that this was the norm, that this was “Our America”.

During my time at the JTDC, many of ‘My Kids’ were in for crimes so hideous and sad that they made National and International coverage (when I first moved to KSA, I was asked where was I from. When I said Chicago the woman said, “Ohhh Chicago…pow pow” and made gun shot signs with her hands. I had similar reactions several times on different occasions when I would tell people I was from Chicago). I was assigned mainly to the residents that were known as ‘county boys’. The ‘county boys’ were housed on the 4th floor of the Detention Center and they were minors being trialed as adults. They were called ‘County Boys’ because on the morning of their 17th birthday The Cook County Sheriffs would come and transfer them to The Cook County Jail for Adults. Most of the crimes were for Murder. I also worked with girls and very young offenders, as well, but my office and main duties were with the ‘county boys’. We had a few girls come in that were tried as adults too. A group of Latino girls who lured boys from the opposing gang into a field house at a park and as they performed oral sex on them, they pulled out guns and executed them. A white girl who, along with her mother, killed an ice cream vendor and robbed him in the park. A 14 year old black girl who did not have any money to get back home from Down town Chicago, so she called a cab and shot and killed him from around the corner. Oh and a white girl, who was released from the detention center the next morning because the courts said she was no threat to society, after she beat her sleeping father to death with a bat.

I decided to google the names of a few of ‘my kids’ who were in for infamous crimes that were in the news all over the nation. Among those cases were the case of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an 11year old boy who was murdered by two of “my kids”. The two brothers Craag and Derrick Hardaway are still in Jail serving 45 and 60 year sentences. They were 16 and 14 at the time of the murder, so that would make them about 29 and 27 now. My how time flies by!

Here’s the article on Yummy Sandifer that appeared in TIME magazine on September 19, 1994:

Another case was the case of the youngest boys to be tried for murder. These boys were 10 and 11 and threw a 5 year old boy out of the 14th floor window. You can take a listen or read the transcripts of a series of shocking interviews about the boys here.

Remorse explores the death of Eric Morse, a five-year-old thrown from the fourteenth floor window of a Chicago housing project by two other boys, ten and eleven years old, in October, 1994. The documentary was reported by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman — both residents of the Ida B. Wells housing development, where the crime took place, and both sixteen years old.

Remorse marks the return of Jones and Newman to NPR’s airwaves. In March of 1993, at age fourteen, they collaborated with producer David Isay for the radio documentary Ghetto Life 101, an audio diary of young people growing up on Chicago’s South Side.

When Eric Morse fell to his death in 1994, LeAlan and Lloyd felt compelled to pick up their tape recorders once again. They spent a year reporting the case and interviewed everyone from Eric’s mother, Toni Morse, in the only interview she’s granted to the press, to Vince Lane, chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, to the father of one of the assailants. They set out to learn about the story from the inside, to see how a tragedy like this can touch a community, and to bring to light the scars it left behind.

Remorse won the Grand Prize Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and a Peabody Award in 1995.

The interesting thing is that out of all the interviews (and you must read this or listen to it, especially those from a different America)they were not able to interview the two boys who committed the crime because they were minors. These boys identity was protected from the world, but I saw them and worked with them 5 days a week and could tell you that they showed NO REMORSE! The one boy whose name has been released because he caught a sexual assault case while locked up, I could have told and always said even back then when he was 10 that he would (or needed to be) in jail for the rest of his life. The boy was just cold blooded. There were crimes that he was in detention for before he killed Eric that I knew would eventually lead him to life behind bars. Since he was a juvenile and his records are sealed I can not say the nature of those crimes, but they were horrendous.

Well this is the America I knew and left behind. For those of you that like to point out the faults of my host country and it’s rulers, none of the problems you mention (corrupt rulers and hypocrites) effect me the way life in the America I knew did. I never bad mouthed America, Americans, or people who live there, I just moved to a place that I thought was best for my family in this life and the next. Might I add, I did this first for the pleasure of My Lord and then for a better life for my family. Wearing a niqab (which I wore in America) and not being able to drive (which I despised doing in America) are no big deal to me. If the ruling family is corrupt than that is between them and Allah (and are the rulers of America any better?). The crime rate here is basically non existent and I was on the brink of paranoia in America every time I left the house. Once I moved to Northern Virginia (which I referred to as my mini hijrah), I was afraid to even visit Chicago. I have only been back once in almost 10 years and that was briefly while passing through to attend a QSS conference in Detroit. The entire time I was there I was in a constant state of supplication and feared getting car jacked or catching a stray bullet.

I remember a psychology instructor of mine saying that urban blacks should not have the same criteria in psych evaluations. He gave the example of two people, one white and one black. The white person looked around every where he went and was jumpy for no apparent reason, he mentioned other symptoms and the conclusion was drawn that this white man suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Then he gave the same situation using a black man from the inner city. He said this man is not paranoid, he must stay alert and be aware of his surroundings. That’s exactly how I felt in America.

May Allah protect and bless the Muslims, wherever they are.