President of the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute in Washington D.C. Abdur- Rahim Muhammad runs a non-profit Kung Fu school. Dedicated to local youth, the institute develops physical and emotional strength, building an ethical and moral base for the students who join.
The school teaches free Kung Fu, Chinese Lion Dance, Chinese Thunder Drumming to schoolchildren during the summer as well as trips to historic locations. The institute runs an annual gala at the Historic Lincoln Theatre which has presented world-renowned artists –activist such as Dick Gregory, Rita Moreno, Spike Lee and Common.
What makes you happy and thankful?
Whenever I remember my parents, who have both passed along with other relatives and friends with whom I've shared this journey, for an instant I feel a jolt of sharp pain and sadness. This is quickly removed by a strong feeling of joy and happiness and great love for knowing how grateful I am for having these relationships and knowing and loving them deeply. The pain is just a reminder of how strong the bond and connection and I hope and doubt it will ever subside. Simply what makes me happy and thankful is my journey and the people and relationships I’ve made long the way.
What message do you want to give others?
Regardless of your wealth or occupation compete only with yourself. Study the success and paths to great achievement of others but understand that you are unique as an individual, no duplication in the world or history so whatever comes out of you is authentic and original. Everyday strive to be the best you and the world will witness something wonderful, authentic and original.
Who or what gives you your superpower?
I admire many of the great men and women who came before me. Paul Robeson is one and Harriet Tubman is another. However, the person/power/entity that gives me the most strength to persevere seeking to achieve beyond my current situation is the person I speak to intimately many times each day.
This is during the time when I’m speaking to my inner self urging and prodding me to be better, stronger, smarter, more strategic, more compassionate and considerate. I attempt to pull from the great spirit and internal/eternal source of power which resides and empowers us all and I take that very seriously. Yet not in any magical or spooky sort of way.
What in nature inspires you?
The vastness, power and mysteries of our universe. We will have to increase our present knowledge and technical capabilities beyond our current imagination to become the planet species we’ll need for human survival. To know that brave men and women are already risking their lives in the area of deep space exploration is extremely inspiring. It demonstrates that the spirit and presence of the human species like our imagination cannot be contained. By our nature we are wanderers, explorers, seekers of truth and knowledge and most importantly survivors.
Tell us about yourself and your community project?
Exploration and investigation is key to describing my journey in life and the arts. From a young age I’ve looked at what I thought was attractive and interesting and tried to understand its form and function. I looked at Kung Fu and the art of lion and dragon dance and wanted to explore it at its source so I went to China. I went to Africa to explore the culture close up. Becoming a Muslim, I had to experience Mecca so I made Hajj. The things that I think are important in life I've always wanted to experience and not just read about. These traits moved Me towards a better understanding of the world and the plight of Black people especially those from my USA community of people descended from the institution of slavery.
Now everything I do is to further the upliftment of my community as we seek justice, not just legal justice or civil rights but economic justice in the form of reparations. I express this through art by projecting images, programs and messages that empower and enlighten children and youth especially Black children and youth. What we do is also inspiring for adults if they will listen and pay attention.
Our programs at HTCMLI range from free Out of School time programs for children and youth in traditional African and Chinese Cultural Arts to our STEMAC program which is STEM + Art + Culture. We also produce the Paul Robeson “Here I Stand Award” Gala which has featured in the past such luminaries as Harry Belafonte, Dick Gregory, DR. John Hope Franklin, Rita Moreno, Judith Jamison, Spike Lee, Common and Chuck D of Public Enemy.
We have published a book for young people: Dragonz Rizing: Reclaiming My Time While Wandering Through The Valley with “The Legend of Jow Lung” Vol I and Vol II, coming out this summer. A book compiling all the Here I Stand interviews, including performances and beautiful photo’s will be available next year.