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Family Summit Conference Success: A Labor Of Love, Teamwork

By Eric Ture Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Sep 6, 2017 - 10:47:32 AM

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Drummers perform during recent Family Summit Conference in Atlanta. Photo: Rashaad Muhammad

The Family Summit Conference was a gathering of various cultures and religions. Photo: Erick H. Muhammad

ATLANTA—“When are you going to do the family summit? I want to do this before, I go see the father,” Sister Ati Cushmeer shared, with The Final Call, reflecting on her conversation in Phoenix, Arizona with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in late 2016.

In an exclusive interview with The Final Call, from her home in Austin, Texas, Sister Ati, daughter of Minister Jabril Muhammad and Sister Bernique Hayes Cushmeer said that the highly-successful Family Summit Conference held Aug. 25-27 in Atlanta was years in the making, but that nothing comes to fruition before its time.

Ati Hamid Cushmeer

Hundreds of people from around the country gathered for the three-day event themed, “Strong Families: The Foundation of a Great Nation,” held at the Sheraton Atlanta.

“When we first started the Singles’ Retreat in 2004, Sister Dr. Monica Muhammad; she is a psychologist and one of those few people who were around in the very beginning. And we would have a lot of conversations and she was very critical in helping to shape my thinking as we discussed everything about what we were doing. Even though it started off as a singles retreat, the idea in mind was to serve all families.”

At that time, Sister Ati was single and she felt it was easier, “to start where you are.” The Singles Retreats were an instant success story of the Nation of Islam, encouraging courtship, marriage and teaching the ways to make two people one. The retreat is in its 13th consecutive year now and in addition has been a standard social component during the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day and Holy Day of Atonement celebrations.

Now, married since 2009, with a six-year-old son, and a step-mother to five children, all in their 20s, Sis. Ati relied on Believers she worked with since the singles retreat as well as with her fellow organizers from the Million Youth Movement in 1998 to realize, actualize and plan the first Family Summit Conference this year.

“We wanted to do the family summit in 2009, then again in 2010 and 2015. We initially, wanted to start a family conference among the Believers in the Nation of Islam, because we have issues like any other group … so we wanted to start there, but it didn’t quite come together,” she said.

But when the Minister asked, she said, “that was like a kick in the butt, that I needed to hurry up and get this thing moving,” she recalled. She then went to work, re-assembling her team of organizers and recruiting more along the way to make Atlanta’s summit and the Minister’s contribution to it, a reality.

The ‘Dream Team’

Ati Cushmeer with some of the organizers of the Family Summit Conference in Atlanta.

The Family Summit of 2017, was organized and convened by a core group of 19 believers from around the country, that Sis. Ati refers to as her, “Dream Team.”

“These are Believers who think outside of the box. These are Believers whom I have been friends with for many years,” she continued.

“These are dedicated people who are good friends of mine and Believers. And their ability to think outside the box is very, very critical in organizing an effort like this. Particularly, when you are trying to accomplish something; you may not have all of the resources that you need. And when you don’t, it requires a certain type of thinking. It requires, the type of thinking that says I’m going to get around this problem. So, I would have to say those are the hallmarks that stand out, about the Believers who worked on this program.”

The summit consisted of various activities including plenary sessions and social events, culminating in a keynote address by Min. Farrakhan on Aug. 27 to close out the weekend.

Organizers consisted of many professionals in mental health and social work capacities; educators, behavior specialists, business owners and famed entrepreneurs. Metaphysicists, marriage and family therapists, substance abuse counselors, activists, journalists, spiritualists and media personalities who came from around the country and proved what many operating from one mind, can accomplish.

As for conference feedback, Sis. Ati noted that more than half of the surveys distributed to attendees in their registration packets were filled out and returned. Presenters voiced their appreciation for the sense of direction in terms of focus of the plenaries.

Men and women from various cities around the country participated in various plenary sessions and activities. Photo: Erick H. Muhammad Photo: Courtney X Photos: Lens of Ansar

“One thing we sent out to all of the presenters, when we confirmed their presence; we let them know, that the focus was not talking about the problems. We wanted the focus to be from an asset-based perspective…something that says, we are going to look at the best of who we are, and we are going to look at our strengths and not define our community by our deficits,” she said.

In her training, while working in Fulton County, Georgia’s Juvenile Court System some years ago, she noticed that when a community allows a program provider or agency to focus on problems in the community, it creates community dependency on the provider.

“Because what happens is that a program provider comes in and they are funded on ‘what we need to fix in this community.’ So, the community looks at the program to fix it, instead of looking at what are our strengths are. What do we bring to the table? Or, how can we both work together to improve and strengthen our community?” she noted.

Every event and segment of the entire conference was video recorded and Sis. Ati said she will be watching and reviewing each one. “So, I have to listen to them. But based upon some of the evaluations we received and the remarks of the people who attended, I would say the conference hit the mark, and Insha’ Allah (God Willing), we can reach a broader and larger audience once we put these videos out.”

In the immediate future, the website will contain an electronic survey submission page for all who did not get the opportunity to turn their observations over to the committee.

“I want to thank my Sister Ati,” began Min. Farrakhan. “I want to thank the Healthy Relationship Initiative, the Winning Circle, Young People in Action, the International Center for Strong Families. I want to thank Sister Ati and those with her, to bring this group together. Together of one accord to produce this weekend, that gave so much, to so many. So, ‘I’ (meaning) Ati, became ‘we’ (her team). And the spirit of the ‘I’ became the spirit of the ‘we’ and they acted in one accord to produce this beautiful, weekend of a family summit conference,” he expressed.

In addition to Sis. Ati summit committee members included: Courtney X, Armelia Cartier, Asad Shabazz, Charlotte Muhammad, Chrystal Muhammad, Dr. Toni S. Muhammad, Fudia Muhammad, Jahi Muhammad, Janine Muhammad, Karrima Muhammad, Khadijah Muhammad, Mahalieka Muhammad, Mark X, Monique Muhammad, Raymond Muhammad, Treva Muhammad, Adrianne X, Terrance Muhammad, Teresa X, Jermaine Muhammad and Monica Muhammad.

Over the next two years, summit organizers are asking those that attended this year to participate and/or organize their family reunions and include a workshop or forum that produces a family business venture or scholarship fund for the future of the family.

“At my husband’s reunion recently, we did genealogy, tracing family roots. We should all do more than eating, basketball playing, cooking and dancing—then going home. Let’s advance the family.”