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Muslim workers on the frontlines in Detroit

By Andrea Muhammad | Last updated: May 13, 2020 - 2:04:49 PM

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DETROIT—One positive amid the Covid-19 pandemic is the countless numbers of men and women working on the frontlines as essential workers. They are men and women who work to keep society open and largely work with the public. Essential workers are not limited to just doctors and nurses. Other jobs considered essential are hospital housekeeping staff, sanitation workers, EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technicians), bus drivers, retail and grocery clerks, agriculture and food processors, law enforcement and public safety officers, pharmacists, funeral and cemetery workers and many more.

The state of Michigan, particularly the city of Detroit, has been hard hit by the pandemic. At presstime there were a reported 43,950 cases and over 4,100 deaths. The commitment and dedication of essential workers during these trying times must be applauded and recognized.

(L-R) Sister TaKesha Muhammad and husband, Brother Phillip., Brother Miguel X Rayford Photo courtesy of Miguel X Rayford, Brother Rudolph Muhammad and wife, Sister Asiyah. Photo courtesy of Asiyah Muhammad, Sister TaKesha Muhammad Photo courtesy of TaKesha Muhammad

In honor of the service of members of the Nation of Islam who are essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, The Final Call is featuring profiles of a few of the Muslim men and women in Detroit who are working hard daily. They recently shared their thoughts and reflections on their work. We salute those working on the frontline!

TaKesha Muhammad is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in Veterans Affairs with 20 years health care experience. “I’ve grown and learned that through this time, you must tap into your soul and pull out your inner compassion and strength to serve those who are most vulnerable, at their weakest moments and in need of the most simplest thing, love,” she said. “The pandemic has brought out the worst fear for some and for some it has shown that no matter your race, ethnicity, spirituality, we must come together for the common goal of helping save the lives we are entrusted to care for,” said TaKesha Muhammad.

She states that the family oriented and professional team she works with have kept one another uplifted through daily prayers, personal motivations and personal strengths. “We pass it on to our patients and their families as well. The ‘team family’ atmosphere allows us to lift the spirits of those we touch with love and constant reminders that God is in total control over everything,” she added.

Throughout the hospital where she works, there are multiple challenges, but she constantly tells her coworkers and others she encounters and herself to always look at the best part of a thing. “I have chosen not to dwell on the negative of the pandemic and do understand I am blessed to wake up, go to work with a positive spirit, serve my people and show unwavering love for Allah (God) and what He has blessed me to accomplish in my journey,” said TaKesha Muhammad. She credits her Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization Class (MGT and GCC, the women of the NOI) for much of her training.

“My training from my MGT class on our 7 Units have afforded me a great reward. I am able to minister into the lives of my coworkers and the people I serve during this pandemic. Spiritually it has developed me into striving to become a stronger believer, wife, mother, sister and nurse,” said TaKesha Muhammad.

Her husband Phillip Muhammad agrees. “I thank Allah for the courage of my wife. I was quickly reminded by her that we fear nothing but Allah who came in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad! She refused to come home and spread fear throughout our home, instead she installed confidence in Allah. I’m proud of TaKesha’s courage and her willingness to help on the frontline. All praises are due to Allah. I’m married to a top soldier for His (Allah’s) cause!” said Phillip Muhammad.

Rudolph Muhammad is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He also works as nurse support at a Covid-19 field hospital in Michigan. “I perform an initial assessment of patients, obtain vital signs, medical history upon admission to the field hospital,” said Rudolph Muhammad.

“As a member of the Nation of Islam’s Ministry of Health and Human Services, this experience provides excellent training into the magnitude of responsibility we have and teaches us exactly what we must have in place as far as systems, equipment, resources and infrastructure to care for our own,” he added.

Psychologically it is draining because as health care workers, we are taught to follow the pathology (cause and effect) of diseases. However, we are not getting full disclosure, so whatever we thought we knew about this disease keeps changing. Those of us who are on the frontline of this war are left to keep playing catch up,” said Rudolph Muhammad.

Frontline workers are also losing loved ones from among their family of coworkers and blood family members, he said. “Having worked during 9/11, once again I find myself having to deal with losing former students, partners, coworkers and family members that I cannot reach and console their families,” shared Rudolph Muhammad.

As a believer in Allah and the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, he said he is reminded of what is written in the Holy Qur’an, “from Allah we come and to Allah we return.”

His wife Asiyah Muhammad is a hospital chaplain and explained that the culture of Original people has been to grieve and celebrate as a family which can no longer be done amid Covid-19. “I’m talking to families dealing without closure and (in some cases) multiple deaths where they are unable to come together. This is not only due to social distancing measures, gathering limitations of ten or less but also because multiple family members may be stricken with Covid-19,” said Asiyah Muhammad.

“We really need to be mindful of our own self-care. As a chaplain, we support one another, patients and their families. Confidentiality is the most critical part of our interaction in counseling families. The confidentiality we offer enables them to freely share all their feelings and lament in a safe space. I wish I could help more.”

Miguel X Rayford is an industrial roll-off driver in environmental services with over 10 years’ experience.

“As an industrial roll-off driver I pick-up and deliver compactors to industrial facilities,” he explained. His job function led to being declared an essential worker during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The people appreciate what we do, especially children and women. They love running to the window looking at the ‘trash man’ picking up trash in the community. We get a lot of thank you waves, people offer us drinks,” he said.

“Even though sanitation workers are not as popular as other essential jobs like a fireman, police officer or EMT, we’re still very much appreciated,” said Miguel X.

Dealing with coronavirus, the shut-down and panic over what’s going on, one thing I notice is that the city is still clean. We still go out every day to pick up refuge, compost and recyclables. At the start of a given work day, we’ll have on our route loaded dumpsters of trash, recyclables, yard waste, discarded furniture and appliances, etc., and by the end of that day, we’ll drive back through the neighborhood that was once full of trash at the curb, everything looks immaculate,” he said.

“I’ve noticed that, even in the midst of a pandemic, we’re still able to keep the neighborhoods clean. I appreciate this career (picking up sanitation) because it is very essential.”