“Let’s start raising villages again,” inside Philly’s Beloved Care Project
Khalif Mujahid-Ali funds his community youth initiative out of his own pocket, and has big dreams for its future in Philly and beyond.
Every city across the country has its fair share of challenges. Philadelphia in particular has some deep-rooted problems, such as gun violence, gentrification, widespread substance abuse disorders, and a poorly-funded school system.
These problems are complicated and cannot be fixed overnight, but they can be solved.
If the City Council isn’t listening and isn’t enacting policy change, then the solution is left in the hands of compassionate community members.
Black children deserve safety in Philly, as someone impacted by gun violence, my hurts when I hear about more violence.
The problem with the discourse about gun violence is partly how we infantilize our Black youth on one hand dehumanize them and criminalize them as adults.
— Abdul-Aliy (@MxAbdulAliy) May 24, 2021
One Philadelphia resident, Khalif Mujahid-Ali, is taking on several of these issues at once, through his own initiative, known as the Beloved Care Project, which he worked on quietly for about six years before its launch.
Beloved Care Project is a community-based project that aims to tackle the root causes of pain and trauma among Philadelphia’s youth, so they can grow into more healthy adults and continue guiding future generations.
The project seeks to provide mentorship for children who lack the love and care from either a mother, father, cousin, or even a neighbor, provide mental health and suicide prevention resources, protect women and elders, rally around proper school funding and gun violence prevention, and so much more.
In its own words, the Beloved Care Project is “an interfaith, interracial group of projects geared for all male and female children, teens, young adults and families.”
In a conversation with AL DÍA, Mujahid-Ali explained why he founded the project, what kind of events he’s held so far, and what he’d like to see in the future.
Mujahid-Ali founded Beloved Care for several reasons, but mainly because of his own devastation and frustration with Philadelphia’s current crime rate, and the many lives lost to violence that could have been prevented.
“The crime in Philadelphia has gotten to the point that women and children are being murdered at a large rate. I have three women in my life that were murdered by gunfire,” Mujahid-Ali said.
As much as this project stems from personal grief, he is also deeply connected and inspired by the community. He knows the key to improving the situation in the city is through fostering love, guidance, joy and motivation among the youth.
Check out and share this PSA Josh made about the problem with school funding in PA. If you go to an underfunded school district, register to testify at our hearing on the 17th here: https://t.co/LZ0LaEMYpr pic.twitter.com/tAp6J2SWv1
— Philly Student Union (@215studentunion) April 27, 2021
“There’s a whole lot that I feel could be done, but not enough [is] being done. I think that more of it needs to come from listening to these children, these teens. So my idea is just basically to save the next generation,” he said.
This is exactly why he holds events that are centered around listening to children and teens. The first annual “listening” event was on Saturday, March 27, and the most recent one was held on Saturday, May 22.
Each event features tons of activities, like games, a talent show, and entertainment, and food, snacks and toys are also provided.
Mujahid-Ali is currently funding the project on his own.
He works as a Lyft driver to raise money for toys from Five Below and food for the events, and he relies heavily on the assistance of and donations from close friends.
Despite the sacrifice, it hasn’t stopped him from hosting many events, including family-centered programs, rallies against gun violence and nonviolence rallies
Ceasefire recently invited Mujahid-Ali to represent his project and spread his message for their speaker series on gun violence at Simon Gratz High School.
On Friday, April 23, Mujahid-Ali represented his project at a press conference on gun violence with Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Anthony H. Williams in attendance.
Gun violence is on the rise and it cuts through the heart of our communities, tearing families apart.
Today I’m in Philadelphia with state and local officials to join a roundtable and press conference hosted by @SenTonyWilliams to call for action on gun violence reform. pic.twitter.com/JXd8jbCRgh
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) April 23, 2021
During his ongoing “Listen to the Children” events, Mujahid-Ali coordinates icebreakers among the children who don’t know each other, through sports or team games, encouraging them to pair with partners they haven't met before.
Following the team-building activities, he conducts a prayer circle for everyone. The Muslims, Christians, Jewish people and people of all faiths pray together, and connect to the mission of the project.
Beloved Care Project’s motto is “it takes a village to raise a child, so that the child can grow up and raise a village. Let’s start raising villages again.”
The most important part of these events is the listening segment, according to Mujahid-Ali.
To begin, he invites the elders in attendance to sit in a certain area and lets them enjoy everything going on. After the prayer, he acknowledges the elders because they are the heads of the village, and he shows the children and teens what a village looks like.
“What’s amazing about it is because of this meet and greet, these children feel comfortable with each other. So now all they need is just one person to get up and start the dialogue,” said Mujahid-Ali.
That dialogue takes many different forms depending on the people taking part.
“I want them to talk about their homes, I want them to talk about their homes, their passions, the education system, the crime in their communities and how it has impacted their lives, their mental health, anything that they want. And once they start, it makes them feel good. Somebody makes them feel good and a lot of times we just sit and listen,” he said.
Mujahid-Ali has big visions for the future of Beloved Care. He would like to get people from different communities and neighborhoods involved. He wants to see more Latinx and Asian people, more white people, more Jewish people, and wants to bring his events into the suburbs of Bucks County, Delaware County and more.
In terms of outreach, Mujahid-Ali prints hundreds of flyers and posts them in different businesses around the city, and keeps a stack of them on the back of the passenger seat in his car while he drives for Lyft, and also advertises through word of mouth.
He also uses social media, Facebook and Instagram, to post about upcoming events.
The project is small right now, but Mujahid-Ali knows that it must and will go far, with hopes it will become national, or even international.
Children and teens need to be listened to, cared for, loved and given the proper resources to flourish, so that they can return to raise the village. That is Mujahid-Ali’s vision and he will keep persevering until it is a reality in Philadelphia.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.