By Charlotte A. Williams, Freelance Writer
Al-Malik Farrakhan of “Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the Brothers and Sisters” (CFDSTBAS) orchestrated another successful Thanksgiving Day sit-down meal for all who came.
Over 100 people, Black, White and Latino, were served. Farrakhan instructed his volunteers to seat all diners and treat them as if they were royalty dining in a high-class restaurant.
An ex-prisoner, Farrakhan founded the 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization in 1993 and incorporated it in 1995.
Being paralyzed and wheelchair bound for 16 and a half years was not enough to deter Farrakhan, a man who had to learn how to speak and walk all over again, from keeping a vow he made to himself while still in prison: "I promise to reach back and help other ex-prisoners, youth and senior citizens when I get out."
I found myself surprised by the number of children present at this year’s event. I asked Farrakhan if he could recall children at last year’s dinner, which is known for feeding anyone who drops in, especially ex-prisoners, the homeless and senior citizens. After a few moments of reflection, Farrakhan answered, “no.” Could it be a sign of poor economic times?
I served as a volunteer server alongside boxing trainer Umai, ex-prisoners and gang members. I was most impressed with 13-year-old CFDSTBAS member and volunteer table preparer, Joshua, a well-spoken and polite black youth who seemed mature beyond his 13 years. He went about doing his work like the consummate professional.
Never short on barking out orders, before leaving to pick up homeless people to bring to his headquarters turned makeshift diner to eat, Farrakhan delegated me to be in charge because the other volunteers were all new. Those who know me well know that I am not domestic.
After first balking over my assigned leadership role, I went ahead and stepped up to the challenge. Farrakhan has a way of convincing you that you can do anything, a motivational tool that he uses everyday to steer youth from taking the wrong road, and also for calming tensions among warring gang members.
He also leads by example. His son Tyshawn Al-Malik, also worked as a volunteer. Before my arrival, Tyshawn was already out driving around picking up homeless people and senior citizens to bring to the dinner.
Farrakhan seemed to beam as people of all ages and races filed in to eat a flavoring of Thanksgiving Day food prepared by Korean Restaurant owner, Miss Lee – Smokey’s Restaurant, and El Salvadoran Chef Moe - Highlander Restaurant, both volunteer cooks are neighbors to CFDSTBAS, located in the 4700 block of 14th Street, N.W.
There was a young family of six who sat at one table. While the father told me he holds a Ph.d in the healthcare field and works a few doors away, the proud mother told me that she home schools their four children, three boys and one girl. There were also children who came with a single parent.
One high-spirited six year old was among them. The mother told me how she and her daughter walked miles to get to Farrakhan’s sit-down dinner.
For those who are familiar with the Washington, D.C., area, they walked from the Mount Pleasant quadrant of the city all the way to the Brightwood section of 14th Street, N.W., a trek I never would have attempted. Farrakhan would later drive them home.
The little girl and her mother kept giggling in excitement. The child’s exuberant activities had her singing and dancing around after her meal. All of the children and their parents acted as if they were in cupcake heaven when they ate cupcake after cupcake for their desert, skipping apple and sweet potato pie and cookies, which was the popular request among individual diners.
Just like the family of six, after their meal, mom and daughter headed back to the computer room that Farrakhan has set up for the youth, and for the ex-prisoners who use them to look for jobs.
With joy in her voice, the mother said, “Thank yall,” over and over again. Each time she would add, “This is the best Thanksgiving Day that my daughter and I have ever had!”
Farrakhan is a kind-hearted man with an inviting smile and infectious laugh. When homeless diners asked after eating their sit-down meal if they could take a tray of food with them, he instructed us servers to pile the food high inside each styrofoam tray and secure the lids.
According to Farrakhan, donations fell off this year. In addition to the decline in donations, the high demand for food might have contributed to Farrakhan having only enough leftovers to drop off at one shelter instead of three, like we did last year.
The advocate says he doesn’t know what he would have done this year had it not been for the generosity of people like Keith Holman, Miles Rawls and Washington, D. C., Councilman Vincent Orange, who all donated turkeys and money.
When you take into account that Farrakhan and his merry band of volunteers also delivered 69 turkey baskets with all the trimmings, and 29 turkeys without trimmings to families the day before Thanksgiving, it is conceivable that he may have fed roughly 400 people in all, since we do not know how many people were in each family.
Currently, Farrakhan does not receive funding for the good work he does for the at-large community and has had to rely on sponsors like Coca Cola, Fitzgerald Wheaton Dodge, Bank of Georgetown, Industrial Bank and Ben’s Chili Bowl, as well as on individual sponsors like Barbara Skinner with Leadership Farm, D.C. Councilmembers Muriel Bowser, Phil Mendelson and Vincent Orange, for his annual pet projects:
“School Supply Drive” (450 backpacks packed with school supplies are given away on the 20th of each August), “Six Month Moratorium/Stopping the Killings Cookout and Boxing Match,” held on the last Saturday every August.
Farrakhan says over four thousand people were served at this year’s cookout compared to three thousand last year. And lastly, “Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the Brothers and Sisters/Universal Madness Free Turkey Dinners.” This was the third annual Thanksgiving Day event.
The advocate for ex-prisoners, youth and senior citizens, told this writer that the utilities at the headquarters are scheduled to be turned off on Monday, November 28th.
Farrakhan says he welcomes all tax-deductible contributions to help keep the utilities on and to pay for ongoing activities.
If you can make a donation to this worthy organization, please send a check or money order made payable to:
Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the Brothers & Sisters
c/o Al-Malik Farrakhan, CEO
4708 14th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20011
Farrakhan can be reached at: 202-882-1901 (office), 202-210-1960 (cell).