CHICAGO—Young people once again took an active role during the recent 28th Annual International Training Conference hosted by the Nation of Islam’s Department of Defense and The United School of Survival. This year’s conference was held in Chicago, July 28-30 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk and attracted hundreds of participants from across the country and even outside of the U.S.

The weekend was filled with impactful workshops for both adults and youth. The youth workshops were well thought out and planned and moderated by young people. Youth workshops consisted of various themes including: “Don’t Suffer in Silence,” “Prayer, Peace, and Power,” “Respect the Intellect” and “Being A First Responder.” Sister Lisa R. Muhammad of Chicago was the coordinator for the youth portion of the conference, but young people lead the way through organizing and conducting informative sessions. 

Prayer, Peace, and Power was a powerful panel discussion with Sister Aalia S. Muhammad, Sister Kenya Marie Muhammad, and Brother Abdul Qiyam Muhammad, and it was moderated by Sister Madinah Muhammad and Brother Khaliq Muhammad.

“I honestly think that as youth prayer is so important for us to establish a relationship with God. I know we’re at a training conference learning how to protect ourselves physically, but we also need to know how to protect ourselves spiritually. The spiritual is the first line of defense,” stated Sister Aalia.


Sister Kenya stressed to the young audience of attendees that the best way to deal with anxiety and grief is by seeking refuge in Allah (God) through prayer.

Brother Qiyam offered sage wisdom on the importance of keeping focus, as well as how to stay focused. “What we love to do is more than likely what you are born to do. As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has said, we should all be writing down what we love to do and what we do best. We should have it in front of us every single day, and we should be making long lists of what we love about ourselves,” said Brother Qiyam.

“We should be looking at that every single day, and the more we write it down the more we will fulfill the quote that says, ‘Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man’ by Francis Bacon. That is one of Minister Farrakhan’s favorite quotes,” he added.

“Get in the habit of writing down everything you love to do, what you do best, what you love about yourself, and keep feeding on that every single day. More prayer, more powerful prayer, and more peace and more power will come into your life because you’re focused on yourself and not looking at nobody else.”

Attendee AnNura Muhammad shared that it is important to seek refuge in Allah, and strive to have a strong relationship with Allah, and with yourself. “Desire feeds the will, your will must be Allah’s Will,” she said.

Mental health is a subject many do not like to discuss let alone acknowledge. In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10-14 and 25-34.

Student East Coast Regional M.G.T. and G.C.C. Captain Johnna Muhammad enlightened the young audience members on how mental health plays a role in every aspect of their lives, through her interactive discussion entitled, “Don’t Suffer in Silence.” The moderators were Sister Niyah Muhammad, Sister Niara Siddiq, and Brother Aameer Muhammad.

Sister Johnna explained that mental health is how we handle stress, and that mental health is important for overall health. Someone with a mental health disorder is not crazy, and due to this stigma, many people suffer in silence, she explained.  Mental health disorders can present themselves in various ways, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and addictive behavior.

Sister Johnna presented the audience members with different real-life scenarios to gauge just how knowledgeable the participants were in being able to identify forms of mental health disorders in others and within themselves.

After breaking for Jumu’ah prayer (Islamic congressional prayer service held on Friday’s), youth participants received reconvened for the session, “Respect the Intellect: The Evolution of a Revolutionary Artist” hosted by musical artist, Akilah Nehanda. Hip hop magazine, Vice News recognized Sister Akilah as being “The best Muslim rapper Houston has ever seen” and she was also featured in The Source magazine. Moderators for this workshop were Sister Madinah Muhammad and Brother Khaliq Muhammad.

“When I was in college at Howard University, that’s when Nicki Minaj came out and her mixtape became really popular, and she was marketing herself as ‘Barbie,’ pink everything. When I saw that I realized that our girls were going to imitate that image, being over-sexualized. I realized that I needed to represent an image that was proper not only for myself but also for our girls,” stated Sister Akilah. “I didn’t see anybody else in hip-hop at that time who was doing what Lauryn Hill used to do.

I used to just sing but I started rapping because our girls are going to just start falling right into that mindset of being overly sexual for no reason. I’d rather change the game instead of sit back and complain. We are taught to be gods. Being a god is force and power. If I see something that I want to change, then I’m going to find a way to change it.”

Ending the youth workshops was, “Being A First Responder” presented by Brother Dr. Abdullah Hasan-Pratt along with Sister Patricia Muhammad, Sister Shi’Quiya X, Sister Abeni Muhammad, Sister Nasira Muhammad, Brother Nehemiah Muhammad, Brother Ray Muhammad, and Brother Tariq Muhammad, who are all in the medical field. Engagement specialists for this workshop were Brother Zuri Muhammad and Sister Ilyasah Muhammad.

The team operates a community-based first responder program for teens through The University of Chicago Medical Careers Exposures and Emergency Preparedness program.

Being trained in critical response skills is vital to help save a life, which is an essential aspect of doing for self. Brother Dr. Abdullah stated, “In every state, there are Good Samaritan laws, which protect bystanders from lawsuits for trying to help save a life. Trying to help is the best thing that you can do. If you don’t, try people die.”

Participants learned signs people show while experiencing a stroke, and learned what to do when they see someone having a stroke. Demonstrations were provided to physically show how to stop a bleed due to a gunshot wound, and participants were able to learn hands-on how to administer CPR.

Ali Muhammad, 10, from Charlotte, North Carolina, stated, “I think this workshop was great, I understand it more than I understand survival videos because I was able to ask first responders questions and get answers in person. I also liked doing CPR and wrapping the bandages. My father is into survival stuff so then I got into medical stuff because he gave me medical stuff.”

Asia Muhammad, 15, also enjoyed the youth aspect of the International Training Conference. “I appreciate being able to attend the conference, being around people who think as I do. The environment has been peaceful and positive. The youth workshops have been informational and life-changing.”

(Shawntell Muhammad can be contacted at [email protected].)