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Food drive honors Muslim students killed two years ago

Posted February 19

The Raleigh couple and parents are working to organize a food drive in honor of their friends, who were killed two years ago in Chapel Hill.

Two years ago this month, three Muslim college students were killed in their Chapel Hill home, a crime that drew international attention to the college town.

Family and friends were left to mourn the victims - newlyweds Deah Shaddy Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Yusor's younger sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. But they also are working hard to honor the memories of three people who had given so much to their communities.

Among those friends are Raleigh natives Shadi Sadi and Amani Asad, now husband and wife. Asad grew up with Barakat's family and went to school with him. Sadi, Asad and Barakat also grew up attending the same mosque and religious functions.

"Deah was always there for us if we ever needed him," Sadi tells me.

They are part of the group behind the NC Interfaith Food Drive in honor of Deah, Yusor and Razan. It's set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Feb. 25, at the Islamic Association of Raleigh, 808 Atwater St.

I checked in with Sadi and Asad, who are raising their own three kids here in Raleigh, to learn more about their friends, the loss and efforts to honor them. Here's a Q&A:

Go Ask Mom: You lost three friends in the Chapel Hill shooting two years ago. Tell us about what they were like and their important work in the Triangle community and beyond.

Sadi and Asad: They were incredibly kind, compassionate people. They were always volunteering. They would regularly go downtown and distribute food to the homeless. They helped organize a community health fair. They would volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. Deah had actually been raising money to go to Turkey, along with a team of dentists, to provide dental care for refugees.

GAM: Lots of people in the community - and around the world - rallied to support their friends and family after the shooting. How did that support help you as you mourned their loss?

Sadi and Asad: That was one of the most devastating days of our life and we remember feeling extra hurt as authorities at first painted it as an issue over parking and then the next morning seeing that none of them were parked in his space and hearing about Yusor's encounters with him and how he had told her he didn't like the way she looked because of the head scarf that she wore.

One thing that helped in the weeks and months to come was the community's response as they came together like we had never seen. Thousands attended their funeral. Vigils and service projects were held in their honor. It was a testament to how many lives they had touched and also a testament of the type of friends we had in the Triangle community that chose to stand with us in such a painful time.

Over the past two years we have often heard Deah's brother Farris quote Martin Luther King Jr. and say, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." As this month marks the two-year anniversary, we still see the community standing with one another and that keeps us going.

GAM: Why is the food drive a fitting tribute to your friends? How does it build bridges in our community?

Sadi and Asad: They were always helping those in need and taking the lead in service projects across the triangle. One of Deah's last Facebook posts showed him and Yusor feeding the homeless in Durham. Razan was at Moore Square any chance she could get with sandwiches for the homeless and special messages she slipped in with the food. Her leadership paved the way for a group called Triangle Muslim Aid which still goes out once a month to downtown Raleigh and Durham to feed the homeless.

This drive rallies the community around one common goal of helping those in need. We always think about a StoryCorps interview that Yusor gave where she said, "Growing up in America has been such a blessing… the beautiful thing here is that it doesn't matter where you come from. There's so many different people from so many different places of different backgrounds and religions — but here we're all one, one culture. And it's beautiful to see people of different areas interacting, and being family. Being, you know, one community."

The food drive emphasizes how we are more alike than we are different. At a time where there is a lot of love, but hate seems to be getting all the attention, we should be working harder than ever before in getting to know one another. This food drive has increased dialogue between communities as people from countless backgrounds have come together to work on this.

GAM: How can people help?

Sadi and Asad: The food drive will run from now through Feb. 25. On Saturday, Feb. 25, we will have a huge U-Haul truck parked in the Islamic Association of Raleigh’s parking lot where we will be collecting non-perishable items to take to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Last year, the community donated enough to provide over 26,000 meals to hungry families. We would like it to be even higher this year!

People can help by:

  • Inviting all their friends to our Facebook event
  • Getting their work or organization to participate in the drive or just individually collect to bring items out on Saturday.
  • If you can’t make it on Saturday there is always the option of donating online through our Virtual Drive on the Food Bank's website.

Go Ask Mom features local parents every Monday.

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