A Family of One

Last night’s NCPCA meeting at Davis Hall is one that I’ll remember for many years to come. Neighbors packed the hall for long hours to express their democratic opinions. Many came with small children and patiently waited until 10pm.

True we had a lot of passionate arguments flying around in the room, members did stick together to the end.

I thank our president Larry Bleau and former council member Mark Shroder, who served as the meeting’s parliamentarian.  They both did an excellent job in carrying us succesfully to the finish line.

I’d also like to thank our Mayor Andy Fellows for his remarks on “a strong NCPCA” and council member Marcus Afzali for his comment to forget petty differences and rather focus on greater challenges we face.

If my memory is correct, the last time I saw a meeting like this was more than 3 years ago at the same Davis Hall on another neighborhood matter. A large crowd gathered at the meeting to vote on a report that then council member John Krouse prepared and presented to NCPCA for approval. The members approved the Krouse report with overwhelming support. Refelecting on that meeting, he later made a comment that I think is worthy to mention:

I don’t think I have ever seen such an extraordinary meeting as I saw last night at NCPCA.  To successfully channel the energy of such a large group (140+?) and so many people who may never before have participated in such parliamentary processes is very remarkable.  

The more I reflect upon the evening and its deeper meaning, the more I am impressed by the patience, wisdom and integrity of everyone involved. 

As a demonstration of the power of democracy at its most fundamental level, last night’s meeting was really an awesome thing to watch.  It makes me very proud of my citizens association and all my friends and neighbors who stayed and worked until the work was done. 

John Krouse ( Friday, September 15, 2006) 

Though John decided not to join last night’s meeting, I do appreciate the good hard work he has done as our council member and as our association’s vice president in the past. The same goes for our former treasurer Anna Ubeda. I hope they both will rejoin our association one day in future. 

Our community is facing a lot of  challenges. The city is having quite a substantial budget cut  – nearly $2 million from last year’s $13 million. This cut will affect many of our city services in the coming months. At this difficult time, we do really need a lot of hard working citizens to respond to the needs of their fellow citizens.  Disassociation from civic activities is not an option, not at this difficult time. 

Having disagreements and differences in opinions among family members is quite common. In fact, sometime passionate differences are indications of strong bonds between family members. The same applies to the members of our civic association. 

We are a family of one. For the sake of its members, let’s stay as one.  


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14 Comments to “A Family of One”

  1. By Habibah, January 15, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

    This is community! I was very happy to be at Davis Hall, although I was not able to vote.
    I missed Anna, is she still the treasurer? Forgive me, I feel that I should know this information, whether I live in College Park, or not. Ok, take care.

  2. By Mary Cook, January 15, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

    Unfortunately, we are not a family of one. We have two large camps which are divided and will remain divided. Each camp needs to ask itself what it is trying to achieve in the association. Is it a better community, or is it to be the victor? What will happen now is that more and more of the long-time residents will drop out while newer residents join.

    Our differences are not petty like Mr. Afazali said. They are huge, cavernous gaps which have widened with time. Violations of the law by the Al-Huda school have impacted the neighborhood and have had to be taken to the County. In addition, there have been complaints by citizens of huge lines of traffic and cars which do not stop at stop signs jeopardizing the lives. (Yes, I have sat at the intersection watching the cars going into the school.) Allegations of racism were also not helpful last night.

    Finally, I was very disappointed that supporters of Fazlul voted against the committee to revise the by-laws. That would have been a useful, positive step forward. Today, I don’t see a way forward. Perhaps someone could show me the way.

  3. By Minhaj Hasan, January 15, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

    Mary — thanks for being frank. I think a major issue causing this “divide” is how you look at Al-Huda School’s “violations of the law” — essentially its called “growth” — and how these “violations” (growth) have “impacted the neighborhood”. More God fearing, law abiding, highly educated, family oriented professionals have moved into the neighborhood. Their children respect elders, know what manners are, don’t do drugs or drink alcohol, respect women, and value friendship in social circles other than gangs. This is what Al-Huda is uniquely bringing to the neighborhood. As far as the traffic increase, that is just a fact of urban growth which will come eventually regardless of who moves into the area. If influential people like yourself continue to have a strictly negative view of Al-Huda’s presence, the “divide” will grow. Who would you rather have in the neighborhood if not citizens who are involved, concerned, and who have a stake in making sure College Park is a flourishing, safe place to live?

  4. By Ayman Nassar, January 15, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

    I am not a resident of the neighborhood, but find the statement “we are not a family of one. We have two large camps which are divided and will remain divided” very disturbing. It does not reflect a passion for bridging gaps and bringing opinions closer, but rather the contrary. Our neighborhoods and communities need to collaborate.

    As someone who offers conflict resolution among businesses and in family contexts, there are 5 approaches to resolve a conflict, only one works – which is collaboration. Collaboration is where each party comes to the table with pure and true intentions to ensure that the problem is resolved to the best interest of ALL parties. Other approaches such as compromise, avoidance, competition and accommodation do not resolve conflicts.

    Collaboration requires that parties sit down together with open minds focusing on the needs of each other and the interests of everyone, shared goals, common needs, tru listening, clarifying perceptions and removing barriers of understanding, developing clear criteria to bring us closer, agreement on principles and achieving goals one step at a time.

    Reality is we all live together, its our neighborhood, it our city, its our country.. lets grow together and succeed together.

    It is true that Al Huda school has long lines of cars, but guess what, so does every other public and private school in the country. We have rush hours, we have busy malls, we have traffic at movie theaters, we have congestion on beltways … do we penalize all our fellow citizens for using these services? Do the parents of the students of AHS enjoy waiting in their cars for the 10-15 minutes every afternoon? Of course not, is the school happy about it? Of course not, its pressure and burden on everyone. Does the school have more students than authorized? No. Instead of being critical, lets be objective.

    Now switching to those who don’t like AHS, lets be blunt. You are entitled to a comfortable residence. You are entitled to no one blocking your driveway. You are entitled to quiet streets and you are entitled to good neighbors.

    I suggest that you all need to work as a family. If a family has a member who needs support, they work on that. If we feel that some residents need awareness on some social habits, lets hold workshops. If we feel others don’t know too much about the challenges facing Muslims and their educational needs lets hold public workshops on Islam and Muslims. Lets learn about each other, lets unite and build together, rather than put our faces in the sand and turn our backs on each other.

    Put yourself in the shoes of the other party.

  5. By Diana, January 15, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

    The bylaws state “the NCPCA’s “objective shall be to stimulate interest in and devise ways and means for the promotion of civic, community and general welfare, giving special attention to public improvements beneficial to the North College Park area. “

    I agree with Mary’s comments that we are not a family of one. There are indeed two larges camps that will remain divided unless each group decides to put the interest of North College Park ahead of their own agendas.

    I joined NCPCA a few years ago. My reason for doing so was to become more involved in what was occurring in my neighborhood, specifically in regards to proposed development projects. My goal was, and still is, to try to achieve a better neighborhood in North College Park. This includes one that is safe and provides good businesses that benefit all that live here.

    I believe the spirit of the motion for the bylaw change was one to create a more cohesive group at NCPCA with equal representation. Unfortunately, what last night’s meeting showed us was that some members will show up only on nights to make sure the votes swing in their favor. Several of last nights members have not attended meetings in quite a while. This leads to to believe they were more interested in the motion vote than they were the community.

    Like Mary, I also feel passing the motion would have been a positive step forward. I voted for the motion and believe it should have passed. Unfortunately, I feel the failure of this motion is one that will go against the purpose of NCPCA. The failure of this motion will only continue to divide the groups further. I believe this division will continue to go against the main objective of NCPCA. With the exception of the police report, I saw nothing last night that was good for the general welfare of our neighborhood.

  6. By Sr. Habibah, January 15, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

    I’m sorry but I thought that we, all of us, were trying to do what was best for the community as a whole, not to be the victor. We must make sure that our intention is for the greater good.

    We all win if the community, College Park, which houses our long time neighbors as well as some of us that are newer, are considerate of what is best for everyone, if possible.

    I truly want the neighbors to feel that AlHuda is a part of the community! And that we want the betterment thereof, not that we are trying to take over! We are only victors(everyone) if we are good Muslims/citizens, and we seek the advice and input of those who were here before us!
    When I see someone driving in a manner that is destructive, I don’t post it on a blog, or classify that individual(s) as “Those people from College Park.” Nor do I sit at an intersection and watch which neighbors are traveling in which direction, and who is not obeying the law, I thought that that was the job of the officials.

    Do we have parents, dropping their children at the school, who drive faster than they should, yes of course. But I don’t know of a school that does not have this problem.

    I thank Allah that there is a crossing guard at the intersection of Edgewood Rd. and Rhode Island Ave. because those poor walkers of Hollywood Elementary wouldn’t stand a chance in the morning, and not all of the drivers are going to AlHuda school!

    I don’t think that we will remain divided, last night showed that we can come together. And I think that as adults we already realize that sometimes we are pleased with the results immediately, and sometimes we see the wisdom after time has passed!

    Take care,

  7. By Mrs Eberle, January 16, 2010 @ 4:12 am

    If we are not able to resolve our differences on grass-root level and stay aloof from each other due to the religious differences, how do we expect to bring peace to the world. Wars only bring wars and confrontation is not very neighborly! Oppressing the rights of each other will only increase the gulf. If we look at the facts neutrally, we come up with different conclusion than when we put the goggles of partisan. Democratically every adult of over 18 years has a right to vote. Whether s/he lives with her/his parents or alone, the right to vote cannot be taken away, so why to try to deprive others of the right of vote out of the fear of not getting things done our way! If we all use our sense of justice, we would not like to do to others what we don’t like for ourselves.

    Tomorrow if the people were barred in the national election from voting because they were more than 2 in one household, there will be protests in the streets. Then why are we trying to do something on a smaller scale that we would not tolerate on larger scale?

    Can someone answer me?

  8. By Diana, January 16, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

    I believe the answers can be found in remembering what the objectives for NCPCA are and then to take again why we all joined.

  9. By Diana, January 16, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

    Sorry, the last post should read to “think” again why we all joined.

  10. By Shafiq, January 17, 2010 @ 5:58 am

    An excessive association-centric aspiration, spelled out in bylaws or whatever, kills a much bigger objective to care for public regardless of race, religion and social mores. If we are too bogged down by association driven instruments then we’re in for the long haul missing the big picture to serve ALL. Wouldn’t this be oxymoronic trying to uphold association intent but turning a blind eye to its members’ legitimate voices of concern?

    It is also sad to see seasoned leadership tries to connect the dots using an overly used scapegoat when a democratic process unfolds to its dismay. So, I think, as an ensuing issue, our certain leadership circles along with city governance suffer from political myopia where short sighted and inward looking views make them to focus on the needs of the local organizations alone instead of meeting what their constituents actually need beyond an association.

    Our national politics today are very much of two party system (one may say camps) where members are not above bickering but they go all-out for civility and accord. These democratic and republican parties, despite monumental issues, manage their infighting neither by shedding new entrants to their system nor by shoving a bill through the legislative process. Unlike the undeniable rules of gravity there’s no sure fire way to get to a consensus at any level of politics today.

    Politically charged folks with good intentions do not simply give up on apparent divisiveness and allow pessimism to stifle growth seeking communities. In my opinion, aside from the defunct leadership and its following, the degradation of long-term memberships in local association is from its own failure to be organic in its fostered ideas, and it frustrates itself when its toxicities are confronted with, that we’re very much experiencing today.

    Folks, the ‘us versus them’ way of thinking is really a passé and such mindset needs to fade away quickly before we all hit a slippery slope. It is naïve to think that a community would not have divisiveness and differences of opinions especially in a political realm. It is also a cop out with gross oversimplification expecting all community members to think in the same way, and for one to get frustrated when it proves otherwise. It’s pretty easy and convenient to push partisan agenda in a homogeneous crowd although it gives off a strong conniving sense. Fortunately, the reality offers us a healthy playing field where divergent views are not only prevalent but also a driving force to forge ahead and muddle through.

  11. By Fazlul Kabir, January 17, 2010 @ 5:32 pm


    I agree, the ‘r*cist’ comment was uncalled for and was rather a distraction. Thanks for stopping by.


  12. By Matthew Byrd, January 18, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

    It was obvious at the meeting that there are huge cultural and religious differences in the community, due to Al-Huda’s presence here. But the school is here, and there are a large number of Muslims in our community because of it. At some point, we need to accept that they are our neighbors, and that their interests as residents here are not necessarily so different from our own.

    I have experienced the traffic problems leading to Al-Huda in the morning, and Mary’s point is taken. It IS a dangerous place to be, sometimes. But there is significant traffic in front of Hollywood Elementary, as well, and I doubt anyone could make the claim that things run smoothly there in the morning, either. The difference is that parents don’t have a straight-shot drive to make to Hollywood ES.

    I understand the frustration at the failure of the motion to rewrite the by-laws to pass, but I think this meeting was simply too contentious to approach that issue. Until the vote on the by-laws amendment had occured, none of the other issues truly mattered to anyone. I do believe the by-laws need to be rewritten with an eye to improvement in the future, but we need to select a group of members we can trust to make fair and unbiased changes, and I’m not sure that any consensus exists on who those people might be, at this time.

    The NCPCA is not a government entity, but it does have the respect of our local officials, demonstrated time and again by the Council members who make the effort to be at the meetings, regardless of which part of the city they live in or represent. That is a voice that should not be lost amidst all the in-fighting we are engaging in at this time. For all our flaws, we are the community, and our willingness to continue attending these meetings, and to make our concerns and desires known as a group, is our core strength as an organization.

    We don’t all get along, and we don’t have to. That’s the point of Democracy. But we need to agree that making our community a better place to live is our primary goal. As long as we share that, it should be possible for us to set aside our differences long enough to acheive something better for ourselves and the community at-large. I really think it is worth the pains we are going through right now to try to get to that place, for everyone’s sake.

  13. By Mahfuz Rahman, January 20, 2010 @ 12:50 am

    Given the gravity of the situation, no doubt we are passing through a challenging time, no question each of us is being tested and tried in our journey to the uphill climb. You are right, history never gave birth to any good without going through this pain and test – that’s the process to shape and refine our future and the time we are in.

    Perhaps, these are all good problems to have when we have a common goal for a greater good. Time has given each of us a unique opportunity and challenge to grow. We have no choice but to take it no matter how different our views and beliefs are and leaving our responsibility is not an option – it’s a bridge that needs to be built for our journey to the future that you and I and our generations will pass through.

    True, as a community we have strength, we have weakness, we have frustration, we have hope, we agree, we disagree and that’s the very nature and diversity of this journey. This is a time to ask not what our fellow citizens can do for us, but ask what we can do for our fellow citizens. This is a time to put our own examples and solutions first before pointing to other direction for problems. This is a time to be a part not apart. That’s right, interactive sessions, mentoring, collaboration, coaching, interfaith dialogue, computer education, improving safety and security on streets – there are numerous ways we can benefit each other that can take our community to the next level.

    No matter how big the gap is in our ideas and beliefs, guess what, we cannot afford to leave any gaps when the goal is to build the bridge and not to let it fall. Our journey, our time demands that we place each of our individual blocks side by side – together and strong in collaboration – it’s a time to close the gaps not to widen it – you’ve just got it right “united we stand divided we fall”.