Muid Abdullah worried about his community.
Just a few weeks ago, he and longtime friend Amin Muhammad sat in Abdullah’s grocery store at the corner of Indiana and Grant in Atlantic City’s Westside talking about what needed to be done to stem the constant violence.
Then, on a Sunday afternoon in June, Abdullah became a victim of it. The 58-year-old was shot shortly after 3 p.m. June 24 by a would-be robber who fled without taking anything.
On Thursday, less than 24 hours after Abdullah died from his injuries, a peace vigil was held outside West Side Grocery.
“He was at the forefront of trying to do these things,” Muhammad said of his friend. “He has absolutely no connection to crime and it happens to him.”
The vigil had been planned while Abdullah was in the hospital, but his death seemed to give an added dose of passion to those who spoke against violence.
“This is a sign today that we need to do more,” Muhammad said. “I hope that these meetings are not just a show for the media, but a real work that’s going to continue not once a week, not once a month but each and every day.
“Our biggest problem is silence,” added Muhammad, imam of Masjid Muhammad mosque. “Silence and inaction.”
Police Chief Ernest Jubilee said police are there every day, but there needs to be a continued effort from both his department and the community.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this,” he said.
He pointed to police efforts and those of some community leaders, but said it seemed to fall short.
“Obviously, we’re not working hard enough because the violence continues, and so does the silence,” Jubilee said.
All that silence does is make funeral homes rich, said Sharon Kelly of Mothers in Charge.
“This idea of not working with the police and then blaming the police when things get done is an error,” Muhammad said. “It’s a big mistake we are making.”
“The people who are committing these crimes, they’re my friends. They’re my classmates,” said Ibn Ali Miller, 22.
He said more needs to be done for the community, including spreading the wealth that is coming to the city through the Tourism District.
“This is a new Atlantic City, and we’re not a part of it,” he said, adding that the residents do have the power. “We are the ones who choose the leaders. We choose the politicians who represent us.”
Growing up in Pitney Village, Muhammad, 42, said he was one of those on the street getting in trouble with the police looking for him.
“There was no one there to tell us, ‘Enough!’” he said.
“If the kids don’t see us as a community standing out on the street saying, ‘Stop,’ they won’t know to stop,” said Pastor Dave Delaney, of Central United Methodist Church in Linwood.
Muhammad said he was touched when Delaney talked about coming into the city. As a white man, Delaney had been told he should go into the neighborhoods only in daylight. “But these things are happening at night,” he told Muhammad.
“This man in Linwood was concerned about Atlantic City,” Muhammad said. “And the people in Atlantic City are not concerned about their own city.”
Kelly, whose son was killed in Philadelphia in 2003, said she was disappointed that so few people turned out Thursday evening.
“Mothers are walking around here with a hole in their hearts,” she said. “The whole community should be out here in an uproar.”
The police chief challenged the three dozen or so people who attended to bring someone with them to the next rally, even suggesting one at midnight in another neighborhood where there is violence.
“He and I can walk the streets at midnight if we need to do that,” Delaney said, pointing to Muhammad.
That was part of the message Abdullah had just weeks before he was shot.
“We’ve got to take care of our community,” he told Muhammad.
Now, Abdullah will be a beacon of what those troubled youth can become. Moving beyond a troubled past that had him serving nearly two years in prison a decade ago.
“He made himself into a responsible member of the community,” said Kaleem Shabazz, who helped organize the vigil.
Imam Umar Salahuddin remembered his friend walking into City Hall about two months ago with tears in his eyes.
“Umar, I just bought the store,” he said of the grocery where he had worked at for the past few years. “I finally made it.”
Salahuddin recalled a young mother who said the new store owner gave her $100 bill, telling her to buy whatever she needed for her daughter.
He knew the young girl was involved in sports and wanted her to take advantage of that talent.
“A lot of us saw him as an example of what could be and what could happen,” Salahuddin said, looking around at those gathered outside the store Thursday night: “I know he would have loved this.”
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen