An Invitation to This Love Thing

Written by: Rami Nashashibi

When Grammy-nominated artist Maimouna Youssef (aka Mumu Fresh) opens up our live performance of This Love Thing: The Journey with a beautiful reverberating set of heart-wrenching and soul-lifting cries to the heavens, you are not quite certain where you are. Perhaps walking through Jerusalem’s Old City streets hearing the Prayer Caller’s ethereal voice ricochet off the ancient limestone walls, or maybe dancing in resistance and remembrance amid Lakota elders and their offspring on a Pine Ridge reservation powwow, or just stomping away, laying hand and chasing demons in a mid-summer out-door South Side Church revival. Elements of all those things are parts of a larger journey that my co-producer, lead vocalist and musical director, Drea d’Nur and I have brought to the making and live presentation of this album over the last two years.

After the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) premiered our live performance on Chicago’s South Side at the DuSable Museum of African American Culture and History, one of the country’s most dynamic and prominent young African American Pastors, Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ, said he was overwhelmed by his feelings that night and he described them this way:

“The beauty of diversity, the powering of solidarity mixed with an uncontainable sacred serendipity is the formula for a new democracy. This Love Thing dares to offer our nation a musical and spiritual gumbo that has the capacity-if embraced-to shape a future of hope and healing for this nation.”

All of my work at IMAN over the last 25 years can be articulated as a drive to confront the messiness of our current realities and to radically reimagine what is possible when we, our communities, country and world, radiate with a more refined representation of the best of our spiritual aspirations and values. And, yes, a lot of that was and is rooted in brokenness, love and an abiding faith that we can collectively lean into our higher selves, be better and heal. Many of those personal sentiments, ideas and larger experiences found their way into the original nine songs I wrote for this album and when I joined forces with the transcendent vocals, musical genius and soaring spirit of Drea d’Nur of Buffalo New York, everything about those songs travelled to new heights.

Yet, as personally witnessed by those who attended the IMAN Premier in Chicago, listening to our studio album alone will not prepare you for the emotional journey embedded in the live experience. It is more than fitting that our next presentation of This Love Thing: The Journey will be at the most prominent musical venue of one of America’s heartlands, the Ryman Auditorium, and made possible in partnership with our friends at Millions of Conversations. Rooted in the experiences of the South African healing and reconciliation processes, I’ve been most impressed by Samar Ali and Millions’ commitment to applying these lessons to facilitate healing around the incredibly difficult and tremendously urgent conversations related to race, white supremacy and the legacy of the South. Inspired and mentored by the likes of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the depth of those experiences and commitments by Samar and her team is, in great part, why we will be in Nashville this May.

Our prayer and hope is that, InshaAllah, your presence at our show at the Ryman on Sunday, May 15th will be inspired by and contribute to the life work and mission of IMAN, Millions and the spirit of transformative healing that is This Love Thing: The Journey


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