PROJECT 2019

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Mileka Aljuwani



1957 -- 2006

On August 20, 2006, our beloved sister, Mileka Aljuwani, the National Executive Director of Project 2019, lost her courageous battle with cancer. The entire Project 2019 family is heartbroken by the loss of our beautiful, intelligent, dedicated leader. Mileka wanted everyone to know she regarded Project 2019 as our legacy and that the best way to honor her was for each of us to work harder and to do more to ensure the success of Project 2019.


Special Tribute By Charles Sanford


The French author, Victor Hugo, is credited with having said that : “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

N
eedless to say, when I envisioned Project 2019 in 1998, I was absolutely convinced that it was an idea whose time had come. 3 years later – after I had written the book, established the Project 2019 Web site, spent most of my money, and all of my time – and– had not convinced black America that we could close the education gap by the year 2019 – I could not help but wonder if Project 2019 was, indeed, a powerful idea whose time had come.

I
t was just about that time that I got an e-mail from some woman in Milwaukee – named Mileka Aljuwani – who had run across the Project 2019 Web site while surfing the net. I don’t remember her exact words, but they were typical of the thousands of positive e-mails and verbal comments that I have received regarding Project 2019. Mileka and I exchanged a couple more e-mails and – as I always do – I invited her to join the movement.

I
was not shocked that I did not hear back from her. You might be surprised by the number of times that people have said – Project 2019 is a great idea – or, Project 2019 is just what black America needs – or, Project 2019 will truly make a difference in the future of black America – with these comments being follow by, I wish "you" the best of luck in making it happen.

O
f course, this was not how the story of Mileka Akjuwani and Project 2019 ended. It took about a year – but I did hear back from her. This time, I do remember what she said. She said that in spite of anything and everything else that was happening in her very busy life, she could not get Project 2019 out of her head.

T
he rest of the story, as the say, is history. She founded the Milwaukee Chapter of Project 2019. She subsequently became a member of the National Board of Directors. And in March, 2005, she was chosen to serve as the National Executive Director of Project 2019.

D
uring the 4-plus years that Mileka and I “conspired” to save black America in our late night phone conversations, we developed a deep and abiding friendship. A few days ago, I received the highest complement from one of her friends. I will never forget it. She told me that Mileka considered me to be like another big brother to her.

A
nd that complement has become so much more meaningful now that I have met and now that I am getting to know you, Shakoor. I can only promise that I will continue to strive to be deserving of being associated with such a great family.

F
or as strange as it may seem, Mileka and I talked about death more than you might imagine. For one thing, we both had a great sense of history – especially in regards to the previous 18 generations of black Americans and their struggles over the past almost 4 centuries.

W
e both understood that the millions of black Americans who had come before us – those who had lived, fought, and died – they were responsible for getting us to where we are today. And we both understood the incredible debt that we owed to them for their sacrifices. And we both understood that the only way to pay that debt was to create a better future for the millions of black Americans who would follow us after we were gone. And, of course, because of the challenge of Project 2019 – that is, to reach educational parity by the year 2019 – there was the reality that we might not be around to see the results of our labor.

T
he standing joke was that, in the year 2019, Mileka would roll me out onto the stage in a wheel chair, push me over to the side, and she would make the speech congratulating black America for having accomplished a task that people had the audacity to say that black America could not accomplish. So, you can’t begin to imagine how I feel standing here today. Because in my heart of hearts, I always knew that it would be Mileka, standing here where I’m standing, praising me as a great hero of Project 2019 – and not the other way around.

M
ileka did not make it to the year 2019. I may not make it to the year 2019. And, sadly, some of you here today may not make it to the year 2019. But, the year 2019, by the grace of God, will arrive and there will be millions of black Americans who will be here to share this watershed moment in black history.

I
t was Mileka’s dream, as it is mine, that the year 2019 will not be a year of black Americans cursing and bemoaning 400 years of Slavery and oppression – but rather, a year of joyously celebrating – the resilience, the resourcefulness, and the strength of character of black America.

I
am humbled that Mileka Aljuwani – for all that she had seen, all that she knew, and all that she had done – chose to dedicate a part of her life to Project 2019.

I
am so grateful that Mileka Aljuwani – for all that she had seen, all that she knew, and all that she had done – by virtue of her faith in Project 2019, validated that it truly is a powerful idea whose time has come.

I am so honored that Mileka Aljuwani – for all that she had seen, all that she knew, and all that she had done – I am so very honored that she shared my dream.

M
ileka, you will be remembered. Your legacies will include your beautiful mind – your beautiful heart – and your beautiful spirit.

A
nd if I have my way, you will be remembered for the next 400 years in black American history as the visionary who – with your life, showed us the way to the Promised Land – and with your death inspired us to stop talking about it – and to actually reach the Promised Land.

T
hank you, Mileka, for giving us all that you had to give. We will always love you.


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