Never underestimate the power of community. Muhammad Abdul-Ahad, the founder of T.O.U.C.H. Outreach understands what it means to stand together, and makes it his mission to unite the people around him. Minnesota United has highlighted this organization in the past — through the MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase — and is proud to continue helping Muhammad with his violence prevention work in the Twin Cities.
T.O.U.C.H. Outreach was founded in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. With the combined chaos of the ongoing pandemic and the public outcry of that heinous act of violence, a lot of unrest was coursing through the Twin Cities. However, Abdul-Ahad had already been personally affected by violence by the time this occurred. “I lost a friend of mine to a senseless act of gun violence. One of my closest friends. That was something that really motivated me to start doing violence prevention work,” said Muhammad.
The beginnings of the company came from venturing into the community and speaking to people about what they would like to see in terms of resources and programs. “A young man was saying he understands that a lot of people say what they want to do. That there's a lot of talk surrounding the hope of change, but sometimes people need to reach out and actually touch us.”
That conversation resonated with Abdul-Ahad. Instead of just words, actions need to be taken as well, and that’s what led to the creation of the company name. Muhammad used the word “touch” to make an acronym standing for Teaching Our Urban Communities Hope. Now, that is the banner used as this group fights for a safer Twin Cities.
One big thing that T.O.U.C.H. Outreach does in terms of violence prevention is community patrols. The outreach team is on the street six days a week, their positive presence giving some security to those who are outside. “We canvas a lot of the high crime areas and help people,” said Muhammad. “People know that when they see us, we’re going to help them make it home safe. I think it’s important for the community to know that the community has their back.”
T.O.U.C.H. Outreach first and foremost leads with love. Their positivity causes a ripple effect in the community, and that kindness continues to spread. “We are out here doing this work with no firearms, no bulletproof vests, no badges,” said Muhammad. “Our weapons are hugs and smiles and telling people that we love them. That's how you get those smiles and then get to create those relationships.”
Recently, Muhammad has turned to the Minneapolis Public School system, hoping to spread that positivity at the source. “Starting the work on the inside is going to make more of an impact because now you’re able to engage with the kids who haven't experienced the street life,” said Abdul-Ahad. “That’s where the violence prevention and conflict resolution work starts – teach them now so they can be ahead of the game.”
Part of their youth work includes hosting community events. “It gives people that hope to look forward to something positive and gives a space in which people can be accounted for. It’s going to be safe, and they’re going to make a memory and have fun,” said Adbul-Ahad.
The events are also created by members of the community for the community. When people see that it’s coming from T.O.U.C.H. Outreach, they know that it will be tailored to them because those relationships have already been built.
Currently, T.O.U.C.H. Outreach is working to ready a Sadie Hawkins Dance that will be hosted on Saturday, February 25, at South High School. The event will run from 7:00-10:00 p.m. and is completely free for anyone who wants to attend. Food, competitions, giveaways – some from MNUFC — and more will all be there, and it is shaping up to be a magnificent night.
“I wanted to be able to start throwing things that I once had fun with when I was in school,” said Muhammad. “A lot of the dances and things that we had growing up they're not doing too much of today. The first thing I wanted to bring back was Sadie Hawkins.”
As far as the future goes, Muhammad hopes to continue to spread the positive impact and aims to see his logo outside of a community center. “There are some buildings that are just sitting in the middle of these communities, not being used to their full potential. I’ve been trying to get some programs in there, so that’s my goal, to have T.O.U.C.H. Outreach right outside one of these community centers.”
Those looking to help can donate, support, volunteer, or simply show up. “Don't wait until it impacts your life to get involved,” said Muhammad. “A lot of people are quiet when they can be a voice of reason. Stand up and support now to help create a bigger impact.” Muhammad’s mission is an inspiration that proves how a little love goes a long way, and that community holds a lot of power. If you want to learn more about T.O.U.C. H. Outreach and ways to help, the website will be up within the week, but in the meantime, there is information on the organization’s Instagram page.