NY1 concludes its series looking at "local mayors" in the Bronx with a look at an unofficial mayor from Parkchester. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Sheikh Musa Drammeh has been living in Parkchester for about 30 years, but Gambia, Africa is home, a place where Sheikh Musa learned at an early age that the well-being of one's community should be everyone's goal.
"A village life is a communal life," he says.
Sheikh Musa has brought that mentality here where he's made it his mission to spread a message of peaceful co-existence, whether it's through the Peace December movement, which encourages people irrespective of race or religion to adopt a life of nonviolence, or his work with the volunteer neighborhood watch group Community Peace Patrol Officers, which aims to create a safer environment while fostering better relationships among NYPD and the people they police.
"We educate most of these young kids who are misguided into saying, 'The law enforcement don't like us. They come here to kill us, attack us,'" he says. "Our program neutralizes those feelings, and we're able to bridge."
As a Muslim, Sheikh Musa says he believes he should show through example that the religion is about love rather than the hate that has been spread by extremist groups.
In 2001, he found the Islamic Leadership School for Muslim children, and for 10 years now, students there have participated in a program aimed at bridging the gap between Muslims and Jews.
"We can continue to believe that Jews and Muslims are enemies, whatever, which is false, whatever or we can take proactive approach to it and the best way to do it is with children."
That school also serves as a synagogue. Sheikh Musa opened the doors for Jews in the neighborhood to hold services there after declining membership and financial struggles caused them to lose their previous place of worship.
"He said, 'In the meantime, you'll have services here,'" says one community member. "We appreciate it."
It's just one of many things Sheikh Musa has and is doing to make Parkchester a welcoming community for all.