Interview with Abriz Akbar
Abriz Akbar is one of three business partners who run Espresso Gallery on Woodborough Road, in Mapperley, Nottingham. Espresso Gallery is a coffee shop/art gallery opened over three years ago as a community project in the form of a traditional European coffee house, where people casually meet and socialise within a relaxed environment. In an interview with Mojatu magazine, Abriz highlighted how their community project, which is independent of their business, has been giving out food parcels to the general public:
Abriz: Part of what we have been doing is just doing something expansive in this time of contraction, where everyone is fearful and anxious about what is happening. Five of us who are friends and brothers came together and decided to help the community in which we live and operate.
Mojatu: Who do you target as beneficiaries?
Abriz: We do not have a specific target, but it is for anyone who needs food basically. The idea started during Eid (Islamic feast) a few years ago whereby we helped feed the homeless and make them feel part of the celebrations. This is what we are continuing during this difficult time. Our Shaykh, Shaykh Abdalqadir explains in his book ‘The Muslim Prince’ that giving charity is not only about giving money or collecting large sums to send abroad, but it is about personal giving within your locality, be it in cash or kind. So, for us it was not about raising money for a charity, but about cooking food together and giving it directly to those who need it.
Mojatu: What kind of food do you give out and who is involved?
Abriz: We organise daal (lentils), bread and water, which covers almost everybody because it is a vegan/vegetarian menu. We do everything from start to finish, that is, from funding to cooking. We also came into contact with Mojatu Food Bank through a brother from the Gambian community called Abdoulie Jah. Mojatu helped in the distribution of some of the meals we prepared and the response has been great. We are extremely pleased in our new relationship with Mojatu because we share the same desire which is to help those in need. We are not a charity or an organisation but just five brothers who came together to help within our community, but it is very much appreciated that we can work with Mojatu since they have the network and the resources to reach further than us.
Mojatu: Not much has changed and Ramadan (Fasting) is a few weeks from now, do you have a Ramadan plan?
Abriz: We are planning to provide meals on a weekly basis (every Saturday) for two hundred people with the same Indian/Pakistani cuisine in varieties of daal. This will be throughout Ramadan which will be a bigger project for us that we are looking forward to as feeding people is a key part of Ramadan.
Mojatu: Will this project continue after COVID lockdown?
Abriz: After Ramadan, we just want to continue as we have been doing which is at least once a month. The most important thing for us is to do something expansive in our community because there is a lot of confusion and uncertainties at the moment and one way of being part of the solution is to help.
Mojatu: How do you and your brothers feel in doing such a noble thing?
Abriz: We just hope that people enjoy our food and that it is accepted from us. There is no other reason for doing it.
Mojatu: What is your final message?
Abriz: There is so much poverty and need in our own areas and the pandemic has further exposed it. So, if you can help those in need in your local communities, please help. There is nothing wrong with contributing to charities that help people abroad, but it is just as important to help within your neighbourhood where you live and spend most of your life. This also enhances community relationships, and you will know where the help is going and how it is given. I end with the motto which is written on the Nottingham Coat of Arms: “VIVIT POST FUNERA VIRTUS”, interpreted as ‘virtue outlives death’, meaning whatever you do in life echoes in eternity. That is where I want to leave.