“We can all agree that love matters.” Ijtihad Muhammad told me via telephone during this week’s episode of Art on the Air. He and his musician brother, Really Khalil, joined me to talk about the Love Matters movement, which Muhammad kicked off four years ago.
“Back in 2016,” he recounted, “Me and a few others, we took it upon ourselves to kind of try and draw the engines from the different parallels, and bring it to where we all have something in common, which is love.”
This was during the emergence of the Black Live Matters movement and the corresponding All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protests. People on all sides of the issue were at odds and no one was really listening to each other. Muhammad himself was in the midst of writing a lengthy Facebook post as a response when he realized that there was a better way. He grabbed a couple of sharpies and simply wrote the words “Love Matters” on a piece of cardboard. He took his sign and went to stand on a busy street corner. He was shocked by the results.
“The energy that I was receiving, I wasn’t ready for that.” Muhammad recalled, “It felt amazing.”
Before he knew it, he, his brother Really Khalil, and even random passersby were spending hours on the street in the midsummer heat bringing a literal message of love during a time of social conflict.
“You can make positives of many different situations in life, if you want to.” Really Khalil said.
“If we’re paying attention to the fact that love matters,” added Muhammad, “then we won’t have to fight amongst each other about whether Black Lives or All Lives or Blue Lives or whatever, it all matters.”
With the current health crisis, the activist brothers thought that it was time to bring the movement back into the forefront. With all of the divisive politics going on behind the scenes, Muhammad noted that “there’s one thing that we can’t forget: We’re all human, we’re all on this earth, we’re all tethered together by love no matter what our differences are. And we can live in a better society if more people focused on that.”
To express their love for the community, the pair came up with a way that they believe can help to flatten the curve: Sanitizing gas stations.
“Literally maybe a minute before you, 30 seconds before you, two minutes before you,” explained Really Khalil, “Somebody else was touching that same exact fuel pump, touching those same exact buttons, touching those same exact touch screens.”
The two are perhaps the perfect people to undertake such an endeavor. Muhammad is co-owner of What the Cluck Wings in Troy, Alabama, where Really Khalil spent time as a manager, so they’re well trained in the hygienic methods necessary to help prevent the spread of disease. But for them it’s more than just the initial cleanup.
“What we want people to do is we want people to take it upon themselves to do the same,” Really Khalil told me. “Whatever it is that you’re carrying to keep yourself clean, it is also you’re responsibility to wipe up after you go. So if you’re going to the pump and you’re wiping before you start, take an additional 30 seconds to a minute to wipe down before you leave and that just reduces that risk. And if a person sees you doing that upon pulling up, that also imprints the idea” on them.
“Love is so universal and it can stretch to a stranger.”
Those wishing to get involved with the Love Matters movement can contact Ijtihad Muhammad at email@example.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CardboardSign/
Listen to my entire conversation with Muhammad and Really Khalil embedded here, which includes the song NRG from Really Khalil’s “Love Matters” LP, set to be released May 22nd. Next week I’ll be speaking with Haley Wars, whose hidden painted stones have been delighting Parkside residents during the shelter-in-place order.
Tune in to “Art on the Air” every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM in Savannah, and streaming worldwide at www.wruu.org.
Art off the Air is a digital-only column that is posted every week on dosavannah.com as a companion piece to the WRUU 107.5 FM show “Art on the Air.”
Rob Hessler is an artist, host of the radio show Art on the Air on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah, and Executive Director of Bigger Pie, a Savannah-based arts advocacy organization.