A native Memphian and a graduate of the University of Memphis, Sameer Mansour serves as the director of 901 Ummah, the commissioner of the Muslim Basketball League of Memphis, a board member of the Memphis Islamic Center, an advisor to the Al-Anhar Institute, and a regulatory affairs specialist at Smith & Nephew. He discusses what prompted him and the original founders of 901 Ummah to establish the organization, how he prevents himself and his passion from experiencing burnout, and what his future hopes are for the greater Memphis community.
Interviewed by Mariam Khayata
What prompted you to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering?
Growing up, I was trying to decide what path I wanted to take for a career and I just knew that no matter the career, I wanted to be in a field where I could feel like I’m making a significant impact on people’s lives and that it would be beneficial to more individuals than just myself.
My mom had a degree in Biochemistry and my dad was a Biomedical Engineer. During my childhood, he would always bring these implants and parts home that were so intriguing to me because I thought he was building robots for a living. When it came down to deciding my senior year, I chose to do Pre-Med and Biomedical Engineering as my 1A and 1B options because I had two great examples in my parents but also because they were growing fields at the time that both fit my idea of helping others. I had all intentions to go through with Medical School but as I went through college, I realized that I loved the more hands on approach that came with engineering and Alhamdulilah decided to pursue that.
901 Ummah was officially established towards the end of 2014, beginning of 2015. What is the story behind the organization? What prompted you and the original founders to take action and initiate 901 Ummah?
When you look at the original founders of 901 Ummah, we were all born and raised in Memphis or lived a large portion of our lives here. We were all part of a generation that was lacking in many resources that are just now starting to become available to our community. There were perhaps three masajid and the Muslim Community was still in the stage of establishing itself. There wasn’t anything really relevant to help cultivate anyone’s Muslim identity. There was a large demographic of middle school students to young professionals that just seemed unengaged or missing in the community. We [the original founders] wanted to help change that and ensure that future generations have something that they can feel they belong to and call their own. In addition, we noticed that there were many talented Muslims in Memphis with nowhere to invest their skills and passion or more often than not, they didn’t know what their skills and passion were. We decided to establish 901 Ummah to help with both these dilemmas: to provide our youth and young adults with the proper resources needed to develop their talents and grow as American Muslims, and to also give back to the community through their skills. The result of our ideas is more than we could have ever imagined. We’re paving the way for the future leaders of our community and have empowered them to become more invested in the city and community than ever before.