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The Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Duke University Middle East Studies Center, the Duke Islamic Studies Center, and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies stand with the Middle East Studies Association and other national scholarly organizations in deploring systemic racism and racial violence against African Americans and pledging to “stand in solidarity with all those who are trying to make a world of racial equality and justice.”

As part of their commitment to investigate and overcome racism in all its forms, the centers and consortium are launching the Omar Ibn Said Initiative to support events and instructional activities on racism as it relates to Middle East and Islamic studies. The initiative is named in honor of Omar Ibn Said, a Muslim scholar from West Africa who was enslaved in North Carolina. His Arabic writings are the subject of a faculty-student collaborative research project at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill.

In addition to events on this subject that the centers and consortium are planning for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year, the initiative includes a grant program of $10,000 for in-person or online events and instructional activities organized by faculty, students, and staff at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill. There is no deadline for funding requests, which will be considered on a rolling basis. Colleagues at UNC-Chapel Hill who wish to participate in this initiative are encouraged to contact Shai Tamari <tamari@email.unc.edu>; colleagues at Duke who wish to participate are encouraged to contact Griffin Orlando <griffin.orlando@duke.edu>.

Image: Ambrotype daguerreotype of Omar Ibn Said by unknown photographer. Half-length formal portrait. Identification from manuscript note found underneath the plate. Image courtesy of the Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University.

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