This article was originally published on the Duke Performances blog

Duke Performances has been approved for a $15,000 Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the continuation of Building Bridges: Muslims in America in 2022. 

This multi-year initiative, launched in 2018, showcases the richness and diversity of Muslim culture in this country by presenting poets, musicians, filmmakers, and other artists in Durham. In 2021, Duke Performances partnered with the Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC) to present weeklong residencies with Amir Sulaiman, Sadiyah Bashir, Dua Saleh, and Tariq Toure that culminated in public events. 

Whether it takes the form of spoken word, music, or visual media, much of the art produced by American Muslims of African descent has reckoned deeply with anti-Black racism and anti-Muslim bias. Black Muslim artists represent important voices in the Black Lives Matter movement, just as their predecessors played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the activist origins of hip hop in the 1970s. 

The 2022 Building Bridges program will be presented in partnership with DISC, DUMESC, and in collaboration with Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, Duke Center for Muslim Life, and Durham Public Schools.

The first artist presented in Spring 2022 will be Sasa Aakil, the 2021 Montgomery County (Maryland) Youth Poet Laureate. At eighteen, Aakil has received recognition for her writing from The Washington Post and the Kennedy Center. More details and additional upcoming Building Bridges artists will be announced later this spring. 

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts projects like this one from Duke Performances that help support the community’s creative economy,” said NEA Acting Chair Ann Eilers. “Duke Performances in Durham, NC, is among the arts organizations nationwide that are using the arts as a source of strength, a path to well-being, and providing access and opportunity for people to connect and find joy through the arts.”

In 2019, Rafiq Bhatia returned to his native North Carolina for a residency with Duke Performances as part of our Building Bridges series. Over the course of a week, Rafiq spoke with both students at the University and his high school alma mater, in addition to a public conversation with noted scholar Professor Anthony Kelley and a culminating performance of Breaking English, his multimedia experience for electroacoustic trio inspired by his 2018 album of the same name.