poster for Muslim Women in 21st Century America and Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity

PROGRAMS FOCUS ON MUSLIM VOICES AND IDENTITY

The NYS Writers Institute and UAlbany Performing Arts Center are pleased to collaborate to present two companion programs this fall: “Muslim Women in 21st Century America” on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 and “Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity” on Sunday, October 14, 2018.  Both programs take place in the UAlbany Performing Arts Center on the main campus of the University at Albany.

On October 10, rapper/poet/activist Mona Haydar and Olympic fencer/memoirist Ibtihaj Muhammad share the stage to tell their stories.  They will present a craft talk at 4:15pm and a conversation with question and answer session at 7pm.  Following the evening event, there will be a CD/book signing and a reception sponsored by UAlbany’s Muslim Student Association.

Billboard Magazine named Haydar’s debut song, “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)” as one of 2017’s top protest songs and one of the “25 top feminist anthems of all time.” Her “Ask a Muslim” booth, set up in a public places in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2015 received worldwide media attention. Self-described as a meditator, composting devotee, mountain girl, solar power lover, practitioner of Permaculture and a tireless God-enthusiast, Haydar practices a life of sacred activism, poetry, contemplation and advocacy for living gently upon the Earth.

Growing up in Flint Michigan as a Syrian American, Haydar developed her sound which is deeply rooted in her intersectional identity and sensibilities. She and her work have been featured on Marie Claire, Glamout, BBC, CNN, BuzzFeed, AJ+, PRI, NPR, Mic, Psychology Today, Refinery 29, Milk, The Huffington Post, Ms Magazine, Fusion/Splinter and many others.  Haydar currently lives in Harlem and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.

Muhammad is the first hijab-wearing Muslim to compete for the United States. As a participant in the Team Sabre event at the 2016 Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro, she also became the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn an Olympic medal. Her new memoir is Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream (2018). Named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People, she serves as a sports ambassador for the U.S. State Department and was the model and inspiration for the first hijabi Barbie.  She also cofounded Athletes for Impact and the clothing company Lounella.

Muhammad’s moving all-American tale depicts how she overcame obstacles and racism on the way to following her dream. Devoted to her faith, she remained hardworking and dedicated to her sport, rising above bigotry and other struggles on the path to success. Her story is a relatable, memorable and uniquely American tale of hard work, determination and self-reliance.  “I want people to know that much of my strength as an athlete comes from how high I had to climb to release myself from society’s boxes and show up to the party even when an invitation was never extended to me,” writes Muhammad in her book.

On Sunday, October 14 at 7:30pm, Ping Chong + Company will present their non-fiction, documentary style work commissioned by and created at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in 2015.  Written by Chong, Sara Zatz and Ryan Conarro in collaboration with the performers, the work illuminates the daily experiences of five young Muslim Americans who have come of age in a post-9/11 society and are building their lives in a time of continued fear and violence towards Muslims. 

Their true stories create a beautiful and intensely poignant cry for understanding at a time when such sentiments are more necessary than ever. The cast members are from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and reflect a wide range of Muslim identities, including: those who have converted to Islam, those who were raised Muslim but have since left the faith, those who identify as “culturally” Muslim and those who are observant on a daily basis.

The New York Times described the work as “a chorus of voices gently demolishing the notion of Muslim culture as monolithic. ‘Beyond Sacred’ is an exercise in empathy, not polemics: a lesson in human understanding, drawn from real lives,” while the Santa Barbara Independent called it “a beautiful, funny, and intensely poignant cry for tolerance.”

“Beyond Sacred” was created with the support of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program and the Association of Performing Arts Professionals. Since its premiere, it has been performed for more than 10,000 people nationwide at educational institutions (New York University, Lafayette College, Wesleyan University, The New School University, SUNY Stonybrook, Georgetown University, University of California Santa Barbara, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill); conferences (ArtPlace American, International Human Rights Funders Group, Addressing Islamaphobia); religious centers (Union Theological Seminary, St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church) and other prestigious locations (Lincoln Center, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, University Musical Society).

Ping Chong + Company produces theatrical works addressing the important cultural and civic issues of our times, striving to reach the widest audiences with the greatest level of artistic innovation and social integrity. The company was founded in 1975 by leading theatrical innovator Ping Chong with a mission to create works of theater and art that explore the intersections of race, culture, history, art, media and technology in the modern world. Productions range from intimate oral history projects to grand scale cinematic multidisciplinary productions featuring puppets, performers and full music and projection scores. Their art reveals beauty, precision and a commitment to social justice.

The October 10 events are free and open to the public. No tickets are required.  Admission to the October 14 performance is $15 for the general public and $10 for students, seniors and UAlbany faculty/staff when purchased in advance. Tickets sold on the day of the show are $20 for the general public and $15 for students, seniors and UAlbany faculty/staff.  Tickets and information both events are available through the UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s box office at 518-442-3997.

There will also be a special morning matinee performance of “Beyond Sacred” for high school groups at 10am on Monday, October 15. This performance is sold out but high school educators are invited to sign up for the waiting list by contacting the UAlbany Performing Arts Center office at (518) 442-5738 or PAC@albany.edu.

These companion programs are offered with support from the Islamic Center of the Capital District, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of Intercultural Student Engagement and University Auxiliary Services. The engagement by Ping Chong + Company is made possible through the Mid Atlantic Tours program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.