Thursday, June 26, 2008
Lord's Prayer, written in Arabic by Omar Said.
The Muslim community has deep roots in North Carolina.
Yesterday, I traveled to the Davidson College Library in Davidson, North Carolina to see the Arabic Bible of Omar Said. Omar lived in the 1700's and was a learned man who traded in fabric in Africa. After starting a family and in his 30's, Omar was captured and sold into slavery and imported to Charleston, SC in the last years of the US slave trade. He escaped an abusive master and was found while praying in a church near Fayetteville, North Carolina. After writing petitions for help on his cell walls, and dumbfounding the Fayetteville community of slave owners with his demeanor and refined manners, he was taken by the Owens brothers (one would become a North Carolina Governor ) to their plantation down the Cape Fear River. There he became a valued house servant, eventually being given the keys to the estate, his own house, horse, and buggy. Later in life he wrote his own short autobiography, the Christian Lord's Prayer (shown above ), and well as eleven other surviving documents. A practicing Muslim all his life, Omar absorbed the Christian faith of his owners and navigated with dignity the tricky social/religious/political/racial landscape of the Old South. Omar turned down offers to be returned to Africa, and lived to see freedom before his death at 94.
I was most struck by how carefully he sewed layer upon layer onto the dust jacket of his Bible. As I looked at it I was reminded of his selling fabric in Africa and wondered if he found pleasure in the designs and colors of each layer. To see the stitching made by his own hands was awe inspiring. This dust jacket will be featured in this project.
I have read that the "drawings" at the bottom of the above document represent the 100th name of God.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I took this photo after spending the day working on this project in Rocky Mount, NC.
From Rocky Mount to Greensboro to Fayetteville, I am traveling, meeting, and collaborating with Muslims for this project. I have sat for hours listening to the hardships and tragedies of a Palestinian born Muslim who is working hard to support and educate her children while dreaming of an education for herself. I am collaborating with a Muslim family who wishes to speak up for co-existence and justice. I am searching out Muslims serving in our military, serving in our state government, Shia Muslims, and Nation of Islam members. I am talking to professionals worried about the effect their participation might have on their work, I am learning of the deep worry and growing anger over Palestine, I am hearing time and again of cases of discrimination against Muslims at work, in public, and in schools. Soon, I will hold in my hand and photograph a holy book owned by one of the state's first Muslims- a slave who lived in the 1700's. What a journey of discovery. I cannot wait to share it the images and words of all these participants. Stay tuned!