Building Bridges: Black Muslims in America

Duke Performances and the Duke Islamic Studies Center seek to harness the successful momentum of our “Building Bridges: Muslims in America” project to expand and deepen its reach—expanding to include spoken word poetry in addition to music and deepening with a specific focus on artists from the African diaspora. By featuring American Muslims of African descent, the project aims to bring much needed attention to issues of anti-black racism and anti-Muslim bias already salient in the work and lives of these artists themselves. In so doing, we strive to deeply engage in a process of reckoning, consciousness raising, and reconciliation through poetry and music, but also through a process of historical contextualization of this tradition.

Featured artists

Amir Sulaiman

Amir Sulaiman is a poet, recording artist, Harvard Fellow, actor, screen writer and producer born in Rochester, New York. His poems cross subjects of love, tragedy as well as what it means to reconcile humanity with the unprecedented trials of modernity. He has performed his works across the US as well as many other countries including England, Belgium, Senegal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Australia, Iran and the Netherlands, and continues to tour world-wide. His recently published book of poetry, Love, Gnosis & Other Suicide Attempts met with critical acclaim, in addition to his latest album "The Opening," the third in a unique trilogy project, following "The Meccan Openings" (2011) and "The Medinan Openings" (2012). Amir was first introduced to a National audience in 2005 when he was featured for two seasons on Russell Simmons' groundbreaking series Def Poetry Jam on HBO.

Sadiyah Bashir

Sadiyah Bashir is a freelance writer and award winning poet. Her work has been commissioned by Penny Appeal USA and Apple, she has also performed for international media outlets such as Al-Jazeera. Her first self-published book entitled “Seven” explores trauma and triumph through the lens of Black Muslim womanhood. And is currently working on a second manuscript documenting the history and lives of Black Muslims in America. 


Tariq Touré

Tariq Touré's poetry and prose has been featured in award winning publications such as Muslim Matters, Salon, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, The Nation Magazine and Sapelo Square.

Black Seeds, Toure's debut collection of poetry ranked among the top in African American Poetry and Literature releases in Black History month on Amazon and was the winner of Best Poetry Book of Baltimore in 2016 by City Paper Magazine. Touré has been a featured lecturer/performer at Howard University, Princeton University, Georgetown University, among many others. He has been regarded by legendary hip hop artist Black Thought as the Amiri Baraka of our era. Imam Omar Suleiman has identified Tariq as a vessel of the Muslim community.

Toure is a 2020 winner of a Short Film award from the Center for Global Muslim Life for his film Dear Beloved Son.

In 2017, Toure's writing was contributed to Gordon Parks' Fellow and Times Magazine featured Photojournalist Devin Allen's book and exhibit, A Beautiful Ghetto which was nominated for an NAACP image award. Touré is the author of 2 Parts Oxygen, his sophomore collection exploring faith, family, and fatherhood

Dua Saleh 

Minneapolis-based vocalist, spoken-word poet, and actor Dua Saleh began recording music only two years ago, garnering immediate acclaim with the release of 2019’s Nūr — meaning “the light” in Arabic. Saleh (who identifies as gender non-binary and goes by they/them pronouns) followed the next year with Rosetta: a genre-bending EP whose title pays homage to pioneering rock guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, blending warm vocals with raw hip-hop passages and haunting, otherworldly electronics.

For Saleh — a Sudanese native, who fled the country with their family as a child to escape civil war — these musical excursions reflect a life spent working across different kinds of divisions: borders, media, identities, and protest lines.

Sasa Aakil

Sasa Aakil is an 18-year-old Multimedia Artist, Writer, and the 2021 Montgomery County Youth Poet Laureate. She is a potter, painter, poet, print maker, and bassist living and working in Wheaton, Maryland. Sasa has been featured in the Bethesda Magazine for her work as Youth Poet Laureate. She has also been featured in the Washington Post, as well as on WTOP for her work on the A Man Was Lynched Yesterday Project in 2020. She has won numerous awards in writing and was published in I Am the Night Sky and Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth in 2019. She has performed on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and her work is included in the 2018 Scholastic Best Teen Writing Anthology. Sasa has been active in the DC art community since age 13 and is now pursuing a degree in Fine Arts at Montgomery College with hopes of transferring to a Historically Black College and University.