In light of COVID-19 and public health risks, the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Program in the Middle East has decided to fund six innovative projects by program alumni. This is a major component of the next phase of the Ibrahim program, and we hope to integrate funding for innovative alumni-initiated projects into the program in future years. In this cycle, we have elected to provide funding to five separate student initiatives, as well as continued funding for the expanded De-Otherize Project. Below are brief descriptions of each of the projects. We look forward to continuing to update the Ibrahim community on the long term impact of these alumni-led projects!
Tarjimly University, Translating Justice
Led by Danya Adib-Azpeitia (Stanford University/Foothill Community College)
Alexandra Bauman, Yale University; Husam Khaled, CUNY City College; Nour Abdelwahab, New York University; and Safa Javid, CUNY Queens College
Tarjimly University taps into the electric potential of college students as language justice advocates. This program features a partnership between the Ibrahim Program and Tarjimly, a tech non-profit whose mobile app connects volunteer translators with refugees, immigrants, displaced people and aid workers like doctors, lawyers, and teachers for on-demand interpretation. Five Ibrahim alumni around the country will serve as TarjimlyU Ambassadors, spearheading recruitment of volunteer translators and humanitarian NGOs at their universities.
TarjimlyU Ambassadors will build up the Tarjimly community, especially with high-needs language speakers like Kurdish, Turkish, Bengali, and more, to fill the gaps in humanitarian crisis response. In turn, recruited students will have the opportunity to engage in social impact and develop professional experience.
The Ibrahim Program’s sponsorship will help launch this program and support Tarjimly’s efforts to eliminate language barriers for vulnerable communities. Project lead, Danya Adib-Azpeitia, will reach out to Ibrahim Alumni currently enrolled or involved with their university, who would then work as intermediaries between Tarjimly and the partner school for eight weeks.
With schools operating online and students considering gap terms, TarjimlyU addresses the student need for professional development and social connection. TarjimlyU Ambassadors will be eligible to receive a quarterly stipend compensating their dedication and time. And certificates can be awarded to the most dedicated recruited volunteers, which they could then highlight on their resume/LinkedIn profiles.
Together, the Ibrahim Program and Tarjimly will create a community of college students who organize around immigration, public health, economic resiliency, social justice, Middle Eastern education, interfaith work. This short-term impact could result in the recruitment of over 3,000 volunteer translators and 10 NGOs, enabling language access for the most vulnerable stakeholders in our society and allowing students to serve something greater than themselves -- remotely! -- amidst the turbulence of this year.
The Digital Literacy Project
Led by Shakiba Mashayekhi (UC Berkeley), Diana Chavez-Varela (UC Berkeley), Michael Elsanadi (UC Berkeley)
Digital literacy is a much-needed tool in the 21st century for all Internet users. Digital literacy, as we have defined it, is the critical lens by which to safely navigate and share information including but not limited to posts, photos, and videos about current events on social media platforms and other publicly accessible websites. In its entirety, digital literacy is the ability to recognize false or misleading posts/articles on social media, regardless of the media’s original source or intention. Through workshops and discussions, we intend to promote digital literacy and train our immediate communities in how to better engage with information online.
Training frequent and infrequent users of social media, we intend to discuss and share with communities rarely reached out to such as young adults in the US. Situated within our umbrella organization Open Source Researchers of Color (OSROC) –– an ethical collective of investigators who research security, privacy, investigations and archiving of social movements and preserve crowd-sourced information –– we hope to work with and train high school students, our networks on social media, our professional networks, as well as communities and schools abroad in better information sharing practices. This is in response not only to the upcoming election, but also to the rise in posts with information regarding current events, donation links, petitions, etc. on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
Led by Josie Ygnatowiz (University of California, Berkeley)
Our pop- up dialogue installation gives people living on one side of the world an opportunity to talk to refugees, Youth, students, artists, displaced peoples and poets on the other side of the world. Our dialogue sessions are dedicated to humanizing those affected by the US Muslim Ban and bring awareness to the discrimination they face as displaced people that do not have the freedom of movement that is taken for granted by so many. We turn public spaces into a place for listening, discussing, thinking beyond borders and building global community using digital technology. As the project moves into phase 2, the budget would coordinate facilitators and storytellers in the Middle East, expand digital engagement activities, create infographics, and build a social media platform that will combat islamophobia and anti-refugee racism.
Sticking Together, 6 Feet Apart
Led by Yoni Nirenberg (Long Island University)
Our plan is to have a 3-part series discussing the impact COVID on various communities in NYC. Each part of our series will consist of a lecture based educational part and a call to action part afterwards. For example, our first lecture, with a partnership with the College of Health Sciences, we will be having an epidemiologist discuss the public health effect COVID-19 had on the Jewish and Muslim communities respectfully, and then students would participate in making a cold and flu bag to be given out to underserved families within those communities. For our second lecture, with a partnership with the College of Business, we will be having an economist discuss the economic effect the pandemic had on the New York and larger U.S. economy, and then compare the economic resiliency to other EU member states. Afterwards, students would participate in making sanitary to-go bags to be given to the local homeless population in our district. Our third lecture is still in the planning stage (contingent on the upcoming COVID and flu season), however we will be finalizing it shortly. We believe that students from the nursing and pharmacy schools would greatly benefit from participating in a series like this because these students are already motivated to give back to the community. In addition, this would be a great way for the students to learn about each other’s community-specific issues prior to them entering the professional realm and dealing with them as patients. We believe that the students that participate in all parts of the series will gain insight in the effect of COVID-19, but also how resilient communities can be when we work together.
Odd Fruit: A Poetry Compilation on Identity
Led by Shawheen Rezaei (Harvard University)
For some, the statement “I am who I am, and I can ever only be who I am” is so undeniable that it does not require expression beyond simply being. For many, many others, this statement is life-giving, life-nourishing, and oftentimes life-saving. I have spoken these words to the world at last, and I would like to enlist your help to share these words, a soothing balm to a painful reality, to those who may not be able to speak them yet. I may have known how they felt. Having stated these words to the world at last and now willing and able to breathe fresh air after two decades of self-denial, I use pen and paper to exclaim my existence and the existence of countless others like me. It is through the mystical potency of poetry that I make peace between warring ideologies, lands, and narratives of what it means to be a decent human being.
Transformative Muslim Women: Unveiling Islamophobic Experiences Led by Alexis Fisher (Hunter College), Anna Savva (Queens College), Maimuna Begum (Hunter College), Nour Abdelwahab (New York University), Zahraa Mohammed (University of Pennsylvania)
Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab, a religious headscarf, become flagbearers for the religion of Islam. This makes them more susceptible to Islamophobia as they become visible targets for discrimination in the United States. Our research will focus on hijabi Muslim women who have faced Islamophobic discrimination in various forms. We aim to use the power of storytelling as a means to expose the distinct Islamophobia hijabi women experience. By analyzing their experiences as instances which provoked internal change and may have altered their own relationship with Islam, we hope to center their voices in dismantling Islamophobia. Through the De-Otherize Dialogue Project’s platform, an Ibrahim alumna initiative, we will highlight the stories of hijabi Muslim women that centers and uplifts them. We believe in storytelling as a powerful means of dissolving barriers that stand in our way of understanding each other and we hope to continue to do the work of deconstructing Islamophobia through various forms of activism. Our participants are Muslim women who were once, or continue to be, hijabi women, of which some will be selected from our own Ibrahim alum. Through the Ibrahim program and their work in combatting Islamophobia and promoting dialogue, we will continue to engage in advocating for a world where visibly Muslim women are safe and free to express their religion.