John Hope Franklin Young Scholars is an educational program geared for middle and high-schoolers of Durham, NC where the student’s become “historian adventurers.” The program this year is entitled “Exploring Hidden Muslim History in NC and the South” with a focus on the Southern Muslim historical experience. Local Muslim community leaders discuss with the young scholars their faith, art and culture.
David Stein oversees the program in conjunction with Duke university and says that he was inspired to teach the students about Islam due to a conversation with a colleague who “enlightened me that up to 20 percent of enslaved people who came here were Muslim… I started asking why don’t we know more about this hidden history.”
Last month, the young scholars took a tour of the Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman mosque where the students got to experience Islam up close. Nazeem Abdul Hakeem is a former city planner and author, and lead the group of students, introducing them to the Five Pillars of Islam and teaching them the custom of taking off ones shoes before entering a prayer hall. Next up was a visit to Durham’s only Middle Eastern grocery, the Al-Taiba Halal market, where the students window shopped for exotic teas, rare spices, tropical flavored sodas and Baklava. The group also observed a Muslim prayer service in Raleigh.
“I think it’s incredibly important that kids of all religions, ethnicities and races get a chance to interact with one another,” says Kaitlin Montgomery, a middle school social studies teacher from the Al-Imam School in Raleigh. “It’s so cool to see students interact, ask amazing questions and be very culturally competent.”