Explore Omar: Related Events

Discover what’s happening around Chapel Hill in the lead-up to Omar.

Jamez McCorkle and Cheryse McLeod Lewis in Omar. Image provided by Spoleto Festival USA.

As the North Carolina premiere of Omar draws near, we want to keep you up-to-date on all the opportunities to learn more about this sweeping new work. Together with our partners, we’re proud to present a slate of programs that dive deep into the social, political, economic, and historical context of the performance. To learn what’s on the way, click here, or read the descriptions below.

CPA and MDC invite you to:
The State of the South, Omar ibn Said:
A Conversation Between Dr. Youssef Carter and Dr. William Spriggs

Omar ibn Said’s story illuminates the historical and geographical relationships between Black Muslim religious empowerment, forced and chosen migration, and labor. As we think of the future of the South—as well as its present—understanding this history is essential to imagining economic systems rooted in equity.

Join us for a dialogue between Dr. Youssef Carter, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and the Kenan Rifai Fellow in Islamic Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Dr. William Spriggs, the former Chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University and Chief Economist to the AFL-CIO. This dialogue will be moderated by MDC Senior Program Director Kerri Forrest. Together, we will explore and bear witness to the historical conditions of slavery faced by Ibn Said, while envisioning how we might realize systems that value humanity.

Registration is free! Click here to register.

Dr. Youssef Carter (left) and Dr. William Spriggs (right)

CPA and the UNC Department of Music invite you to:
Performing & Imagining the American South “Open Classroom” on Omar
Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels in conversation with Dr. Naomi André

The university community is welcome to join the students in Performing and Imagining the American South (IDST 121) for a conversation between Rhiannon Giddens, Michael Abels, and Dr. Naomi André on Omar, music, and the American South.

Dr. Naomi André is the David G. Frey Distinguished Professor of Music at UNC-Chapel Hill.

No registration required.

Rhiannon Giddens (left) and Michael Abels (right)

CPA, UNC Press, and the UNC African Studies Center invite you to:
“What is the ‘Autobiogaphy’ of Omar ibn Said?” with Dr. Carl W. Ernst and Dr. Mbaye Lo

Omar ibn Said (1770-1863), a West African Muslim scholar, was sold into slavery in America, where he spent over half a century enslaved to a prominent North Carolina family. He left behind a small collection of documents in Arabic that remain poorly understood. This presentation is based on Dr. Ernst and Dr. Lo’s book, I Cannot Write My Life: Islam, Arabic, and Slavery in Omar ibn Said’s America, forthcoming from UNC Press in August 2023. Why, at the beginning of his 1831 “Autobiography,” did Ibn Said announce “I cannot write my life”? What is the significance of his quotations from Islamic theological and mystical texts, which have escaped notice until now? Ernst and Lo will address these questions and more. Join us to learn more about their major reassessment of this important witness to the presence of Islam and Arabic at the beginning of America’s history.

Moderated by Mark Simpson-Vos, the Editorial Director for UNC Press.

Mbaye Lo is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies & International Comparative Studies at Duke University.

Carl W. Ernst is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Registration is free! Click here to register.

Dr. Mbaye Lo and Dr. Carl W. Ernst will discuss their new book, forthcoming from UNC Press.

Up Close and Personal with Omar ibn Said Materials
Instruction Sessions in Wilson Special Collections Library

Where: Wilson Library, Room 901  

For folks who were able to see the Omar opera or are simply curious about its inspiration, we are offering three opportunities for our Carolina campus community to get up close and personal with documents and other materials related to Omar ibn Said. Guests who sign up online will have a chance to see the original 19th century artifacts featuring or written by Omar himself. In addition, guests will have the opportunity to speak with UNC reference librarians and learn even more ways to engage with Omar’s story and special collections at UNC Libraries.

For information and tickets to the performance, please visit our event page.

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