What is DIP? And why?


What is DIP?

Deonna Kelli Sayed launches a unique and timely conversation: Dialogue in Progress (DIP): Exchanges between NC Muslim and Jewish Neighbors with PEN America and the PEN Across America initiative as co-sponsor. This project is in response rising anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the United States, the complex relationship between identity and spirituality, and the increasing difficulty to have meaningful conversations around Israel-Palestine on campuses and in larger community spaces. DIP acknowledges that Muslim and Jewish residents in NC are essential to a healthy, vibrant civic culture. 

DIP invites NC based diverse Muslim and Jewish writers, artists, and community members to engage in conversation via letters, prose, poetry, fiction, visual art, to be included in an 8 ½ X 11 envelope (example: a self-contained project or something with a QR code that links to online multimedia) around the theme:

What I Wish You Knew About Me as a Muslim/Jew

DIP encourages diverse Muslim and Jewish NC voices, from observant to secular, LGBTQIA, from all cultural backgrounds, to submit.

Written submissions will be printed as a special edition book; art/photography and multimedia submissions will be included in the envelope. Upon completion, the DIP envelope | book will be mailed to all participants, key NC Islamic centers, Jewish congregations, and campus organizations. A small curatorial committee of individuals from the NC Jewish and Muslim community will create a “how to use guide” as part of the project. Approximately mailing will be around 125 envelopes | books.  (Submission guidelines are here)

A reception for participants and the general public will occur early September at a centralized NC location prior to Rosh Hashanah. 

Why DIP? Dialogue in Progress offers NC Muslims and Jews an opportunity to be conversation with the larger American cultural moment as a backdrop. DIP hopes to provide an opening to engage in honest, respectful conversation (even if difficult, at times) around areas of challenge (Israel-Palestine) and areas where the communities are aligned (increasing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia), or on whatever topic that intersects with personal faith and identity.

How did the idea emerge? In 2016, writer Deonna Kelli Sayed started Ask a Muslim Anything! events at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro. She invited diverse Muslims to be in conversation with the public during the 2016 presidential campaign in a non-religious, non-academic space. The series appeared on a live broadcast of WUNC’s The State of Things, highlighting public interest in this type of dialogue.

Since the 2016 election, the rise in anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic incidents is deeply troubling. These developments express the need for Jewish and Muslim communities in North Carolina to engage with each other in an unprecedented manner.

Deonna is concerned that wedge politics will emerge in 2020, and her hope is that the two communities can work together in North Carolina on shared issues without having to put aside personal commitments to Palestine and/or Israel. 

I am not an artist/writer. Can I still participate?: DIP is open to anyone who identifies as Jewish or Muslim and who wants to be part of this conversation.  DIP acknowledges that artists and writers are familiar with submission processes, as well as the editorial and curatorial aspects involved in arts projects. However, DIP encourages congregants, lay leaders, religious leaders, high school students, grandmothers — anyone —  to write a letter, a poem, or create a small piece of art work that fits within the DIP framework.  

How will the curatorial process work?: The committee will review submissions after April 15 to see what themes emerge and how the submissions “speak” to each other. Some submissions may not make it into the envelope | book project, but may go up online instead. The envelope | book project will be mailed to key mosques and Jewish congregations throughout the state, as well as to campus organizations. The committee will create a brief educational guide for institutions and organizations on how DIP can be used as a teaching tool. 

Deonna will be in touch throughout the process with those who submitted.  

How is DIP funded?:  The project is personally funded by Deonna Kelli Sayed and through generous anonymous donors active in interfaith work.  PEN America and PEN Across America offers institutional and media support. 

I love the idea of DIP and want to support the effort. Does DIP accept donations? DIP isn’t actively soliciting or accepting donations as this effort is not associated with a non-profit.  However, if you really want to support DIP, email deonnasayed at gmail dot com to explore ways you can contribute. 

Deonna wants to acknowledge the curatorial committee members who are donating their time and knowledge to this project, as well as those who submit work to this volunteer effort. 

I am LGBTQIA. (Or) I am an atheist. Can I participate? Of course. DIP hopes to have all voices as part of the conversation. If you are uncomfortable using your real name for any reason (remember: DIP will be mailed to NC mosques/synagogues), we can talk about how to work around that. 

I am a Muslim who supports BDS. I am Jewish and proudly Zionist. Will my submission really be considered? Sure. DIP won’t exclusively focus on the discussion around Israel-Palestine, yet the hope is that participants who choose to can share feelings and experiences related to the issue in a respectful and honest manner. DIP isn’t asking anyone to be less committed to the things they care about. Nor does DIP desire to issue ideological litmus tests. If we have to set aside things that are important to us in order to be in conversation, then that isn’t an honest conversation at all.

Deonna recognizes that this kind of conversation model might be countercultural in America 2020.  Let it be so.