Robyn Saleem-Abdusamad is known for bringing people together. The NC native is a published author of four children books. She’s also the events director of the inaugural North Carolina Muslim Festival which will take place on Saturday, April 29 at 10 a.m. in downtown Greensboro’s Center City Park. The event has been more than a year in the making. The family-oriented festival will be open to the public and will feature halal food vendors, a kids zone, local vendors and entertainment. Learn more at ncmuslimfestival.com.
How did the North Carolina Muslim Festival begin?
My family and I had lived in Dallas, TX for about seven years. We are natives of North Carolina, but we had moved away and then decided to come back. While in Texas, we just got to see the diverse community that resides there and the various community events that they would have. I spoke with downtown [Greensboro] Parks and Recreation to see what would need to be done and then spoke with a couple of residents of Greensboro that are friends of mine. We formed a small team and started putting the word out and soliciting vendors, food trucks, sponsors, and of course, volunteers. We’re excited to see what happens on the 29th because it’s the first that it has been done in this area.
This is the first time this type of event is happening?
Yes. This is the first festival for North Carolina. Generally in other states you hear of it happening here and there. But yeah, for North Carolina, this is the first.
On your website, it says there are 273,000 Muslims in North Carolina. What is the history of Muslims in Guilford County or across the North Carolina?
We started on Instagram and Facebook sharing historical facts about Guilford County. Then, we started sharing information about the first masjid or mosque in North Carolina, which was actually in Durham.
Now in Guilford County, the largest and oldest masjid in this area would be the one on Sixteenth Street, that’s the Islamic Center of Greensboro. There’s another one called the Islamic Center of the Triad. Those two kind of go neck and neck as far as being the largest in Guilford County. I recently posted during the month of Ramadan to educate the community that there’s actually five masjids or mosques in Greensboro and 87 mosques within North Carolina. The oldest mosque in the Piedmont Triad is Masjid Al-Muminun in Winston Salem.
Tell me about the importance of this event for Muslims in the Triad and across North Carolina.
Our religion speaks a lot about unity. Anytime you speak about humanity you want to have that platform where we can all come together, fellowship with one another and learn from one another. So the importance of this event is to promote diversity and humanity. We also want to provide that visibility to Muslims, who are residents here in Guilford County to spread awareness and let people know, ‘Hey, we’re here.’ Most of us are professionals, we are your doctors, your lawyers, your educators. There’s so much that we can do together as a society, rather than being divided all the time. My hope is to bring about unity so we can help build those bridges with those that are in our community.
One of your goals for the event is to educate. Can you say more about this?
There are those that don’t have any knowledge of Muslims or they may have heard of various stereotypes as it relates to Muslims or Islam. With promoting the event I made a point to make sure that we’re educating in some sense, we’re not trying to convert anybody. To kind of let people know what Islam is in comparison to what some of the stereotypes and misconceptions may be floating around that are not true.
Is there anything fun or exciting happening during the event you can share about ahead of the event?
We have a Kid Zone which will be comprised of various games like ring toss. We actually will have an interactive drumming session on the African drum for the children as well as adults. We have an artist coming from New Jersey. He’s an Islamic hip-hop artist called Haa Seen Noon. He’ll be performing live at the festival at 3:00 p.m.
What is your hope for the future of NC Muslim Festival?
I would hope that this could be something that’s done annually. Also that we could get more people involved in helping to plan the event and on a sponsorship level. I would hope that it could be something that would bring the communities in Guilford County together more to have a good time, meet up downtown and enjoy all the beautiful scenery that downtown Greensboro has to offer.
Anything else you want to share?
I hope we have the good weather, No. 1 (laughs). I really hope that everyone stops by and checks it out. It’s gonna be a wonderful time, a great opportunity to, again, fellowship with Muslims and non Muslims.
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