CHESS series kicks off with Islamic hip-hop lecture

Madeline Bruce, Copy Editor

The intersection of hip-hop music and Islam might seem strange to someone who doesn’t know much about either, but for Amer F. Ahmed, Ed.D., the two are intertwined.
Hip-hop has influenced the Islamic culture and religion in a way that created a voice for Muslim youth in inner-city communities in the U.S.
Ahmed will draw on this thought, as well as the historical connection between the black oral tradition of rhythmic storytelling and the rise of Muslim artists in hip-hop, next week during a visit to Gannon University.
Ahmed will be the featured guest in the inaugural event of Gannon’s 2019 CHESS speaker series at 7 p.m. Monday in the Yehl Ballroom.
This year’s CHESS series theme is titled “Make Change: Stand Up. Speak Out.” and is centered around activism. According to Sarah Speir, Ph.D., who organized Ahmed’s visit, he fits perfectly into the committee’s vision for this year’s series.
“Amer’s work is committed exactly to this,” said Sarah Speir, Gannon’s director of Global Support and Student Engagement. “He utilizes his expertise in research, community development, working, living and doing diversity and inclusion work in intercultural settings primarily in higher education.”
Ahmed grew up in Ohio as the child of Indian Muslim immigrants. Growing up, he was “othered,” so he can understand the dynamics of exclusion that shape systemic inequalities and varied world views. He uses this understanding of his diversity coaching and speeches.
The choice to have Ahmed serve as the inaugural speaker of this year’s CHESS series wasn’t made on a whim, though.
In July 2018, she took a five-day workshop with Ahmed and Dr. Katherine Sorrells. The workshop, titled “Linking Social Justice and Intercultural Communication in the Global Context,” allowed Speir to engage in meaningful conversations, activities, dialogue and experiences with a group of diverse colleagues.
“As an intercultural educator who has worked in the international education field for more than 25 years, it was powerful to affirm that intercultural communication competency is a lifelong journey and a continual process that never ends,” Speir said.
She said she is now committed to continuing her work in diverse and intercultural education at Gannon, which she does in bringing Ahmed to the University.
Spier said she is excited about the opportunity for the Gannon community to engage and interact with Ahmed. Gannon’s commitment to embracing diversity and Ahmed’s dedication to intercultural activism and scholarship is the perfect combination.
“The Gannon community, from what I have experienced in the few months I’ve been here, is very hungry to embrace and expand opportunities,” Spier said.
Ahmed shares the same hunger and will challenge the Gannon community to take on issues related to social justice, diversity and inclusion.
Gannon students will also have an opportunity to engage with Ahmed during a student workshop titled “Intercultural Leadership Development.”
The workshop will explore the combination of leadership with intercultural skills that marginalized identities experience.
The workshop will be from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., right before his speech at 7 p.m.
Although this event has been in the works for months, Speir and the rest of the CHESS speaker series committee isn’t sure of what the turnout will be. The hope is that it will be well-received, but Speir says the attendance and reception of the event is up to the Gannon community.
“It would be my hope that Gannon students and faculty are interested in Ahmed’s topic as an opportunity to explore, learn and challenge their own parameters of being comfortable with difference,” Spier said.

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