Dreams Deferred Essay Contest

Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance (HAMSA), an American Islamic Congress initiative, holds an annual essay contest focusing on civil rights in the Middle East. The Dream Deferred Essay Contest[1] was inspired by a Langston Hughes poem, What happens to a dream deferred?[2] The poem helped inspire and motivate activists involved in the civil rights movement in the United States. HAMSA says The Dream Deferred Essay Contest will also be regarded as an opportunity for American and Middle Eastern youth to unite over the issue of advancing civil liberties in the Middle East.

Since HAMSA introduced its first contest in 2006, 4,500 essay entries have been submitted, resulting in the rewarding of $30,000 and 150 book rewards to top participants. Past celebrity judges include Gloria Steinem. The 2009 panel includes best-selling author Dr. Azar Nafisi, Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed, and Iranian-American reality TV star, Parisa Montazaran.

The Dream Deferred Essay Contest has rewarded individuals from the United States, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Morocco, and many other Middle Eastern countries. Topics of winning essays have ranged from dreams of a brighter future, analytic essays, a case study in Kuwait, and testimonies of overcoming struggle and oppression.[3]

Dalia Ziada, 2006 honorable mention, went on to open the North Africa Bureau of the American Islamic Congress in Cairo, Egypt. Ziada, whose essay was a reflection on growing up in a male-dominated society, made sure that her dream was not deferred.[4] Always an activist for civil rights in the Middle East, Ziada took her mission one step further when opening AIC's North Africa Bureau.

Americans and Middle Easterners, aged 25 and younger, can participate and enter the contest. They need to answer one of the questions on the contest website which pertain to civil rights in the Middle East. Entries can be submitted in English, French, Persian or Arabic.

In 2012, selected essays from the contest were recently compiled into the Arab Spring Dreams anthology edited by AIC's Nasser Weddady and journalist Sohrab Ahmari.[5]


External links[edit]

The “American-Muslim Life” Art contest.  What does it mean to be Muslim in America? A single definition does not exist, while media headlines, family expectations, stereotypes, and attitutes from overseas all contribute to shaping different perceptions.  This contest explores the insights and visions of young people about what it means to be Muslim in America today. Whether you consider yourself Muslim, or come from a Muslim background,  we want your perspective on these issues. You don’t have to be an artist or an expert – just be yourself (anonymous entries accepted)

For more information, click here.

The “Dream Deferred” Essay Contest on Civil Rights in the Middle East

Launched in 2005, this annual contest inspires young thinkers to share their dream deferred for the Middle East civil rights movement. With $10,000 in awards as well as 50 book prizes, the contest provides incentive for young Middle Easterners to express liberal ideas – and at the same time serves as a recruiting mechanism to identify emerging leaders. Indeed, past contest winners have gone on to play important roles in the “Arab Spring” and other grassroots efforts for individual rights. Outstanding essays from the first five years of the contest are collected in the anthology “Arab Spring Dreams” (Palgrave-Macmillan), featuring a foreword by Gloria Steinem and an afterword by Nobel Leaurate Lech Walesa.

For more information, please visit:  (, , )


“From the Eyes to the Heart” Film Contest
A polite Arabic expression of thanks translates literally as “I show my appreciation by focusing my eyes upon you.” The phrase reflects a classic Middle Eastern concept that truths of the heart can be expressed by the focus of one’s eyes – and conversely that the eyes are the gateway to the heart. This nexus between sight and sincerity inspires this annual contest, which encourages young Middle Easterners to investigate key aspects of moral character through the creation of short films. Some viral videos have made a profound impact on young Middle Easterners’ perceptions of character – but these are suicide bombers’ glorifications of hatred and “martyrdom.” By offering $20,000 in prizes and film festival venues, the contest cultivates a new brand of short films that deepen appreciation of humility, curiosity, entrepreneurialism, future-mindedness, and diligence.

For more information, please visit : http://www.eyetoheart.org/ (Arabic, Farsi, French, Urdu)




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