Category Archives: NSA

1991

The Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue

In 1991, the National Spiritual Assembly issued a landmark statement on “The Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue.” Baha’is have distributed the statement widely and presented it to local government officials, civic organizations and interfaith groups to encourage dialogue and activities to foster an end to racism.

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Below are a few excerpts from the document:

“Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America…Racism is an affront to human dignity, a cause of hatred and division, a disease that devastates society.

“From the day it was born the United States embraced a set of contradictory values. The founding fathers proclaimed their devotion to the highest principles of equality and justice yet enshrined slavery in the Constitution…the evil consequences of slavery are still visible in this land. They continue to affect the behavior of both Black and White Americans and prevent the healing of old wounds.

“…Our Creator…out of His infinite love, brought forth all humanity from the same stock and intended that all belong to the same household.  We believe, moreover, that the day of the unification of the entire human race has come and that “the potentialities inherent in the station of man, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God.”

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1986

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Established

In 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed nationally for the first time.  Since then, every year on the third Monday in January, Bahá’ís in hundreds of communities around the country help to organize or host fitting commemorations of Dr. King’s life and legacy.

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MLK Day 2008 in Santa Monica, California. Co-organized by the Baha'is of Santa Monica

In 1992, two  served as Federal Commissioners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission.  As members of the Commission, Robert Henderson, member of the National Spiritual Assembly, and Maryland Baha’i Carole Miller helped coordinate the efforts of Americans of diverse backgrounds and organizations to encourage appropriate ceremonies on the holiday.

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1957

The NSA of the Bahá’ís of the US Inaugurate Race Unity Day

IN 1957, The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States designated the second sunday in June as Race Unity Day.  The purpose of Race Unity Day is to promote racial harmony and understanding and to focus attention on racial prejudice, which Bahá’ís believe is the most challenging moral issue facing our nation.  Since then, communities throughout the country have held celebrations, open to the public, every year on the second Sunday in June.

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Blount County’s 2009 Race Unity Day Celebration, Photo Courtesy of http://www.thedailytimes.com

Bahá’ís Celebrate Negro History Week

Negro History Bulletin 21 (1 Oct. 1957) reports:”Bahá’ís Report Successful Nationwide Negro History Week Observance”.  Started in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, Negro History Week was the precursor to Black History Month.

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1939

First Race Unity Committee Founded

The National Spiritual Assembly founded the first Race Unity committee in 1939, a committee designed to support and assist in organizing race unity events across the country.  A five member committee, Dorothy Baker, a white woman, came to have an instrumental role in the committee’s affairs.   Historian Richard Thomas explains that “the committee stressed the role of education and culture, thereby giving parents recommendations for educating their children in the spirit of racial equality and encouraging all to acquaint themselves with African-American culture.”

Dorothy Baker

Dorothy Baker (R) and her daughter. Photo courtesy Eliot Baha'i Archives.

Source: Racial Unity: An Imperative for Social Progress by Richard W. Thomas

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1934

Dr. Elsie Austin Becomes Bahá’í

One of the first African Americans lawyers in the US, Dr. Elsie Austin learned about the Bahá’í Faith through Louis Gregory and Dorothy Baker.  In 1944, she was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the US.  Dr. Austin traveled the world assisting Baha’i communities and serving on local institutions.  She helped to establish Baha’i communities in both northern and western Africa.

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Photo Courtesy of the Bahá'í International Community

From 1946-53 Elsie Austin was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States. From left to right: H. Borrah Kavelin, Mamie Seto, W. Kenneth Christian, Elsie Austin, Paul Haney, Edna True, Horace Holley, Dorothy Baker, Matthew Bullock. April 1953.

Elsie Austin

Photo Courtesy of the Bahá'í International Community

Enoch Olinga, later to be appointed a Hand of the Cause of God (second left), and Elsie Austin (right) with other Bahá’ís at the African Intercontinental Baha’i Conference, Kampala, Uganda, 1953.

Elsie Austin

Photo Courtesy of the Bahá'í International Community

Elsie Austin (wearing coat and holding frame, seated center) with women attending the first Bahá’í Convention in Tunis, Tunisia. 1956.

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