Welcome to this site…it’s a work in progress!
For over 100 years, the Bahá’í community in the United States has sought to build a model of racial integration and race unity, embracing people from all backgrounds and classes of society. Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, wrote in the mid-1800’s: “Close your eyes to racial differences and welcome all with the light of oneness.”
This process is not easy. Indeed, the Bahá’í writings identify racism and prejudice as “the most challenging issue” confronting the United States. The Bahá’í community in the US has consistently struggled through the beauty and pain of racial integration since the moment Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings spread to the Western hemisphere. Whatever shortcomings individual believers have had in these efforts, the primary Figures and institutions of our Faith have never once wavered from their injunction that we eliminate all forms of prejudice from our lives.
I created this site for two reasons:
1. To create a centralized space on the internet where one could easily get an overview of the important and central role that Black Americans have historically played in the development of the American Bahá’í community.
2. To demonstrate the dedication to race unity that marks every era of the Faith’s growth in this country, both from the efforts of individual white and Black believers, as well as from the counsels of our higher institutions.
The oneness of humanity is the central organizing principal of the Bahá’í Faith. Our unique history of implementing this principle in the context of the US spans from the Jim Crow era, to the Civil Rights era, and now into the Obama era. Almost a century ago, ‘Abdu’l-Baha said “To bring the white and the black together is considered impossible and unfeasible, but the breaths of the Holy Spirit will bring about this union.” (The Power of Unity, p 31)
Bahá’í Efforts to Promote Race Unity in the US Continue into the Obama Era
Over the past century, the American Bahá’í community has committed itself to building race unity at the individual, the community, and the institutional level. Service to all of humanity, and the forging of a unified, just society is seen as a spiritual endeavor. The US Bahá’í website states: “Race unity encompasses equal opportunity, but its implications run deeper. The Baha’i Faith teaches the need for a spiritual transformation that will cause a change in individual and collective behavior.”
The American Bahá’í community in 2009 honors the principle of race unity in many ways. Bahá’í communities all over the country are still involved each year in the implementation of public events such as Race Unity Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Race unity discussions and workshops are offered at Bahá’í conferences and schools, and Bahá’ís in localities nation-wide are involved with like minded civic organizations and programs that target issues around race equity and justice.
A Baha'i Inspired Race Unity Workshop by Mosaic Partnerships
Since 1948, the Bahá’í International Community has been accredited as an international nongovernmental organization of the United Nations, and it has had special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 1970. They have consistently addressed issues related to racial justice. Info on the BIC can be found here.
Also, in every Bahá’í community nation-wide, people from every back ground; racial, ethnic, religious, or otherwise, are invited to participate in the core activities of the Faith. These include study circles, devotional gatherings, children’s classes and junior youth classes. Each of these activities revolves around Bahá’u’lláh’s central teaching: the oneness of humanity.
Learn more about the Baha’i Faith here.
Founding of Bahá’í Youth Workshops
In 1974, Oscar DeGruy founded Bahá’í youth workshops to reach disaffected young people battered by racism, gang violence and drug abuse. The groups aided youth to explore the social problems plaguing the world, and to identify the spiritual principles that could address them. The groups created dances that creatively addressed different issues, such as ending racial prejudice, substance abuse, and the equality of men and women.
Image Courtesy of the Baha'i International Community
A generation of Baha’i youth in the U.S. were raised with the workshop model. Eventually the idea spread worldwide, and youth in other countries used the workshop model to explore the application of Bahá’í principles to the issues in their own countries.
Photo Courtesy of the Bahá'í International Community
Performance troupe “Beyond Words” in 2009 comprised youth from South Africa, Cuba, Taiwan, Ireland, United Kingdom.
Info courtesy of the Baha’i International Community.
Dizzy Gillespie Becomes Bahá’í
At the age of 51, Dizzy Gillespie, a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz, joined the Bahá’í Faith.
“Becoming a Baha’i changed my life in every way and gave me a new concept of the relationship between God and his fellow man – man and his family.” -Dizzie Gillespie
Image courtesy of the NSA of the Baha'is of the United States
Info courtesy of NSA of the Baha’is of the US
The Founding of the Bahá’í Faith
The Bahá’í Faith traces its beginnings to Persia, in what is now modern day Iran. The founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, taught that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá’u’lláh said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification.
“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”
The Baha'i Temple in Chicago, IL
The Bahá’í Faith is now established in 247 countries and territories; represents over 2,100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups; has scriptures translated into over 800 languages; and has seven million adherents worldwide (2005 The Britannica Book of the Year (1992–present).
More information about the Bahá’í Faith can be found here.