Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson – Episode 50: Masud Olufani

Hello and welcome to the Baha’i Blogcast with me your host, Rainn Wilson.

In this series of podcasts I interview members of the Baha’i Faith and friends from all over the world about their hearts, and minds, and souls, their spiritual journeys, what they’re interested in, and what makes them tick.

As anti-racism protests continue across the United States and in different parts of the world, in this episode I’m joined by Masud Olufani, an African-American multidisciplinary artist, activist, writer, and Baha’i, who hosts a podcast called ‘America’s Most Challenging Issue’, aimed at tackling the subject of racism in the US. Masud and I discuss racism and some of the challenges of eradicating it. He tells me what it’s like to be a black man in the US, and the complexities of identity, and some of the mythologies tied into the fabric of American society. We talk about the idea of discomfort and growth, and how we have to be willing to grapple with it and bear the burden for the greater good. Masud tells me how he became a Baha’i, his work as an artist, and how the Baha’i Teachings and activities have not only changed his life, but can contribute towards racial harmony. I hope you find this important conversation as fruitful and enlightening as I did.

To find out more about some of the things we covered in this episode, check out the following links:

  • Masud Olufani’s website: www.masud-olufani.com
  • Check out the ‘America’s Most Challenging Issue‘ podcast hosted by Masud Olufani.
  • Masud and I refer to a quote by Shoghi Effendi found in The Advent of Divine Justice: “As to racial prejudice, the corrosion of which, for well-nigh a century, has bitten into the fiber, and attacked the whole social structure of American society, it should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Baha’i community at the present stage of its evolution. The ceaseless exertions which this issue of paramount importance calls for, the sacrifices it must impose, the care and vigilance it demands, the moral courage and fortitude it requires, the tact and sympathy it necessitates, invest this problem … with an urgency and importance that cannot be overestimated.” –Shoghi Effendi
  • Read Baha’i Blog’s interview with Masud about the ‘America’s Most Challenging Issue’ podcast here: An Interview with Masud Olufani, Host of ‘America’s Most Challenging Issue’ Podcast
  • Read Masud’s article about racism and discomfort here: Why Discomfort Is a Sign of Racial Healing
  • Watch Masud’s talk on BahaiTeachings.org presents called Freeing Ourselves of the Stain of Racism.
  • Watch Masud’s talk at the Association for Baha’i Studies North America conference here: The Residue of Memory & the Clarion Call of Truth: Healing Through Reclamation and Art
  • Masud mentions the Importance of Service in the Baha’i Faith.
  • We mention the 1992 Baha’i World Congress.
  • Masud quotes the Baha’i Writings about truthfulness: “Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of mankind. Without truthfulness, progress and success in all of the worlds are impossible for a soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the other divine qualities will also become realized.” -Abdu’l-Baha
  • Masud mentions Jamila Canady, who’s interviewed here on ‘America’s Most Challenging Issue’: Jamila Canady – A Woman of Remarkable Insight
  • Masud mentions the Baha’i principle of science and religion going hand-in-hand.
  • Masud mentions the Baha’i teaching of the oneness of humanity
  • Masud talks about his installation called “Elder” at the David T. Howard School, started by David T. Howard, a formerly enslaved African-American in Atlanta. Find out more about ‘Elder’ here: Artist Masud Olufani creates “ELDER” in Freedom Park from 100-year-old elm, resin
  • Masud mentions the following quote from The Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah: “O SON OF SPIRIT! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.”
  • We mention the following activities that Baha’is are globally engaged in at the grassroots:
    Study Circles.
    The Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program [JYSEP].
    Devotional Gatherings.
    Children’s Classes.
  • Masud shares the following quote from Shoghi Effendi: “They whose hearts are warmed by the energizing influence of God’s creative 198 love cherish His creatures for His sake, and recognize in every human face a sign of His reflected glory.”
  • We mention a youth class Masud is involved in with Human Rights Lawyer, Layli Miller-Muro, who was also a guest on the Baha’i Blogcast, and actress Parisa Fitz-Henley.
  • Rainn shares an excerpt from a letter from the Universal House of Justice dated 9 May, 2020: “When society is in such difficulty and distress, the responsibility of the Baha’is to make a constructive contribution to human affairs becomes more pronounced. This is a moment when distinct but interrelated lines of action converge upon a single point, when the call to service rings aloud. The individual, the community, and the institutions of the Faith—inseparable protagonists in the advancement of civilization—are in a position to demonstrate the distinctive features of the Bahá’í way of life, characterized by increased maturity in the discharge of their responsibilities and in their relationships with each other. … At a time when the urgency of attaining higher levels of unity, founded on the incontestable truth of humanity’s oneness, is becoming apparent to larger and larger numbers, society stands in need of clear voices that can articulate the spiritual principles that underlie such an aspiration.”
  • You can find all of our episodes here on the Baha’i Blogcast page, and be sure to ‘subscribe’ to the Baha’i Blogcast for more upcoming episodes on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Soundcloud.

    Thanks for listening!

    -Rainn Wilson

    About the Author

    Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for two decades. He’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the "DawnBreaker Collective" and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of "MANA" albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable while working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the "Building Momentum" and "Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience" videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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