- Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages.
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States recently released a wonderful new video entitled Done Made My Vow to the Lord: The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering 1987–2011.
The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering started over 20 years ago when a group of 12 American men of African descent gathered in a hotel lobby in Greensboro, North Carolina. They came from different parts of the United States, and they came after being invited by Billy Roberts, an Auxiliary Board Member at the time who had noticed that there were very few black males serving on institutions in the Baha’i community of the US. Billy Roberts was also concerned about the state of the black man in North America, as there was a tremendous discourse going on at the time in the US especially, about how black men were an endangered species.
One of the participants in the first gathering was William Varner, who recalls in the video how after much prayer and discussion they all went out for lunch, and as they were walking down the street, he explains, “people were literally pulling their cars to the curb to watch these 12 black men walk by…we don’t know what they saw…but it was a group of black men that had been in intense prayer, spiritual minded, self-discovery, shedding scars and wounds.”
Over the years the Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering continued to grow and meet every year, and The Universal House of Justice described it as,
…a vibrant and spirited enterprise, which has assisted contingents of African American men to deal with certain obstacles confronting them, to foster a sense of fellowship and kindle their faith and commitment to Baha’u’llah, and to encourage them to find an effective part to play within the recent series of Plans.
In a letter written to the Black Men’s Gathering in 2011, the Universal House of Justice also wrote,
For these many years, the Gathering has served its members as a bulwark against the forces of racial prejudice afflicting your nation, and, indeed, attacking the Baha’i community itself, creating an environment in which injuries could be tended, bonds of unity strengthened, sparks of spirituality fanned into flames, and the capacity for assuming the responsibility for the work of the Cause gradually developed through experience in the field of action.
The Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering drew to a close in 2011, and many of the participants have shifted the focus of their activities to greater involvement in the community-building work at the cluster level. Done Made My Vow to the Lord is an inspiring video which “shines a light on the accumulated knowledge and experience that continues to enrich these endeavors” and I highly recommend it to all Baha’is, no matter where you’re from or what your background may be.
You can also watch the video and extra interviews not included in the feature on the video’s home page, and there’s also a great book about the Gathering called The Story of the Baha’i Black Men’s Gathering which can be purchased from your local Baha’i bookstore or online here.
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