Bellwood Press has created a series of books for junior youth and young readers called the Change Maker series which tells the true stories of individuals who worked to bring about positive social change. So far the series includes three titles: Robert Sengstacke Abbott: A Man, a Paper, and a Parade; John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Man, a Trumpet, and a Journey to Bebop; and Richard St. Barbe Baker: Child of the Trees.
Susan Engle authored the first two titles, and I wanted to hear more from her about the book about Dizzy Gillespie (you may also remember Susan from when she shared all about her enchanting tiny books). Susan is a delight and I hope you enjoy this conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about who Dizzy Gillespie was?
If you had lived in his neighborhood when he was a child, you might have heard his family and neighbors calling out, using his first two names as is a southern tradition, “John Birks, sit a spell, why don’t you?” He was constantly on the move. When he was in elementary school, he was provided with a trombone for a small school band. From then on, he channeled most of his energy into playing music. Since his arms were too short to play all the notes on trombone, he would often borrow a neighbor’s trumpet, taking turns with Brother Harrington, practicing for hours at a time. As he grew and became better and better, finally leaving South Carolina for Philadelphia and New York City in his teens, he had years of playing and working out sounds and keys for trumpet tunes under his belt.
Trying out for the Freddie Fairfax Band when he was about 18, one of the band members said, “That dizzy little cat’s from down South.” The nickname “Dizzy” stuck. By the time he had helped bring about a new style of jazz called Bebop, performed for more than one President of the United States, traveled around the world for the State Department, and recorded dozens of records, Dizzy was well-known and loved—not only by many of his fellow musicians, but by jazz fans across the U.S. and around the world. He had many official and unofficial titles, including “King of the Trumpet,” “Ambassador of Jazz,” and “Diz the Wiz.” By the end of his life, he had also received many awards including 14 honorary degrees, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys, and the Kennedy Center Honors. He even has a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.
Some college student friends and I have been reflecting on a quotation from Baha’u’llah about individual and social transformation:
Is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions? For if the character of mankind be not changed, the futility of God’s universal Manifestation would be apparent.
Tahirih Lemon has written a series called The Independent Investigator that is inspired by the peerless Some Answered Questions, but it is for junior youth readers. She’s currently working on the third title in the series and she needs our help!
In the interview below, Tahirih shares with us about The Independent Investigator and what we can do to help her with the third book.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Virginia in the United States, and when I was eleven my family immigrated to Australia. I’ve lost most of my accent and occasionally people ask me if I’m Canadian.
I currently live in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. I have also lived in Tonga, teaching at the Ocean of Light International School for a semester in 2005, and I spent a year in Tauranga, New Zealand.
Although, I am a trained primary teacher and obtained a Master of Education, I have been working in the field of child protection for the past decade following a passion to seek assistance for vulnerable children.
I have two now adult children, Nadim and Adia. Adia, the youngest who still lives at home, started her first year of university which transitioned to online learning due to the pandemic after the third week. Another member of our family is our cat Zeba, who rules the house, and thinks she’s a human. I have recently caved into my daughter’s ceaseless requests for a puppy, apparently her ‘therapeutic pet’ to cope during these challenging times.
Not that long ago Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman wrote a scholarly work about Tahirih, the poetess and Baha’i heroine, called The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and Her American Contemporaries (you can read all about it here). They have now created a work about her for young readers. It is titled The Chosen Path: Tahirih of Persia and Her Search for God and it includes the artwork of Ivan Llyod and Simina Rahmatian (whose work you can see here on Baha’i Blog). We are much obliged to Hussein for taking the time to tell us about his new book. Here’s what he shared:
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to create this book?
Tahirih has been an inspiration for me all my life and for as long as I can remember. Learning more about her and sharing what I learn with others has been a big part of my life.
Tahirih, the Pure One, was a gifted teacher and was at the vanguard of spreading the Bab’s teachings. She was the only female Letter of the Living. She unceasingly proclaimed the Babi Faith and brought a deeper understanding of its teachings to the rapidly growing number of followers. Her courageous act at the Conference of Badasht signaled a break with the past and is a key moment in the history of our Faith.
She wrote vibrant poetry that eloquently and powerfully gave voice to her spiritual longing and reflected the vitality of the new spirit of her age. She emerged as the only woman and the most outspoken of the Babi leaders. The authorities responded by having her murdered in the middle of the night. The memory of her life survives in her poems.
Sahar Sabati is an incredibly talented writer who has been honing her craft for years. I heard about Sahar and her infectious laugh long before I met her and I’m grateful to call her my friend. Sahar recently released a sequel. It’s called Spirit Within Club 2. I hope you enjoy our conversation all about it:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My parents were international pioneers throughout my childhood and teenager years, and I was incredibly lucky to be involved in some great projects from a very young age. Don’t get me wrong, I of course had very age appropriate tasks and responsibilities! But it was a life-defining experience, to be trusted with things that seemed, at the time, so big and important to a child.
As a book lover, I was often disappointed that the adults in the books that I read were, more often than not, didn’t believe in the capacity of the kids that showed potential, and ended up surprised at what those kids accomplished. I also struggled to find books about kids like me—kids who were supported and nurtured in their desire to make the world a better place.
So I wrote Spirit Within Club and Spirit Within Club 2!
In This Day is a poignant and visually stunning short film put together by a team of young adults in New York City (USA). It was made in honour of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab but its subject and its themes of serving others, the importance of prayer, and of facing tests and difficulties are applicable anytime.
Nava Kavelin is one of the film’s team members and she shared a little with us about the film and what she learned in the process of making it: Continue reading
It’s inspiring to witness a flourishing of initiatives related to the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program, such as the Vancouver, Canada based initiative called Media for Transformation.
Since here at Baha’i Blog, we’re passionate about the subject of media as a means for affecting positive change, we were keen to hear from the team behind this project. Here’s what one team member shared on behalf of everyone involved: Continue reading
As a college student, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted my education and typical patterns of life, just as it has for countless numbers of souls throughout the globe. I study and serve a community near Boston, but when my school closed, I returned home to live with my family near Washington DC. Like others living and serving in Boston, I have tried to find creative ways to continue to build community, especially during this time when our careers, our work, our social lives, and our health have been impacted by factors outside of our control, often leaving us scared and concerned for both ourselves and for the wellbeing of our communities. Continue reading
Mine Rich in Gems is an incredible resource for teaching children and junior youth (from the ages of 2-14). Created by a family team made up of wife and husband, Lili and Wei, along with daughters, Kati and Christi, Mine Rich in Gems offers downloadable Baha’i-inspired activity booklets and materials in support of Feasts, Holy Day celebrations, children’s classes, home visits and other occasions. These resources are jam-packed with stories, games, puzzles and coloring sheets.
I got in touch with the team behind Mine Rich in Gems to find out more about how they came together and what they’re working on. Here’s what they shared with me: Continue reading
The Universal House of Justice has just released a letter to the Baha’is of the world on the occasion of Naw-Ruz and the beginning of the Baha’i new year 177 BE.
The letter is included in full below. You can read it online, or download it, here from the Baha’i Reference Library.
You can also listen to an audio recording of the message here on Baha’i Blog’s YouTube channel: Naw-Ruz 177 Message from the Universal House of Justice
And you can listen to and download the audio recording from our Soundcloud page: Naw-Ruz 177 Message from the Universal House of Justice