Poetry is powerful. Writer, poet and spoken word artist Andrea Hope has penned a poem about racism and what we can do to heal its wounds. Will You Break the Silence? is a work we’ve needed now more than ever before.
Andrea Hope has appeared on Baha’i Blog wearing various hats: you can watch her perform her spoken word piece called “World Citizen” here; you can read her thoughts and reflections on that poem here; you can also read an interview with her about her children’s book A is for Allah-u-Abha here; or you can read and reflect on her article on failure (titled “Failure…You’re Doing it Wrong”).
I was grateful to Andrea for taking the time to tell us about this book. Here’s what she shared:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us about this work of poetry?
Will You Break the Silence? Poetic Practical Steps Toward Race Unity is composed of a single poem, accompanied by black and white illustrations. It uses simple, evocative stanzas to envision how a friend or ally might support a person struggling with the harsh realities of racial injustice.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired or compelled you to write it?
After several stories of racial injustice gathered media attention yet again in the United States, I was feeling quite exhausted and wondering what more I could do to contribute to enlightening and encouraging others. I also face the challenge in my personal life that I am in an interracial marriage, with a partner who has not been raised in the United States. After a restless night, I recorded a video calling on my friends and allies to take a larger role in addressing prejudiced statements, outlooks, and laws before they become dangerous actions. It felt like for too long the responsibility of explaining and overcoming injustice has fallen on the minority and the oppressed. Little did I know, at the same time, many Black artists and businesspeople like myself were feeling that heaviness and were creating content that asked people in positions of privilege to show their concern and support. I received several emails and responses from friends who wanted to help, but who didn’t quite know where to start. Drawing on my own insights and information gathered for an article I did with Brilliant Star Magazine called “More than Two Colors”, I sat down to put some practical steps into poetic form.
Baha’u’llah revealed a path to humanity, a path to God for all who wish to walk it. I have been trying to tread this path for over 15 years and have realised that there are things that aid me in this endeavour and also things that thwart my efforts: signs of God and metaphorical veils that keep me from God. Of course, there are many other tools needed on a spiritual journey (prayer, fasting, service to others, and so on) but in this article, I’d like to explore what the signs of God might be, and the veils that hold me back. Continue reading
Saichiro Fujita (April 15, 1886 - May 7, 1976), one of the earliest Japanese Baha’is. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
Saichiro Fujita, known to the worldwide Baha’i community simply as “Fujita,” became the second Japanese Baha’i in 1905 in California.
Fujita first saw Abdu’l-Baha in Chicago when he climbed a lamp post in order to see over the crowd that had gathered to meet Him. When Abdu’l-Baha saw Fujita He said, “Come down Zachias, for this day I would sup with thee.” Abdu’l-Baha was referring and repeating the Biblical story of a short man named Zachias, who climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a better view of Christ. Together, Abdu’l-Baha and Fujita drove off to home of Corinne True, an early American Baha’i. After resting, Abdu’l-Baha met with Fujita and stated:
So, how is our Japanese Effendi? Recently the government of Japan has undergone a change. A new emperor has come to the throne. The sovereignty of the former Mikado has come to an end… But as you are a believer in God, you have a kingdom which will never collapse and will be everlasting.
Fujita came from a prominent Japanese family and had heard of the Baha’i Faith from Mrs. Helen Goodall in San Francisco several years prior to his personal meeting with Abdu’l-Baha. Once a notorious party-hopper, Fujita became a Baha’i and received a tablet of praise from Abdu’l-Baha. Not believing it to be about himself, Fujita dismissed it. After received two more tablets from Abdu’l-Baha, Fujita began to realize he truly was the recipient of Abdu’l-Baha’s warm words and he asked what he could do to better serve the Faith. When they met, Abdu’l-Baha asked him to finish his engineering education in order to be able to work for Him in Haifa. For seven years, Fujita lived with the Trues and finished his schooling. He then travelled to Haifa where he lived, with the exception of a few years in Japan during World War II, until he passed away in 1976 at the age of 90, and is buried in the Baha’i Cemetery at the foot of Mount Carmel.
The Universal House of Justice addressed the Baha’is of the United States in a letter dated 22 July 2020. The letter is regarding racial prejudice and the American Baha’i community’s distinctive contribution to its eradication. Continue reading
Ellsworth Blackwell (August 1, 1902 – April 17, 1978). Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community. Source: Baha'i World, Vol. 17.
Ellsworth Blackwell (1902 – 1978) was an African-American Baha’i who was dedicated to sharing the principles of the Baha’i Faith in America, Haiti, Madagascar, and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In this article I would like to share a challenge he faced when confronted with racism within the Baha’i community, and how his commitment to justice, combined with wholehearted co-operation with the governing or administrative bodies of the Baha’i Faith, allowed this instance of prejudice to be resolved while maintaining a unified spirit.
Ellsworth became a Baha’i in 1934, and in 1937 he decided to serve at the Wilmette House of Worship (the Temple was not entirely completed until the 1950s, but it was open to visitors and Baha’is volunteered as tour guides). He had the capacity to be a tour guide, but was informed that it was “policy” that African-Americans could not be tour guides. This example of discrimination was of course not in keeping with the Baha’i teachings on the elimination of prejudice. This quotation from Abdu’l-Baha amply elucidates the Baha’i view:
… as to religious, racial, national and political bias: all these prejudices strike at the very root of human life; one and all they beget bloodshed, and the ruination of the world.
We wanted to bring together some of the content found on Baha’i Blog related to racism, both materials that the team here at Baha’i Blog has created, and resources put together by others that we’ve featured in our video or audio sections. These resources include articles, interviews, books, talks and presentations that approach racism from a variety of perspectives. Continue reading
I am so excited to let everyone know about a new upcoming documentary being directed by Flavio Azm Rassekh, a Brazilian-Iranian Filmmaker. The documentary is about Afro-Iranian musician Saeid Shanbehzadeh, and through Shanbehzadeh’s experience as an Afro-Iranian, plus his friendship with Flavio, the film not only explores the connection between Afro-Iranian and Afro-Brazilian culture, but it also describes Shanbehzadeh’s first encounters with the Baha’i community, and demonstrates how over the years, like the population of Iran, his views on the Baha’is have changed. This story is a metaphor for the Iranian people’s re-discovery of the legacy and potential impact of the Baha’i Faith, and it deals with issues of prejudice and self-reflection. Continue reading
Photo: courtesy of the Baha'i International Community
Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet, whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, color or shade of political opinion.
The security of people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent living in the United States seems to be on thin ice: bearing brown skin and a “foreign” name are dangerous liabilities. Evidence comes in recent hate crimes like February’s Kansas killing. Engineers Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were attacked by a man who told them to “get out of my country.” Kuchibhotla died. The attacker later disclosed that he thought his victims, who were natives of India, were Iranian. In March, Hasel Afshar returned to his Oregon town from vacation to discover his home ransacked and hateful messages coating the walls of his house. The messages indicated that the attackers believed Afshar to be Muslim. He is actually a Baha’i refugee from Iran. Persecuted for his faith in his homeland—attacked for his foreignness in his refuge. Continue reading
If religion becomes the cause of enmity and bloodshed, then irreligion is to be preferred. For religion is the remedy for every ailment, and if a remedy should become the cause of ailment and difficulty, it is better to abandon it. – Abdu’l-Baha
As a non-Muslim living in the West I am expected to bash Islam whenever another paradise-bound youngster shouts “Allah-u-Akbar” whilst unleashing his Kalashnikov in a crazed fit against innocent bystanders. In solidarity to the victims I should at least quip sarcastically about “the religion of peace” once again carrying out “business as usual”. Continue reading