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.
Cross-cultural marriages and children born from these marriages appear to be part of creating one human family. When my American stepdaughter married a Norwegian-Swede last year and moved to Norway, we really didn’t understand this. During the wedding, our home became decorated with a few things in Norwegian flag colors, which happen to be red, white, and blue, just like our flags in the US. Now, however, a granddaughter has arrived, and suddenly our perspective is very different.
The concept of being world citizens and building one human family is large and complex. It’s far more than having treaties across borders of homogenous countries for example. Here is a view from Abdu’l-Baha: Continue reading
In The Advent of Divine Justice, Shoghi Effendi laid out a path for the U.S. and Canadian Baha’i communities to contribute to the transformation of their societies, as summarized in introduction to the Advent of Divine Justice. Addressing the United States in particular, he identified “racial prejudice” as “the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Baha’i community,” for this issue permeated the entire nation, which he called “a prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing forms of racial prejudice.”
Though this message was penned in 1938, I believe it remains highly relevant today because the “cancerous growth of racial prejudice” continues to eat into the body politic. “Black Lives Matter”: this basic assertion of human value, proclaimed by the protestors who are filling the streets of U.S. cities, responds to the routine, systematic treatment of People of Color* as disposable. Racism remains “the most vital and challenging issue.” I wish to share with you Shoghi Effendi’s guidance on deconstructing it, along with my reflections as a white person living in the United States. Continue reading
Baha’u’llah proclaimed to humanity that “these great oppressions that have befallen the world are preparing it for the advent of the Most Great Justice.” His teachings lay out a blueprint for establishing a just world civilization founded on international cooperation, and the paramount task of His successors has been to give people around the world access to this blueprint.
To that end, Shoghi Effendi worked tirelessly to build the capacity of Baha’is around the world to share Baha’u’llah’s message. The crucial channel for his guidance was letters to individuals and national bodies alike. The Advent of Divine Justice is one such letter—a particularly powerful one in its rallying cry for Baha’is to engage in a double crusade of improving the self and improving society. Though addressed to the Baha’is in the United States and Canada and written in 1938, its guidance applies to the life of every Baha’i and maintains its relevance today. This article seeks to aid your study of this significant message by commenting on its significance, reviewing its history, and summarizing some of its major themes. Continue reading
Masud Olufani is an African-American multidisciplinary artist, actor and writer currently based in Atlanta, and you may have seen some of his incredible work featured on Baha’i Blog over the years. For instance you may recognize him from his 2018 ABS presentation “The Residue of Memory & The Clarion Call of Truth: Healing Through Reclamation and Art” or his BahaiTeachings.org talk Freeing Ourselves from the the Stain of Racism. He was also featured on their Cloud9 podcast series, and the episode is called Masud Olufani: An Artist Rooted in Justice and Unity.
More recently, Masud teamed up with our friends at BahaiTeachings.org to host a new podcast series called ‘America’s Most Challenging Issue’, and it tackles the subject of racism. As its host, Masud interviews Baha’is throughout the United States who are actively building racial unity by building community.
We reached out to Masud to hear more about the America’s Most Challenging Issue podcast, and here’s what he shared with us: 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.
Lisa Blecker is a bit of a celebrity in our household. My three young children have, at various times, all held our board book copy of Blessed is the Spot during prayers and we have read, and sung, The Good in Me from A to Z by Dottie as a family and in our children’s class more times than I can count! When I saw that Lisa had put out a new book called Sweet Neighbors Come in All Colors, I knew it was going to be a hit with our family — and I wasn’t disappointed! It is cheerful, vibrant, sweet, fun and a book the kids ask for over and over and over again!
Because of how much her books have meant to us, I was a little star struck when I approached Lisa to find out more about her book and when I told my six year old that Lisa and I were in touch, she was floored! It was a pleasure to find out more about the book and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did: Continue reading