Tag Archives Racism

Saichiro Fujita: One of the Earliest Japanese Baha’is

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.

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Shoghi Effendi’s Call for Racial Justice

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

The Advent of Divine Justice: An Introduction

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

An Interview with Masud Olufani, Host of ‘America’s Most Challenging Issue’ Podcast

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 and His Commitment to Justice

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.

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31 Resources Featured on Baha’i Blog Related to Racism

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

Louis Venters’s Book About the History of the Baha’i Faith in South Carolina

Louis Venters is a historian and historic preservationist with a particular interest in the histories of race, religion, and social change in the United States. He has just released a new book titled A History of the Baha’i Faith in South Carolina and it features some incredible photographs.

I first met Louis in West Africa when I was a junior youth — many more years ago than I’d care to admit! My family was pioneering in Benin and he was completing a year of service in Togo and Benin. I learned some valuable lessons from Louis about speaking truthfully, lovingly and at times courageously, about being a Baha’i. I feel really honoured that our paths have crossed again, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from his experiences once more. Here’s what he shared about his new book:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in South Carolina, and I became a Baha’i in the late 1980s when I was a junior youth. In fact I first heard about the Faith on Radio Baha’i WLGI, the station that broadcasts from the Louis G. Gregory Baha’i Institute, so in that sense I’m a product of the large-scale growth that made South Carolina such an important part of the American Baha’i community in the 1970s and 1980s. I teach African and African diaspora history, U.S. history, and public history at Francis Marion University, a small public institution in Florence, South Carolina. I also do some public history work, especially through Preservation South Carolina and the state’s African American Heritage Commission. One of the public history projects I’m proudest of is the Green Book of South Carolina, a new mobile travel guide to African American heritage sites across the state. When I’m not being a historian, more often than not it’s my wife and me trying to keep up with our two little boys and serve in our cluster. Otherwise, I’m either at the gym lifting weights or outside running or working in our garden.

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Sweet Neighbors Come in All Colors – A New Book by Lisa Blecker

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

Feeling Boundless Love for Others

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.

– Abdu’l-Baha

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