The National Center for Race Amity (NCRA) at Wheelock College in Boston held the National Race Amity Conference on June 9–12. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States was one of several supporting sponsors, along with the Boston Globe and public television station WGBH.
This June’s conference was part of an initiative titled Race Amity 2011: Towards E Pluribus Unum. Other activities under that umbrella included a public Boston Race Amity Celebration and the launching of a campaign for federal establishment of National Race Amity Day annually on the second Sunday in June.
“Inspired by the United States’ first race amity convention held in 1921 in Washington, DC, the National Race Amity Conference re-emerged in 2011 to inspire, educate, and stimulate interracial/cross cultural understanding and friendship,” said Boston-area Bahá’í William Smith, executive director of the NCRA and convenor of the conference.
“The conference thesis is when we come to know each other, and communicate deeply and authentically, racism and other divides begin to unravel. It pursues the mission of the original 1921 race amity convention: ‘When we put our own house on order; we may be trusted to carry the message of universal peace to all mankind.’”
Presenters and facilitators included leaders of thought such as:
- Xernona Clayton, longtime civil rights leader and founder of the internationally televised Trumpet Awards.
- Charles Ogletree, law professor at Harvard and founder of its Institute for Race and Justice.
- Carole Simpson, former network news anchor.
- Celeste Headlee, public radio host.
- Chief Doug White, indigenous leader in Canada.
- Beverly Morgan-Welch, president of the Museum of African American History in Boston.
- Roger Brown, president of Berklee College of Music and co-founder of the Bright Horizons early education provider group and other social benefit projects.
- Robert Henderson, member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States.
- Other Bahá’ís involved in race amity and justice activity including William Davis, Joy DeGruy, Dwight Allen, Tod Ewing, Dorothy Nelson, Richard Thomas, Lex Musta, Cherry Steinweinder, Paula Henderson, Christopher Buck, Eric Dozier, JB Eckl, Gene and Phyllis Unterschuetz.
The conference opened with screening of a new documentary, “Race Amity: America’s Other Tradition,” produced by U.S. Bahá’í Media Services. Large-group keynote presentations alternated with a series of small-group sessions within Amity Sectors discussing racial amity in the contexts of arts, business, community service, education, entertainment, government agencies, information media, law, spirituality and sports.
Inspiration for the conference sprang from the American Race Amity Convention in 1921 in Washington, DC. Organized at ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s request by Agnes Parsons, a Bahá’í and Washington socialite, that historic collaborative event saw Bahá’ís including Louis Gregory, Cora Cooke and Alain Locke working with non-Bahá’í leaders such as Moses Clapp, a clergyman and former U.S. senator.
For more information about the overall initiative, go to www.wheelock.edu/ncra/race-amity-2011.html