Missourians drum up a spirit-filled devotional and dialogue on race

April 20, 2018
Missourians drum up a spirit-filled devotional and dialogue on race

Series of cross-state gatherings thrive on unity, meaningful conversations

The thrum of African, Cuban and Irish drums playing in unity. The intensity of shared prayer. “The joy that is found in discovering the love and power of connecting together as one human family,” as a participant described it.

All this shone through in a cross-state gathering of 25 Baha’is and friends of varied races — one of a series that has been going on in Missouri over two years. It “drummed up a conversation” on Dec. 16 in the St. Louis home of Dan McCoy with music, prayers, a discussion on relevant Baha’i teachings and a general dialogue on race.

Devotional gatherings with drumming at their heart have been a feature of Baha’i life in many locales in recent years, a movement largely inspired by an informal fellowship of African American men going back several decades.

Dan McCoy (right) hosts a drumming devotional attended by Baha’is and friends from the Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, areas. Photo courtesy of Joyce Olinga

Thus the St. Louis meeting started with an orientation into spiritual drumming that touched on “the importance of unity and oneness in drumming as well as in the world,” relates Louis Anderson, who traveled from Kansas City.

“Following that spiritual experience of oneness and unity, we silenced the drums. We then began praying with an intense and passionate feeling about love, oneness and God. The spirit and energy shown during these moments were felt by all the participants. We prayed until that energy was joyfully depleted.”

After lunch and fellowship, Maurice Hayes of Kansas City began the afternoon “singing his way into our hearts,” Anderson says. “And, of course, our spirits were revived and the excitement and joy filled the house.”

Anderson then spoke on how ‘Abdu’l-Baha, son of the founder of the Faith, had approached public talks during His 1911–1913 visits to America and Europe. Discussion followed on the qualities needed to “drum up” a meaningful conversation: for instance, tact, dignity, wisdom, attentiveness, inclusiveness, and passion in appealing for action. Also figuring in are confidence and conviction balanced with logic and consideration.  

St. Louis-area Baha’i Joyce Olinga notes that the dialogue Anderson facilitated was filled with “moving and insightful sharing with people from varied backgrounds and experiences.” Perspectives included how racism affects women of color; the importance of raising dialogue to a higher understanding; the need to address both racist and sexist attitudes; a need for Black Lives Matter to be understood more generally; and how blacks and whites alike are adversely affected by racism.

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