Programs to encourage race unity slated this summer across U.S.

January 24, 2019
Programs to encourage race unity slated this summer across U.S.

Without doubt, building unity across racial divides is a complex process. Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, advised eight decades ago that it takes “genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort.”

Now a task force is developing a program for Baha’i seasonal schools across the country, starting in summer 2019, to encourage systematic unity-building work within and around Baha’i communities.

With the working title “Achieving Race Unity,” the program will be aimed at helping people explore, with humility and in a learning attitude, how to enter into conversations about race unity as part of day-to-day efforts to build community.

Right now, the task force is striving to learn “how to nurture … the capacity to create an environment that will allow for the beginning of the healing journey for achieving race unity within the light of Baha’u’llah’s teachings,” according to a statement from the task force shared by Ymasumac Marañón-Davis, one of its members.

Friends of the Faith as well as Baha’is will be invited. Locations and dates for school sessions offering the course will be shared starting this spring. 

“In an environment of love and trust born of common belief, practice, and mission, individuals of different races will have the intimate connection of heart and mind upon which mutual understanding and change depend.”
—Universal House of Justice, global governing council for the Baha’i Faith

Hands-on artistic activities with intercultural participation are a strong tradition at Baha’i seasonal schools, such as this musical effort at the Southern Flame Baha’i School, Florida, summer 2018. Photo by Susan Jeffers

Baha’i seasonal schools, often held during winter and summer breaks, take place at community centers, college campuses, and other locations around the country. Generally lasting a few days to a week, they offer informal, family-friendly spaces to deepen friendships and learn more about the Baha’i Faith.

This new program will offer the chance to examine Baha’i community efforts to contribute to race unity and to publicly share Baha’i perspectives on the oneness and equality of humanity. Participants will have opportunities to express what they learn through dramatic and hands-on artistic activities.

The task force sees the program as an invitation for friends to participate in a process that allows them to open up the discourse on the impact of racial prejudice. Therefore the whole process requires great care — not only in developing materials and structure for the program, but also in identifying and training facilitators.

“Any space in which injury has occurred requires a gentle hand and a great deal of love and patience,” the task force’s statement notes. One objective for the program, therefore, is to “create a systematic approach to transformation in light of the Baha’i writings, and in the face of adverse effects of racial prejudice.”

The hope is that people of all ages at the Baha’i schools can “explore the guidance and reflect on the implications for change in their own lives and how they have been impacted by racial prejudice, and build their capacity to continue this conversation once they go back to their communities.”

From there, participants may be able to “draw on fresh insights and capacities to form spaces in their homes and community where genuine friendships advance learning … and widen the vitality of community life,” says Jeff Albert, director of the Office of Education and Schools, which oversees Baha’i seasonal schools.

“Nobility of the soul and resilience of the spirit” are two key themes, Albert says. So a crucial question is, “In these sessions and in the communities, how will we see these principles and beliefs being translated into the reality of unity and empowerment, accompaniment and collective service?”

The seven task force members were chosen from a diverse range of cultural and racial backgrounds by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States. The group includes people with experience observing and advising Bahá’í communities.

To complement the seasonal schools’ program, Brilliant Star children’s magazine is preparing a special edition for the May/June 2019 issue.

“We are learning that when all age groups study the same materials at different levels of comprehension, then families can also continue the learning, and communities can talk among multiple families on the same topic,” Albert says. 

Follow the Events Calendar for upcoming seasonal school sessions and other events.

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