40 years ago….

…Martin Luther King was murdered. On April 4th, 1968, my mother was pregnant with me. That day and for days thereafter, cities burned as grief and anger flowed from the people, though not most of Boston because of James Brown and his concert at the Boston Garden on the 5th, and not Indianapolis, partially because Bobby Kennedy spoke.

I’ve been thinking for days about what I could say here that might be worthwhile. I do want to say a few things:

  • learning to deal with my own racism on a daily basis/ working to end racism in the world has been one of the most amazingly rewarding things I have ever done, perhaps ranking only behind my relationship with God, and being a mother. Actually, it is inextricably involved with both of those things, so I cannot even put it below or in a separate category. I had no idea how this journey would shape and enrich my life, or how joyful and freeing it can be. I feel I can only be completely human if I continue.
  • Truly, I haven’t done very much at all. Still, I am perceived by many other white people and some people of color as rather unusual. In one way that makes me sad that a little effort on my part is seen as rare. In another way, it shows me that even though I do a little, it is worth something to others. Even if racism is huge, and it is, I still have a necessary part to play, as do all of us.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. is still one of my heroes – not just for all that he did and said and inspired and embodied, but because he was an ordinary person who did extraordinary things.

The rest of this is others’ words. I hope you will read them all.


Friends, the world we have is not the world we want.
-Holly Hanson


“In this Day whatsoever serveth to reduce blindness and to increase vision is worthy of consideration. This vision acteth as the agent and guide for true knowledge. Indeed in the estimation of men of wisdom keenness of understanding is due to keenness of vision.”
Tarazat, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 35.


For those of us who are white, one of our privileges is that we see ourselves as individuals, just people-part of the human race. Most of us are clear, however, that people whose skin is not white are members of a race. The surprising thing for us is that even though we don’t see ourselves as part of a racial group, people of color generally do see us that way.

-Frances Kendall


In the past decade more than 100 studies have been published documenting the harmful effects of racial discrimination on a variety of health measures in African-American men and women.
– Dr. Dean Ornish http://www.newsweek.com/id/129020

“Arise and, armed with the power of faith, shatter to pieces the gods of your vain imaginings, the sowers of dissension amongst you. Cleave unto that which draweth you together and uniteth you.”
Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 216


Many … have attacked affirmative action, dismissing structural racism as rare, impossible to prove, or a liberal excuse for the failures of people of color (especially African Americans). In a “colorblind” society, they argue, people should pay no attention at all to race and ethnicity. They argue that doing otherwise “belittles” or “insults” people of color by implying that they cannot successfully compete without a hand up. Further, from this perspective, the stigma of being an affirmative action hire will follow them into the workplace, build resentment among White men, and stifle the necessary development of entrepreneurial instincts and practices.

But a great deal of attention is paid to race and ethnicity. This attention is not subtle. It informs virtually every transaction that people of color negotiate in their daily lives. It is hard to name a realm in which it is not predominant – housing, education, medical care, nutrition, access to transportation, and job opportunities, to name a few. We saw how this “discrimination” … converged when Katrina hit New Orleans. Wealthy Whites were on the high ground; people of color and poor Whites were on the low ground: a perfect metaphor for structural racism.

…Ongoing racism is successfully hidden from those who don’t experience it.

-Jean Hardisty



“The Great Being saith: O well-beloved ones! The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”
-Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 216


You would expect that the Baha’i community which has been nourished for over 150 years with these teachings, would be entirely free from racial prejudice. Yet it is not so. Racial prejudice is a hard nut to crack.
-Dr Ben Dlamini http://bahai-library.com/newspapers/122897.html




“This period of time is the Promised Age, the assembling of the human race to the “Resurrection Day,” and now is the great “Day of Judgment.” Soon the whole world, as in spring, will change its garb. … while the birds are singing among the rose branches like the angels in the highest heavens, announcing the glad tiding of that spiritual spring, and the sweet music of their voices is causing the real essence of all things to move and quiver.

O my spiritual friend! Dost thou know from what airs emanate the notes sung by these birds? They are from the melodies of peace and reconciliation, of love and unity, of justice and security, of concord and agreement. In a short time this heavenly singing will intoxicate all humanity; the foundations of enmity shall be destroyed; unity and affection shall be witnessed in every assembly; and the lovers of the love of God at these great festivals shall behold their splendor.”
-Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 318



I am convinced that if we start mass conversion of the Indians and Negroes, mass conversions of the whites will follow. The people of the world are tired of words, words, words. They don’t really pay any attention to what we say about “oneness, unity world brotherhood” although many of them agree with this. What they need is to see deeds, to see Bahá’í communities, local and national, full of people of different races working together, in love, for their common belief. Then the spiritual force such a reality will release (as opposed to words) will bring an inwardly hungry, sad and disillusioned white race into the Faith in larger numbers. It is all there in the writings of Shoghi Effendi; we just don’t think about it enough.

Or are we for the most part absorbed in playing with the Administrative Order, criticizing, judging and disputing with each other? Do we constantly bear in mind that as early as the start of the first Seven Year Plan the Guardian told us that now that we had built up the Administrative machinery we must put it into operation for teaching the Cause?…

—-Ruhiyyih Khanum (1961), http://bahai-library.com/letters/khanum.letter.1961.html


“Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.”
-Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words


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One comment

  1. Dear Helen,

    It was 15 years ago (1993), in Alexandria, Virgina, that you and I participated in the Musical Production “Out of this Darkness” about the racial divide in our country. And it was an official feature of the City’s Martin Luther King Day observances that year. I remember the tears and smiles on the faces of the audience when they heard such a frank and honest exposition of racial bias on both sides of the issue, and saw an example of people of both races willing to speak out – in fact to sing out in order to make a difference! You were part of positive change then, and you continue to be so today.

    ///Darrell Rodgers
    Singer, Songwriter, Performer, Humorist

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