In the aftermath of the George Floyd incident, there were 23 consecutive weeks of Black Lives Matter rallies in Yellow Springs. These rallies were organized primarily by youth in our town, some of whom had gone through local Bahá’í children’s programs. Inspired by the rallies and in solidarity with our youth and BLM initiatives taking place around the country, Cyprian Sajabi, my wife, Elaine, and I held what turned out to be three consecutive Zoom devotionals on racial justice issues. The devotionals consisted of prayers and writings from the Faith, as well as writings from other Faith traditions, Native American wisdom, and quotes from contemporary writers such as Ibram X. Kendi, who wrote How To Be An Antiracist, and Stamped From The Beginning. The Zoom devotionals were attended by Bahá’ís in our cluster as well as friends of the Faith.
After sharing the interests and discussions the devotionals seemed to generate, during one of our Local Spiritual Assembly meetings, Jim Malarkey, a member of the LSA and a Humanities professor recently retired from Antioch University Midwest, who has spent more than 30 years teaching classes on Race Relations and Social Justice issues from a historical perspective. He expressed an interest in initiating a series of Zoom gatherings to discuss a number of topics in more depth, using film documentaries as a springboard. As outlined in Jim’s synopsis, the four-part series focused on the aftermath of the 13th amendment (abolishing slavery) leading to mass incarceration, the practice of “redlining” and housing discrimination, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission efforts between the Wabanaki Indians and the State of Maine, and current white supremacist movements.
This series was held in Fall 2020, with the anthropologist suggesting movies and readings to be viewed ahead of each gathering. He told participants they might have difficulty with some of these issues because we are all “victims of ignorance, misinformation and propaganda.” He asked attendees to open their minds to seek truth.
Yellow Springs, Ohio