Toledo Race Amity Festival Eases Tensions

“In a time when racial tensions continue to churn across the country, members of the local Bahá’í Faith community are working to foster friendships to bridge the divides,” commented Alexandra Mester in her May 21, 2021 article in Toledo’s The Blade.

More than 30 people attended a Race Amity Festival May 14 at Wildwood Metropark in person, while more attended virtually, she reported. People of varying backgrounds and faiths, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahá’í, listened to speakers and participated in group discussions. Activities also included ice-breakers, music and dance performances.

The Toledo Sojourner’s Truth newspaper reported on the Festival in its May 26 issue.

The event commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Bahá’í-organized first race amity convention, held in 1921 in Washington DC’s First Congregational Church. Toledo city leaders presented a proclamation from the mayor as well as a resolution from City Council recognizing the day.

“What we are trying to do in this country is hard and it’s different than just about every other country on this Earth,” said Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. “There is no other country that is as diverse … as the United States.”

Attendee Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur encouraged the passage of laws dealing with social justice issues, including police conduct and voting rights, according to an article in the May 26, 2021 edition of The Soujourner’s Truth, a local African American paper.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur addresses the Race Amity Festival

Keynote speaker Paul Hubbard of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church told participants that while their skin colors and individual features may be different, there is far more about them that is the same.

“In general, we are alike,” he said. “So when we start looking at religious differences and race differences, it’s basically all psychological.”

He encouraged people to pressure the country’s politicians and political parties to get back to serving the public. He stressed that people need to open their minds, have honest and respectful conversations, and begin to heal relationships.

Behrooz Modarai, who helped organize the festival and provided an Introduction to Race Amity, said at the core of the Bahá’í Faith is a primary belief that there is one human race, and that building friendships is the gateway to changing the world and finding peace.

“Before you know, this polarization will disappear because we see each other,” he said. “We find out we have the same faults, the same problems, and we can solve it. We just think about loving your fellow human being.”