“That was a great movement — the Black is Beautiful movement — in the 1960s. Culturally, it had an explosive impact on Black people,” says Richard Thomas, a Baha'i living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In this short clip from “The Race Unity Project,” Richard and his wife, June, share the impact that this movement had on Black people at a time when nearly every facet of American society sent the message that the last thing you want to be is Black. Produced by Journalism for Change, Inc, a nonprofit media organization founded by filmmaker and human rights activist Maziar Bahari, the project tells “the century-long story of the American Baha’i community and its efforts — as well as its tests and challenges — in promoting race unity.”
“For example, if you looked at various Black newspapers, you know Ebony or Jet magazine, they always had ads for bleaching cream to lighten your skin. And so, there was this emphasis on becoming as light as you can or as white as you can,” Richard says.
“During that era, you didn’t see dark women on television or movies or in commercials,” June says. “This was a deeply entrenched manifestation of self-hate.”
So, when June and Richard learned that Baha'u'llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha'i Faith, “once compared the coloured people to the black pupil of the eye surrounded by the white,” it gave them a great sense of comfort and happiness. Because, as Abdu'l-Baha, the son of Baha'u'llah and the authorized interpreter of the Baha'i writings, explained, “In this black pupil you see the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the Spirit shines forth.”
“That was such a wonderful statement,” Richard says. Watch as June and Richard share how the Baha'i writings added to their spiritual understanding of the Black is Beautiful movement and empowered them to love themselves.
Radiance Talley is the community and content manager at BahaiTeachings.org. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in communication, a College Park Scholars Arts Citation, and a cognate in journalism. In addition to her writing, drawing, presentation, and public speaking experience, Radiance...READ MORE