“I do remember our neighborhood where I grew up as a child was solidly white.” That’s what Ken Bowers, a Baha’i living in Chicago, says life was like in the South in the 1960s.
Jim Crow was alive and well — and so Ken’s family received threats for hosting racially diverse gatherings in their home.
“Yet my mother and father, and my mother’s family, insisted very much on upholding the Baha’i principle that we would not only believe in the oneness of humanity and freedom from prejudice, but we would also practice it,” Ken says. “So, we frequently had African Americans who were friends over to our house and others of various other ethnic groups over.”
As Baha'is, Ken and his family understood, as Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, wrote in 1938:
Freedom from racial prejudice, in any of its forms, should, at such a time as this when an increasingly large section of the human race is falling a victim to its devastating ferocity, be adopted as the watchword of the entire body of the American believers, in whichever state they reside, in whatever circles they move, whatever their age, traditions, tastes, and habits. It should be consistently demonstrated in every phase of their activity and life, whether in the Bahá’í community or outside it, in public or in private, formally as well as informally, individually as well as in their official capacity as organized groups, committees and Assemblies.
In this short clip from “The Race Unity Project,” Ken shares how important it was for his family to commit to working toward race unity, even when it was dangerous to do so. 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.”
Watch as Ken shares what happened one night when a group of white people angry about his family’s commitment to race unity — and armed with shotguns and dynamite — headed to their home.
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
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