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“We honor first responders,” Muhiyidin d’Baha once rhetorically asked a TV interviewer, “but do we honor first responders to justice?”
On Tuesday, February 6, 2018, Muhiyidin d’Baha was shot while riding his bike in New Orleans. The gunshot wound eventually led to Muhiyidin’s passing. On Tuesday, February 6, this world lost one of its brightest lights—a vocal, committed champion for racial justice and the oneness of humanity.
Muhiyidin d’Baha, a grassroots community-builder and Black Lives Matter activist in the Charleston, South Carolina community, became well-known on a regional level after the police killing of Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man. Muhiyidin was extremely vocal about the injustice of Scott’s death, and helped lead the Charleston Black activist community.
Muhiyidin, whose given name was Muhiyidin Elamin Moye but who preferred the last name d’Baha, practiced a peaceful activism infused with the principles of the Baha’i Faith, which added to his unique insight, as the unity of all of humankind was at the center of his heart. But he was more than an activist–beloved by many of the people he came across, who often described him as passionate, thoughtful and kind, he was a relentless promoter of unity and equality.
Muhiyidin will be remembered as a champion of justice, as described in the Baha’i writings:
O Son of Spirit! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, pp. 3-4.
The light of men is Justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men. The ocean of divine wisdom surgeth within this exalted word, while the books of the world cannot contain its inner significance. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 66-67.
Muhiyidin d’Baha was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and grew up outside of Charleston, South Carolina. He became a Baha’i, attracted to its orientation toward justice and social action. He loved the primary teachings of the Baha’i Faith on unity and the oneness of humanity. He believed, as all Baha’is do, that everyone, regardless of race, should be included in the religion of God and the society of humanity.
Muhiyidin serves as a reminder to us all of the power of living a life of service to others. His life’s work revolved around uplifting his community, and the impact he had can be seen and felt by the response after his passing. He reminds us of the importance of showing young Black people that they matter by listening to their stories and experiences. His dedication to the upliftment of Black people, regardless of religion, demonstrates one integral part of the success of Baha’i community-building efforts. He reminds us of the importance of listening to and amplifying the voices of Black people, who have been systematically left out.
His focus didn’t stop at the Black community. Hoda Hosseini recounts meeting Muhiyidin and being struck by his approach to teaching young people about the oneness of humanity. She remembers the way he encouraged each of them to “become promoters of equality, justice, and unity in our neighborhoods and communities.”
The Baha’i writings detail the importance of this kind of mobilization of youth when it comes to the transformation of society through social action:
Wherefore, O ye illumined youth, strive by night and by day to unravel the mysteries of the mind and spirit, and to grasp the secrets of the Day of God … Adduce convincing arguments and proofs. Lead those who thirst to the fountain of life; grant ye true health to the ailing. Be ye apprentices of God; be ye physicians directed by God, and heal ye the sick among humankind. Bring those who have been excluded into the circle of intimate friends. Make the despairing to be filled with hope. Waken them that slumber; make the heedless mindful. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selected Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 41.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Muhiyidin’s family, and we hope that they are feeling supported and loved by the extensive community of people whose lives Muhiyidin touched.