My mother, Barbara Talley, first heard about the Baha’i Faith 50 years ago when she met some Baha’is at a pizza and roller-skating event, and they started talking about race unity. “Somebody came up to me and said, ‘Do you believe that there is one human race, that we should all be treated equally?” she says of that night at the community center.
I’ve heard this lighthearted story my entire life, and I often laugh with her while she shares it. Now she’s telling the tale of that evening and her subsequent spiritual journey for “The Race Unity Project,” a video project that shares “the century-long story of the American Baha’i community and its efforts — as well as its tests and challenges — in promoting race unity.”
The person also asked her, “Do you think we should respect each other? Do you think we all come from the same God?".
Barbara says she agreed with those concepts, “And they said, ‘Well, you sound like a Baha’i!'”
Eventually, she began going to small, informal gatherings called “firesides,” which were held at the homes of Baha’is. During those conversations, she learned more about the life of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, and the main principles Baha’is believe in.
“I loved the fact that I could ask questions — this whole concept of independent investigation of truth,” Barbara, who now lives in the Washington, D.C. area, says. “I said, ‘Wow!’ Things started to make sense. I [also] heard about progressive revelation — that there is one God, one race, and one religion.”
The following quote from Baha’u’llah from a book called “The Hidden Words” was especially inspiring to her when she was learning about the Baha'i Faith:
O SON OF SPIRIT! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.
“I had read that Black people, because of the story of Ham, that we’re cursed,” she says. “Society was treating us like we were less, and here I was hearing some words that says, ‘Noble I created thee.’”
Produced by Journalism for Change, Inc, a nonprofit media organization founded by filmmaker and human rights activist Maziar Bahari, videos from “The Race Unity Project” include candid conversations about everything from choosing to commit to race unity even when it feels challenging to do so, to discovering the spiritual significance of Black people.
Watch as Barbara discusses how the Baha'i writings empowered her identity as a Black woman and spoke to her understanding that her nobility as a human soul was God-given and not something that she had to earn from society.
Radiance Talley is a staff writer at BahaiTeachings.org and a corporate communications associate at One Planet Group. 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,...READ MORE