The multi-disciplinary artist and actor Masud Olufani primarily focuses on visual and sculptural art. He weaves his own personal narrative and passion for social justice into the subjects of his work. You may have already viewed his talk—Freeing Ourselves from the Stain of Racism on BahaiTeachings.org. Now, Masud will apply his experience on the discourse of racial unity in a new podcast series brought to you by Bahaiteachings.org.
As the host of the podcast, titled America’s Most Challenging Issue, Masud will explore the realities of racial prejudice—as relevant an issue today as it was over 80 years ago. In the 1930s, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, wrote a letter addressed to the Baha’i’s of the United States and Canada, titled The Advent of Divine Justice. In his seminal letter, Shoghi Effendi singled out prejudice and racism as the most vital and challenging issue:
As to racial prejudice, the corrosion of which, for well-nigh a century, has bitten into the fiber, and attacked the whole social structure of American society, it should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Baha’i community at the present stage of its evolution. – Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 16.
In the new BahaiTeachings.org podcast series, Masud will not only bring his own insights and experiences regarding the issue of racial prejudice, but will feature others who are learning to apply Baha’u’llah’s world-embracing vision for racial unity and justice to their daily lives. Through conversations and stories, Masud and his guests will examine America’s Most Challenging Issue—exploring the reality of racism, reminding us of the power of unity and offering hope for the future of race relations in America.
Masud’s strong inclination toward social justice advocacy began at an early age, as did his attraction to the language of visual art. Experiencing racism on the school playground, Masud became all too familiar with the harsh realities of xenophobia and bigotry first hand, which led him to critically reflect on the issues of race in America with his parents. Recognizing his innate creative capacity at a young age, Masud’s parents also nurtured his artistic ability by exposing him to theatre, beauty, and an arts-based education.
Masud spent his childhood and youth travelling around the United States attending various schools, colleges and universities before landing at Morehouse College—historically an all-male black college in Atlanta, Georgia—which inspired him to pursue a career in sculptural art. He completed a BA at Morehouse and later received a MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Today, Masud’s mixed media sculptures have been exhibited all over the world. He is currently in his third and final year as artist in residence at the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Centre.
Although he primarily works as a visual and sculptural artist, Masud splits his time between visual art and acting. He began acting 10 years ago, after a chance audition landed him the starring role of Malcolm X in an award-winning play titled The Meeting. Masud has since made several appearances on film and television, including Being Mary Jane, The Quad, Nashville, and was a featured actor in the film All Eyez on Me: The Tupac Shakur Story. He’s currently the host of a new, news-based series on Public Broadcasting called Retroreport, that looks at old news stories through a contemporary lens.
In this episode of Cloud9, Masud walks us through his own personal, spiritual and creative journey. We learn why he enjoys balancing his career between visual art and acting, and how narrative lends itself as a common thread between his work both on and off stage. We discuss how themes of justice, truthfulness and selflessness inspire him to address social and spiritual issues through his art, and how he intentionally uses his gift to advance society. Masud talks about how becoming a Baha’i influenced his own inner spiritual development and creative approach, elevating it to an act of worship:
We’ll learn more about how an ancestral discovery lead him to change his name from Michael Bolds to Masud Olufani—and how he learned about the Baha’i Faith while on track to becoming an Episcopal priest.
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