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The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
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6 MINS

How Meaningful Conversations Can Help Us Bridge Racial Divides

PRESENTED BY Radiance Talley | Feb 17, 2021
6 MINS

Activities that build community contribute to the positive transformation of society. But can community-building activities — and conversations —  help us eliminate racial prejudice?

Makeena Rivers, a Baha’i living in New York City who participates in Baha’i-inspired community activities — teaching children’s classes about the importance of spiritual qualities, hosting interfaith prayer gatherings, mentoring adolescents, and facilitating discussions about personal and community development — has seen first-hand how bridging racial divides is possible. 

RELATED: What Is the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program?

In this video clip from The Race Unity Project, Makeena discusses how the conversations sparked by service began to build friendships across racial lines in a gentrified neighborhood.

Makeena says that often people want to connect, but they don’t necessarily know how to have deeper discussions. That’s why she loves how community-building activities allow people to forge genuine friendships and have meaningful conversations, particularly about racism.

RELATED: How Community Service Created Lasting Friendships

“These conversations around race are most effective, in terms of helping people deepen their understanding or hearing another person's perspective when they happen among friends,” Makeena says. This “allows us to become friends with each other before we have some of these harder conversations.”

Indeed, in a talk in Paris in 1911, Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, said

If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.

Produced by Journalism for Change, Inc, a nonprofit media organization founded by filmmaker and human rights activist Maziar Bahari, “The Race Unity 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.” Videos from “The Race Unity Project” include candid conversations with Baha’is about a variety of topics — including how community service can help us embrace diversity and how the Baha’i writings combat racism.

Makeena says that in these conversations in New York City, participants are “trying to actually understand what race unity means, what does justice look like, [and] what are modes that we can get there?”

Watch as Makeena recalls a service project she did with adolescents she was mentoring and shares how this program taught them about the link between racial trauma and community safety.

Radiance Talley is the SEO editor for BahaiTeachings.org and 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, drawing, presentation, and public speaking...

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