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I know it came from my loving and spiritual parents, and not in so many words, just by example. I never heard them talk badly about anyone due to their racial background. My father was born in Georgia around 1890. He said his father was born into slavery. My mother was born in 1912 on a plantation in Louisiana. Her mother was a sharecropper and was very angry and bitter about the unfair landowner/tenant relationship she experienced. Both my parents could have easily become hateful towards white people and passed that on to their children. But I saw none of that. My father had become a Baptist preacher, and growing up, our religious life was well-ordered. The teaching of Christ regarding love was always at the forefront. We lived in a mostly black neighborhood and attended schools there. So I had few contacts with white people on a regular basis except for merchants. I do recall as a five- or six-year old boy, while crossing the street with my mother in downtown Dayton, Ohio, a little white boy asking his mother “is that a nigger?”. My mother moved us quickly along.
Since our family was blessed with the gift of music, singing in the choir at church, as well as a family gospel group, was a big part of my growing up. At around the age of 12, I joined a doo-wop singing group, with mostly older members, and we made a few dollars singing at parties. I also was introduced to the recording aspect of music. Then at 16, I was a member of another singing group, a trio this time, and we soon became resident singers in a large nightclub, whose clientele were mostly young whites. The house band was white, but I quickly discovered that some of those boys could sing very well — and soulfully. My education and appreciation for all kinds of music began. Also the women, young and old, liked to flirt, which led to dating, meeting families, etc. After two of the singers were drafted into the army, I continued as a solo singer in that club, and in others. To make a long story short, over the five years I sang in nightclubs, it became very obvious to me that all people were basically the same. I had a few incidents of racial prejudice in those clubs, but I always held my own and felt in control and safe – and besides, the club bouncers had our backs.
After moving to California in 1968, I became a Baha’i based mainly on the overriding principle of the oneness of mankind. It was life-affirming to discover what I felt in my heart was the Word of God! My music took on new meaning and direction. I began playing guitar/piano and setting the Baha’i Writings to music.
He Who is your Lord, the All-Merciful, cherisheth in His heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body. Haste ye to win your share of God’s good grace and mercy in this Day that eclipseth all other created Days. How great the felicity that awaiteth the man that forsaketh all he hath in a desire to obtain the things of God! Such a man, We testify, is among God’s blessed ones. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214.
I felt great joy composing music for this. I am blessed that God has shed this gift of music upon me and allows me to glorify Him in turn. Peace!