WILMETTE, United States — The Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, United States, was recently host for an evening of arts and discussions commemorating Black History Month.
Throughout the United States, observances and events are held every February to celebrate African American history and honor its achievements. The gathering at the site of the Bahá’í temple brought together some 350 people from the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond, providing an occasion to explore the spiritual principles of oneness and racial unity.
These principles were expressed through choral and orchestral music, poetry, and an art exhibit at the temple’s Foundation Hall. The exhibit also featured several historical items from the National Bahá’í Archives, highlighting the contributions of the Bahá’í community to fostering racial harmony—the theme of several talks of the evening given by various organizations of civil society.
“Filling this hall tonight is just the beginning of what we hope will be a series of connections and relationships that will grow and grow over the coming years,” said George Davis, Temple Director, in his remarks. “It’s important that the Bahá’í House of Worship continues to host these events and to strengthen the connection between worship and service.”
Mr. Davis noted that the connection between worship and service can also find expression at the grassroots. An example of this is the Bahá’í community-building endeavors taking place across the United States. These initiatives bring together people from diverse backgrounds and unite them in their shared desire to serve the common good.
The principle of the essential oneness of humanity that underpins these activities was further explored by a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Kenneth Bowers, who said this is the “pivotal principle of our time.”
He added: “The lack of this awareness, together with the lack of capacity to act upon it, is the key obstacle to peace and prosperity today, … [resulting] in distorted views of who we are, with all of the prejudices that go with it.”
Mr. Bowers spoke about the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to understanding and addressing racism, cautioning against a narrow focus on the past without recognizing the ongoing struggle for racial justice in the present. “This should not be a conversation that ends just with words: [it should] lead to constructive action in which all people participate fully.”
Ever since its groundbreaking ceremony in 1912, during which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá placed the cornerstone for the future House of Worship in Wilmette, the sacred structure has come to symbolize oneness.
Just days before the groundbreaking ceremony, the New York Times reported on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s message of peace, calling on humanity “to do away with prejudices… prejudice of nationality, of race, of religion.” The article quoted Him, stating: “The time has come for humanity to hoist the standard of the oneness of the human world, so that dogmatic formulas and superstitions may end.”
A recording of the Black History Month observance at the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, United States, can be viewed here.