Years of working with school children and teachers doing race unity training has filled the Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration with rich and sweet nostalgia for me. This is a day about human rights and justice for all, about oneness of all humanity under one divine light.
This year is one of the few occasions I am not having a special event planned in relation to this very meaningful day for me as a Baha’i. This year I celebrated it quietly and alone while driving in my car and listening to the King’s I have a Dream speech being broadcasted on NPR. All of a sudden I had plenty of time to remissness about this day and what has gone by.
I remembered the monthly T.V. shows I used to do in 1980’s called Transforming Human Consciousness. On many occasions the guests of the program were distinguished black citizen talking about the challenges of race in US and the role of education. I remembered the day Fayard Nicholas, the legendary tap dancing artist was my guest and sitting in front of me and the camera, he said with a big smile; “If I was not black, I would have been the one who danced with Ginger Rogers!” I remembered the five years of doing the pilot program at the Sumner Elementary School in Claremont called Celebrating Unity in Diversity and all the wonderful kids I got to train and work with. I remembered one year a quiet black girl picking the darkest rose I had placed in the basket of mixed cuttings,, putting it next to her face and saying, with a proud smile, I am a black rose!! I remembered the eyes of the rest of the kids becoming wide open with a delight mixed with surprise. Kids love it when there is enough love to go around, I reminded myself. The whole scene reminded me of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit with the group of black boys in New york in 1912 and the beautiful pen of Howard Colby Ives recording it for posterity in The Boys from the Bowery. A Black Rose and a Black Sweet.
Now I could not stop. I found myself in Beltsville Maryland, eating and conversing at the table in the loving house of Mr. and Mrs. James and Mary Jane Austin, a most loving and precious black couple who became my parents away from home while I was a student at the University of Maryland in 1960’s.
All of a sudden I felt flooded with so many warm and fragrant memories with all the rich experiences I have been fortunate to have in America just because I have been a Baha’i.
This is a day lifted up with prayers and reflection. One that is my favorite is this prayer of Abdu’l-Baha rich with metaphors that transforms our consciousness into a heavenly abode.
O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence…