Bahai News - Peace, love and all you can eat June 12, 2000

Peace, love and all the fish you can eat

Baha'is' annual Race Unity Picnic brings hundreds to Lake Mayer

By Erik Tryggestad
Savannah Morning News

While their parents were inside the Lake Mayer pavilion Sunday hearing about race unity, three elementary school kids were busy practicing it.

But as far as they were concerned, they were just playing baseball.

"We like the same sports. It doesn't matter what race you are," said 10-year-old Howard Mufuka Jr. He's known Mikkel Allison, who's 11, since they were in pre-kindergarten, and recently Howard went with Mikkel's family to a Baha'i service, where they got fliers about Sunday's Race Unity Picnic.

Baha'is stress the oneness of God, oneness of religion and oneness of humanity, so race unity is of key importance to them. To achieve that goal, they used more than 1,000 pounds of fish -- whiting, flounder and spots -- fried by volunteers, including Gladys Walker and Comer Flynn. Hundreds of people -- old, young and a rainbow of colors -- ate it up.

"It's a long line," said Brenda Walker, a member of the Baha'i Faith Community of Savannah. The event drew a mix of races and religions. Event organizer Michael O'Neal said that was accomplished on purpose.

"My method is to invite everyone I see, and I mean it," he said. If he invited 20 blacks, he would also try to invite 20 whites.

"We don't leave that to chance," he said.

Without some measure of race unity, Howard, who just finished fourth grade, said he wouldn't be at his current school in Ridgeland. He said he's one of a handful of black students there. Mikkel and classmate Ludovic Bernad, 10, both white, go to school in Beaufort and said that although they have friends of many races, racism itself still exists.

"In the past, there was a lot of segregation," said Ludovic, who finishes fourth grade this week. "Even though it's more diverse, it's still... people don't want to be with people who are different."

It's apparent when they play games like four square or "capture the flag," the boys said. White kids tend to cheer for white kids. Black kids cheer for black kids. They said that stresses the need for race unity at all age levels.

"If you can't get along with each other, you'd just have a lot of arguments with each other," Mikkel said as he thumped his plastic bat on the ground.

The boys resumed their game as the crowd in the pavilion listened to Jack Lenz and the First Commandment Gospel Singers. Among that crowd were Hugh Cain and Michael Gilmour, of the Unity Church. They said the message of the event lined up perfectly with their beliefs.

"We believe that Christ came to teach us that we are all sons and daughters of God," Gilmour said.

Reporter Erik Tryggestad can be reached at erikt@savannahnow.com or 652-0318.


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