Bahai News - Waterfront picnic brings people together

Waterfront picnic brings people together
Race Unity Day event draws about 400 for food, music, socializing

About 400 people ate, listened to music and got to know people of other races, nationalities and religions on the banks of the Ohio River yesterday.

The Race Unity Day Picnic 2001, sponsored by Baha'is of Greater Louisville at Waterfront Park, focused attention on racial prejudice by bringing a variety of people together socially.

"The Baha'is consider racism to be the most challenging issue in America," said Nancy Harris, a spokeswoman for the 200-member Baha'is of Greater Louisville. "If we can get people together . . . that will help solve the problem."

The central belief of the Baha'i faith - founded in 19th-century Iran, then known as Persia - is that humanity is one race and that it's time to unify all people in one global society. The faith claims 5 million followers worldwide.

Organizers of yesterday's free event, held since 1996 in Louisville but for the first time at the waterfront, distributed bumper stickers with multicolored human figures that read, "This is the color of my race - The human race!"

They also gave out some 600 hot dogs, accompanied by cole slaw and baked beans, Harris said.

Three bands entertained the picnickers with African, Caribbean and blues music, and a youth group performed dances with social-action themes.

Raidan Adoki said she is not a Baha'i but decided to come to the picnic after seeing an announcement about the event in a coffee shop.

"Basically, I've been meeting different nationalities, different people," she said, while sitting at a table under a large tent, listening to the last of the three bands. "Everyone was smiling and it was real nice. Everybody got along real well."

Dr. Jahangir Cyrus, a Baha'i and physician from Iran who has lived in Louisville since 1976, said "racism is a disease that saps the energy of this country," but "events like this bring joy to people's hearts."

Cyrus said, "We are truly fruits of one tree and leaves of one branch."

Shahriar Jason Farhadi, also a Baha'i originally from Iran, came early to set up for the event, then celebrated Father's Day at the picnic with his wife and three young sons.

Farhadi said the deep spirituality that his parents instilled in him helped keep him out of trouble as a youth.

"I think if I wasn't a Baha'i, I might have had the wrong friends and hung out with the wrong crowd," said Farhadi, who has lived in Anchorage since 1991.

In between the band sets, seven local Baha'i youths, dressed in black pants and colorful T-shirts, performed dances, raps, songs and poems with such themes as unity and the pain of racism and violence.

A.J. Jenkins, 16, helped start the youth group, called Jubilation Circuit Returns, last fall after getting involved with a similar group in Indianapolis.

"I just like it because it allows the youth to express themselves using the arts and also deal with social issues," said A.J., who will be a senior at Eastern High School.

"Our biggest problem is we don't have enough people."

The group, which is open to people of any faith ages 11 to 25, meets every other weekend at the Baha'i Center on Bardstown Road in Buechel. For more information, call A.J. at 423-1506.

Carl Edlin prepared a hot dog lunch for himself and his son Jorden, 4, at yesterday's Race Unity Day Picnic 2001.

©Copyright 2001, Courier - Journal

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