November is bringing to the Bahá’ís in the continental United States an amazing deepening and teaching tool: a documentary called An American Story: Race Amity and the Other Tradition. In early October the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States sent the following letter to all Local Spiritual Assemblies and registered groups, announcing the November broadcast on public television stations of the documentary film:
Dearest Bahá’í Friends,
We are delighted to share with you news of the upcoming national broadcast on public television of the documentary film An American Story: Race Amity and the Other Tradition, produced by the National Center for Race Amity and co-sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly as a means of promoting public discourse on race relations.
Beginning on November 16 and continuing through November 30, the film will be broadcast across the nation on PBS through its network of 350 affiliated local stations. Depending on the schedule for its local broadcast, your Assembly or group might consider hosting one or more viewings of the documentary in an appropriate public venue or in the homes of community members―followed, perhaps, by a facilitated group discussion.
To learn about the specific dates and times of its broadcast in your area, you can contact your local PBS member station or visit its website. (The national PBS website at www.pbs.org should be helpful in directing your search.) For information about the organization, the National Center for Race Amity’s website may be accessed here. A separate website provides further information about the film.
By illuminating significant past episodes of loving friendship and collaboration that demonstrably transcended race, the film seeks to light the way out of the morass of racial prejudice and to fire our enthusiasm for renewed efforts to build community and continue our ascent toward true equality, justice, and unity. We hope it will serve as a resource in your interactions with family, friends, and neighbors on this vital subject.
With loving Bahá’í greetings,
Kenneth E. Bowers
The National Center for Race Amity (NCRA), a Bahá’í-inspired organization, was founded by a Bahá’í, Dr. William H. “Smitty” Smith, who is also the film’s co-executive producer and senior writer, in January 2010. Here is how NCRA answers the question, “Why Race Amity?”:
Race relations in America will not substantially improve unless the public discourse on race moves beyond the blame-grievance-rejection framework to one that recognizes and celebrates our ability to overcome racial prejudice through association, amity, and collaboration. While the tradition of racial oppression was unfolding, a parallel tradition, largely hidden and poorly understood, was demonstrating some of the most positive qualities to be found in American history. This “other tradition,” of close collaboration, amity, and love has served as the moral and spiritual counterweight to the dominant tradition of racism that occupies so much of our national history. The other tradition offers a new entry point for the public discourse on race. Race Amity is the mission of our actions and object of our work at the National Center for Race Amity.
About the documentary itself, NCRA says this:
The primary purpose of the documentary project, An American Story: Race Amity and The Other Tradition, is to impact the public discourse on race. To move the discourse on the “blame/grievance/rejection” cycle to a view from a different lens, the lens of “amity/collaboration/access and equity.”
In contrast to the lens that focuses exclusively on the racist traditions that are rooted in America’s social history, the moral counterweight of close, loving, friendship and collaboration, which have always been present in our history, represents “the other tradition.” This “other tradition” is a source of inspiration and presents models of behavior that are instructional and include unknown and uncelebrated legacies to be absorbed and emulated across generations of present day Americans.
The documentary discusses the “better in us,” a needed collective perspective in the current climate of national disunity across racial, religious, and political lines. This has significant implications for addressing public issues from immigration to health care and the myriad of governmental, educational, business, and religious challenges that we must successfully meet to weave the fabric of unity which is indispensable to survival as a nation.