Baha'i community to host dialogue on local race relations
By Cynthia M. Hodnett
of the Journal Sentinel staff
June 12, 1998
Waukesha -- Members of the local Baha'i community believe that open
and honest dialogue is essential in eliminating hatred, injustice and
intolerance from society.
To spread that message, the group will host "Race Unity," a discussion
of local race relations at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at E.B. Shurts Environmental
Learning Center, 810 W. College Ave., Waukesha. The event is free and
open to the public.
The Baha'i faith teaches that religious figures such as Buddha,
Confucius, Mohammed and Jesus Christ were sent to teach humanity the
golden rule. The Baha'i faith stresses that all religions and all
humanity are one.
"Throughout America this year, members of Baha'i have raised the issue
of spreading racial harmony," said Mary C. Potter, corresponding
secretary of the Waukesha group. "I am sure that there are minorities in
Waukesha who have had some negative experiences, so it's important that
we hear from them."
Teresa Williams, director of cultural diversity at Carroll College, is
one of several guests scheduled to speak at the event.
Jack Lee, president and chief executive officer of the trade association
Milwaukee Area Radio Stations, and Anselmo Villarreal, executive
director of La Casa de Esperanza, will also speak.
Williams, who is African-American, will discuss her own experiences and
those of minority students on what it's like for minorities who live in
Many of the students feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in the community,
"There are a few places that students can go in Waukesha where they feel
welcomed and or not looked upon differently as if they were going to
steal something or start problems," Williams said. "The way that the
students deal with it is to avoid those places."
The private Carroll College has an enrollment of about 1,720 students,
and about 175 -- 10% -- are minorities.
"As a minority, there are places that you go where you just don't feel
welcomed," Williams said. "There have been several times that I have
felt that way, like being stared at by whites, as if I don't belong."
Williams said she is hopeful that the event will attract people who are
willing to hold an open and honest discussion about race.
"I know (members of Baha'i) will be there and those who already have the
idea of acceptance and tolerance will be there," she said. "But what
about those who don't?"
Although society has come a long way on improving race relations, there
is still room for improvement, Potter said.
"How is it possible for mankind to love and understand God if we cannot
find those things in each other?" she said. "But if we can begin a
serious dialogue about race, then we can begin to address some of those
problems and offer some solutions."
Sunday's event will be held to observe Unity Day, an annual tradition
that is observed by members of the Baha'i faith worldwide.
©Copyright 1998, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel