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Baha'i group celebrates humanity

By Nancy Cicco,

ELIOT, Maine - Believers of the tenet "All is one" observed Race Unity Day on Sunday with a variety of activities held at the Green Acre Baha'i School campus.

In accordance with the Baha'i spiritual tradition, about 50 members of the faith's Seacoast community came together to celebrate "the consciousness of the oneness of humankind," said James Sacco, the director of administration for the national school and conference center on Route 103.

The event's guest of honor was Seacoast artist Richard Haynes, who received the 2001 Vision of Race Unity Award.

Bestowing the honor upon the 51-year-old Portsmouth resident were members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Exeter, N.H.

Haynes was honored because of his work "striving to heal the wounds of racism," said assembly member Phyllis Ring. Haynes accomplishes this both through his artwork and his volunteer efforts with the Portsmouth branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the community at large, she said.

"With service at the forefront of all his efforts, he demonstrates his passionate commitment to unity in many different ways. But the most notable is the one guaranteed to reach both minds and hearts and that is the arts," Ring said.

Haynes' latest exhibit was displayed last month at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H.

His vibrant illustrations of people at work and play are often rendered in caran dache, an oil- and wax-based crayon applied to paper.

Haynes, who settled in Portsmouth some 12 years ago, appeared overwhelmed by the honor.

He reflected on years of financial and personal struggle while attempting to establish himself as an artist.

"There have been many times I wanted to give up, but my wife said continue," he said. "Art was more than being an exhibitor ... it was about delivering a message to mankind."

Also speaking at the event was LeNise Jackson Gaerter, the founder of Mothers for Race Unity and Equality.

Drawing upon a host of world events, she paid tribute to a variety of American leaders who have worked to promote unity among people throughout history.

She also spoke of scientific advances that may yet prove that all races stem from surprisingly similar origins.

The afternoon included songs from blues master T.J. Wheeler's Funky River Band, a group of talented Seacoast youth now studying under Wheeler's tutelage.

Rounding out the event, Redfeather, an American Indian now living in Epping, led participants in a "closing circle."

In the ritual, participants come forth with prayers and pay homage to the creator of the universe.

©Copyright 2001, Portsmouth Herald

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