Bakari Chavanu is the Administrator of “Black Humanists and Non-Believers of Sacramento. Here we talk about Chavanu’s life, views on humanism, and administrative work.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did religion and secular thinking come into early life for you? How did this continue throughout development, in brief?
Bakari Chavanu: I was raised in a Baptist church, and I attended services on a regular basis until about age 16.
Jacobsen: What differences manifest in African-American Humanism compared to much of the European-American Humanism, including the over-representation of higher SES, higher education, and Caucasian males in the community? How can we bridge those divides more for better community integration?
Chavanu: I think African-American humanism puts a focus more on issues of social justice, and a respect culture. But because religion and God-belief are so deeply ingrained in American culture it is very difficult to have much-needed discussions about the role that religion plays in African-American communities.
However, I do get a sense that young African-American people are willing to more critically examine the religious claims and their impact on society. Personally, however, I think in many communities White atheists and humanists might have a difficult time connecting with the African American community around these issues, and that’s why BHNBS was formed.
Jacobsen: How can we include more women and people of color into the broader secular community?
Chavanu: I think you can include more women and people of color by inviting them to your events and asking them to share their thoughts and experiences in platforms like this one.
But it is important that White atheists and humanists not take a paternalistic role with comes to women and people of color. There is nothing wrong with building solidarity around certain issues, but we do not need “guidance” from the White secular community.
Jacobsen: What fears and hopes seem relevant to consider for the secular community moving into 2019?
Chavanu: I am not sure about the fears, but I do feel hopeful that more people are speaking out about their atheism, and some of us in the secular community understand that humanism and social justice are even more important as society moves away from religious claims and dogma.
Humanism and social justice should be the moral framework for how we develop a more just society and respect for one another.
Jacobsen: How is religion a positive? How is religion a negative?
Chavanu: In terms of how religion is positive, we have historically seen that, especially in the Black community, the positive role that religion has played in bringing the community together, and sometimes has been a force against racial injustice and an advocate of civil rights.
Religion used to provide a sort of moral grounding for society, but I think that is no longer the case. I view religion as very negative and dangerous for modern society because it distorts reality and promotes false claims.
I am especially concerned about its impact on young African-American children and youth.
I do not think young people should be taught mystical claims about the evolution of the universe, the planet, and the human race.
Young people should be taught to think rationally and critically with a serious respect for humanity, other animals, and the environment in general.
Jacobsen: You are an administrator for Black Humanists and Non-Believers of Sacramento. What tasks and responsibilities come with this position? What are the organizations ongoing activities and objectives?
Chavanu: Our group mainly exists via Meetup.com, and given our small capacity, we mainly focus on setting up the literature tables at local events where a significant number of African-American people will attend, such as the Martin Luther King Expo and the Black Book Fair in Sacramento.
Our group was formed to let others know that Black atheists, nonbelievers, and humanists do exist. And we want to be a space for non-believers to come and find friendship and support.
Jacobsen: How can folks become involved with you?
Chavanu: By registering on Meetup.com and following our group: https://www.meetup.com/bhnb-sacramento/.
Jacobsen: What are some activities online and in-person for the secular Sacramento community?
Chavanu: Though we are present on Facebook, we have not yet built a website for our group. But we do hold a monthly breakfast, a quarterly book club discussion, and we set up the literature tables at African-American events.
We also support other groups and events, such as the annual Free Thought Day in Sacramento.
Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?
Chavanu: Thank you for this interview. I think is very important that we keep shaping the narrative about atheism and humanism, and that we seriously call into question religious claims and dogma
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Bakari.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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