Mandisa Thomas, a native of New York City, is the founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. Although never formally indoctrinated into belief, Mandisa was heavily exposed to Christianity, Black Nationalism, and Islam. As a child she loved reading, and enjoyed various tales of Gods from different cultures, including Greek and Ghanaian. “Through reading these stories and being taught about other cultures at an early age, I quickly noticed that there were similarities and differences between those deities and the God of the Christian Bible. I couldn’t help but wonder what made this God so special that he warrants such prevalence today,” she recalls.
Mandisa has many media appearances to her credit, including CBS Sunday Morning, CNN.com, and Playboy, The Humanist, and JET magazines. She has been a guest on podcasts such as The Humanist Hour and Ask an Atheist, as well as the documentaries Contradiction and My Week in Atheism. Mandisa currently serves on the Board for American Atheists and the American Humanist Association, and previously for Foundation Beyond Belief, the 2016 Reason Rally Coalition, and the Secular Coalition for America. She is also an active speaker and has presented at conferences/conventions for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, and many others.
In 2019, Mandisa was the recipient of the Secular Student Alliance’s Backbone Award and named the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s Freethought Heroine. She was also the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association’s Person of the Year 2018.
As the president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., Mandisa encourages more Blacks to come out and stand strong with their nonbelief in the face of such strong religious overtones.
“The more we make our presence known, the better our chances of working together to turn around some of the disparities we face. We are NOT alone.”
Here, we talk about events in 2020 (previously expected with certainty and more with uncertainty now, but there’s a host of great community events and facets available through Black Nonbelievers).
*Interview conducted in early 2020.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, we’re writing in 2020. We’re hitting the ground running with a whole suite of new topics. What are some things people should keep in mind in terms of sign-ups and being ahead of the ballgame for the events of Black Non-Believers?
Mandisa Thomas: Absolutely. One of our major events is the second Woman of Color Beyond Belief conference at the end of September, but we are also hosting BN SeaCon 2020 aboard the Carnival Magic cruise ship. It will be a seven-night cruise this time, and we’ll have more interactive sessions this year. We start promoting the event in December of 2019.
Deposits were originally due on January 10th, but due to a technical glitch, (WordPress constantly changing/updating their functions) we extended the deadline date for registrations to January 15th. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that registration will stop, but the initial deposit was due January 15th. That opposed to January 10th. We’re excited about it because we have the opportunity to update folks as the year goes on what they should prepare for and what we have to offer, what the ship has to offer and everything.
Jacobsen: What are we looking at in terms of prices?
Mandisa: The prices start at $800 USD per person for double occupancy, which includes cabin fare, convention registration, port fees and taxes. Carnival, like most cruise lines, offer special amenities for group bookings, such as a cocktail reception and onboard credits. Also, for non profit organizations, Carnival donates a portion of the revenue generated from the group back to it. This gives us an opportunity to raise funds to help pay for our speakers and also to offer guests more perks that come along with being with our particular group – like T-shirts, and other items that we may provide.
Jacobsen: How many people are expected to sign up within the first little bit?
Mandisa: For BN SeaCon 2019, we had 33 people, which was on par with previous years. We’re expecting about 40, hopefully, 50, people this year. There are usually about 20 to 25 people who sign up initially. So, if people miss the initial deadline, it’s still fine for people to sign up afterwards. However, there may be a larger payment required. Cruises are usually paid in increments, and it’s no different when you register for BN SeaCon. But we try to announce the deposit dates early to allow for people to prepare for them, as well as payments down the line. But of course, the more deadlines missed, the more one has to pay in lump sums. So, if you’re prepared to do that, then great. But it’s usually best to stay on schedule with the payments.
Jacobsen: Any further notes with regards to what people should do after they’ve signed up, if they want to go for preparatory work?
Mandisa: Yes. Once you register, you are placed in our email database. So we start communicating monthly, including sharing tips to prepare for the cruise, and payment reminders. We also encourage budgeting for extra things that aren’t included, like drink and internet packages. These items can be prepaid, or onboard the ship.
We don’t want anyone being blindsided, so we try to provide as much information as possible. Again, it’s a trip where you have to be prepared, and should be comfortable, and not struggling at the last minute. It’s a huge part of the community building piece that we offer as an organization.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mandisa.
Mandisa: Thank you.
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.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: Mandisa Thomas.