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.
Here we talk about secular communities and current issues (2020).
*This was conducted June 29, 2020.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, we’ve got some fantastic news. It has to do with mainly finance, but also, maybe, a change in some of the winds in terms of support for – let’s call it – African-American Humanism, if it is American based or black humanism. What happened?
Mandisa Thomas: Yes. So, in the month of June, BN and other black organizations have seen a surge in support, which I’m sure is in light of the tension that culminated with the tragic murder of George Floyd. We’ve attracted new donors, and people inquiring about supporting our work. Also, a couple – fellow atheists – contacted us at our website looking to directly support one of our members financially. After careful consideration, including a potential suggestion for them to route this through BN, I put them in touch with one of our members, who is a struggling single mom. I wasn’t sure significant their support would be, but I learned later that it will benefit her and her family tremendously. In addition, my virtual speaking schedule has increased. So, I appreciate the enhanced support; hopefully, it maintains its momentum.
Jacobsen: When you get this support, I think we can all understand the overwhelming emotion that can wash over someone, especially in the midst of a pandemic. When an organization is running through some tough financial times, when you get that money, and you get the guarantee or have the promise of such finance, what do you do in terms of start running through your mind, plans? How many steps do you start looking ahead and then start filling in the details of what you can do?
Thomas: Oh, my gosh, I know my mind goes all over the place! Thanks to a generous grant from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, BN will go host an online event in July, which will have some prominent names attached, as we discuss religion in the black community. I always look to see how we can improve operations as well as our supplies. I think of new collaboration opportunities for the organization, and ways to better utilize and combine the resources that we already have. Overall, it is a matter of ensuring that we have enough that we’re not struggling, from year to year or month to month. Making sure that we are in a position where even when we fundraise, it doesn’t feel like a matter of life or death. We’ve also seen an increase in our online store sales, which has been great as well. So, all across the board, this gives us a boost.
Jacobsen: Now, you have a significant amount of experience and expertise in the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry is notoriously stressful and at times chaotic. So, you have the experience to know to buttress excitement here when it comes to the long-term planning of some of these financial contributions. So, when you’re looking at that plan forward: How are you making certain, as the founder and president of Black Nonbelievers Inc., to make sure the finances last a long time, are used with prudence and on projects that will have benefit to the community, and as outreach to a wider secular community?
Thomas: Yes. My background in hospitality and as well as management and administrative work, we save on overhead. So, in addition to representing the organization, I also do many things on the backend. While I know that I will want to eventually delegate and hire for some of those responsibilities, as long as I have the ability, then I will manage all of the things that are within my purview. This may be a little self-congratulatory here, but I am proud of my ability to communicate and work as hard as I do. I also pride myself on my ability to explore different various development avenues with the organization. And that’s the way I’ve always worked, even when I was employed by other companies. I am able to work independently, and also as a team, learning from what other people do. So, if I need to step in for someone, then I can. With BN still being so small, we’re able to keep things fairly manageable. It takes skill, time, and determination, but it is worth it.
Jacobsen: Mandisa congratulations, thank you so much for your time.
*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*
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.
About Canadian Atheist
Canadian Atheist is an independent blog with multiple contributors providing articles of interest to Canadian atheists, secularists, humanists, and freethinkers.
Canadian Atheist is not an organization – there is no membership and nothing to join – and we offer no professional services or products. It is a privately-owned publishing platform shared with our contributors, with a focus on topics relevant to Canadian atheists.
Canadian Atheist is not affiliated with any other organization or group. While our contributors may be individually be members of other organizations or groups, and may even speak in an official capacity for them, CA itself is independent.
For more information about Canadian Atheist, or to contact us for any other reason, see our contact page.
About Canadian Atheist Contributors
Canadian Atheist contributors are volunteers who provide content for CA. They receive no payment for their contributions from CA, though they may be sponsored by other means.
Our contributors are people who have both a passion for issues of interest to Canadian atheists, secularists, humanists, and freethinkers, and a demonstrated ability to communicate content and ideas of interest on those topics to our readers. Some are members of Canadian secularist, humanist, atheist, or freethought organizations, either at the national, provincial, regional, or local level. They come from all walks of life, and offer a diversity of perspectives and presentation styles.
CA merely provides our contributors with a platform with almost complete editorial freedom. Their opinions are their own, expressed as they see fit; they do not speak for Canadian Atheist, and Canadian Atheist does not speak for them.
For more information about Canadian Atheist’s contributors, or to get in contact with any of them, or if you are interested in becoming a contributor, see our contact page.
Image Credit: Mandisa Thomas.