Black Nonbelievers, Inc. is proud to host an encore presentation of the acclaimed film by Jeremiah Camara!
What has been the collective impact of church loyalty and deep faith?
In Contradiction, Jeremiah Camara, author of the book Holy Lockdown travels around the country examining the saturation of churches in the midst of dependency and powerlessness. Camara seeks to find if there is a connection between high praise and low productivity.
*Rolling Out is the official media sponsor for Contradiction (Rollingout.com)
****The following piece is an adaptation from one of my 16 year old daughter’s class assignments. I was unaware of her choice to write about this subject until she told me. She received a grade of 95, and of course, being so please with the outcome, I asked her permission to share. The content has been slightly edited, but her ideas and thoughts come through loud and clear. Please share this with others who may be feeling the same way, but may have trouble with open expression.**** ~ Mandisa
Its half past 10 and my mom and I are headed towards her meeting she has every 3rd weekend of the month, I gazed at the stagnant gray clouds and counted the number of black cars that passed. 24….25….suddenly, I see a license plate with peculiar text on it. “God loves me”.
I paused. Bewildered, I turned to my mother.
“Hey, did you see that?”
“See what?” she asked.
I point towards the blue colored sedan.
My mom sighed, and I could only think that this is just another person looking for attention.
That was the starting point of what it meant to be a nonbeliever -or at least that was when I noticed. I remember a time when I felt like a rainbow colored fish in a dull black ocean. When I was five, I attended a private school named Romar Academy. It had a wide variety of activities, such as karate, piano, and dance. It had a friendly vibe in an overachieving learning environment. However, one thing stood out the most. At lunchtime, we couldn’t eat until prayer was done – which I never understood. So I waited until they finished, then hungrily ate my food.
One thing I love most about my family is that we are skeptical. We love to question things that seem to interfere with the daily activities of others. We’ve also traveled many places – from the blue-green beaches of the Bahamas to the lively, spectacular city of New York. When we eat, we never pray over our food, nor is there any mention of any god at any given time (as a real being).
2011 was the start of my mom’s group “Black Nonbelievers”. Taking from her childhood experiences of growing up Black Nationalist, being exposed to religion in various aspects, and questioning life in general, she developed an atheist group of her own. I support her by going to some of the meetings, and I have learned new things about her and what it means to be considered atheist.
Recently, I saw a documentary called “Contradiction”. It is a movie about how religion affects African American culture. I taught me many new things. For example, during slavery, religion was used as a tactic to mentally restrain slaves. Like a box filled with colors, a dull world – religion – kept that box from being opened. But as I continued to watch, I realized that many other races have that same problem. After learning this, I was able to picture the transition that many cultures took when they were exposed to Christianity.
Transitioning to a new environment is never easy. You have to get used to new routines and people. When I transferred from public school from private, I noticed the students weren’t all Black or African American. And I felt happier as a result. Seeing people from different races and cultures made me feel completely comfortable with myself. Even now, I feel extremely apprehensive if I find myself surrounded by one race/culture in particular at any given time. Also, I find it hard to cope with not being able to get along with many of my fellow African Americans. It started as a joke, but I sat down one day and brain vomited all of my thoughts. Everywhere I looked, I saw some Blacks either committing themselves to a higher deity, or making a fool of themselves and being disrespectful in some way. I always wanted to know why these bad apples are shown in the media. But moreover, when I did make friends with other Blacks, something would eventually distance us – religious belief. When I told them I was atheist, they stopped talking to me. When I told them I was bisexual, they stopped talking to me. I find it much easier to talk with my peers from other races. In fact, more of them are atheist – just like me.
In a world filled with extravagant things and adventures, I never thought too hard about religion. I accept people for who they are as long as they accept me for who I am. My mom is my role model. She is able to overcome obstacles head on, and still keeps a smile on her face – even when someone tells her to “go to hell”. Being an atheist to me isn’t worshipping the devil, or even saying things like “God doesn’t exist”. It means that I‘m an adventurer who is a skeptic and feels free. As I travel and meet new people, I question and explore whatever I want. And I expect a straightforward answer, and will never stop looking for my own.
Good Morning Everyone!
On behalf of the BN Team, I would like to wish you all a happy day today. This has been another exciting year for us; for those of you who aren’t aware, we are more than an online entity. BN is a very active offline, and we encourage in person interaction as much as possible. Here in the Atlanta area, we host a variety of events – from our monthly General Meetings, to movie and bowling outings, as well as special lectures and presentations. We also table at the American Atheists National Convention, WRFG’s annual Block Party celebration, and this was our first year at the Atlanta Pride festivities. There are also established BN groups in Orlando, Dallas and Detroit, which host similar gatherings, and we look forward to keeping you informed about those activities as well. Also, there are many freethought groups throughout the U.S. and internationally, and we encourage you to participate with those groups as well.
We understand very well how isolating and frustrating being a nonbeliever can be. However, that doesn’t need to be a permanent state of being. And in helping to establish connections, we challenge each other to overcome past obstacles in order to evolve and progress towards a better existence. Religion is often not the only form of indoctrination we must overcome, and this is something that takes help from others, and strength from within. There must be a willingness on each of our parts to reflect and be honest about what we can do better for ourselves – whether it be physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s often a hard task, but an important one – especially for our own growth and development.
In the almost 3 years of our existence, I have received a substantial amount of feedback stating the BN has been a monumental influence in the lives of many individuals. There have been meaningful professional and personal relationships established as a result of the connections we foster, and this is something I am not only proud of, but also grateful for. And it has been because of your support, encouragement and participation that this is possible. We look forward to taking this to higher levels in the years to come.
In closing, I would like to thank each and everyone one of you for being part of the BN family. Please visit our website at http://www.blacknonbelievers.org for more information. The annual New Year’s Eve Bash is almost here, and we sincerely hope you will consider bringing in 2014 with us. Continue to enjoy the rest of this holiday season, and always remember that you are never alone.
Mandisa L. Thomas
Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
“Walking by Sight, NOT Faith!”
Atlanta Freethought Society
4775 N. Church Lane
Smyrna GA 30080
AFS is a 501(c)(3) educational organization
Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
20 September 2013 CE NEWS RELEASE—for immediate release
An Evening with Shelley Segal
Monday, 7 October, 7 p.m.
A Special AFS/BN Program
(Atlanta) Black Nonbelievers, Inc. of Atlanta (BN) President Mandisa Thomas announced that BN and the Atlanta Freethought Society(AFS) will “join forces to present to the Atlanta area an internationally known and acclaimed performer and secular activist, Shelley Segal of Melbourne, Australia.” AFS President Rick Pace noted that Segal has gotten rave reviews “from all over, with people calling her singing and music ‘beautiful,’ ‘stunning,’ ‘inspiring’ and more. Her international activism on behalf of secularism just reinforces why we’re so proud to have her perform at AFS Hall.” A flyer for the event is attached (or can be sent) and may be used in media publications of all kinds. Both Thomas and Pace expressed great satisfaction at “the joint efforts to enrich the lives of our members and the community with events such as these.”
The program, with a $5 suggested admission donation and open to the public, is expected to draw a full house of music and freethought lovers, so everyone is encouraged to come early to be assured of a seat. The program will start at 7 p.m. at AFS Hall, 4775 N. Church Lane, Smyrna 30080(just off Atlanta Road, inside the I-285/ perimeter—exit 16). “We welcome those who are not freethinkers but who just want to see our historic building or to hear Shelley Segal. All freethinkers are of course welcome—and we hope that they will decide to join as members in due course,” said Pace.
The Atlanta Freethought Society is a member-run (all volunteer) non-profit, 501(c)(3) educational organization. The freethought hall that AFS owns and restored was a church from 1866, when it was built, until 2001. Regular AFS meetings, free and open to the public, are held on the second Sunday afternoon of every month, with a variety of other events and activities each month as well. The regular meeting usually features a speaker (often nationally known) on religion, freethought, science, history, or some combination of these. AFS has published, under the auspices of its press—Freethought Press—seven books and dozens of calendars, brochures, and flyers. AFS has often led protests against church-state violations.
Black Nonbelievers, Inc., is a non-profit fellowship of nonbelievers in the Atlanta area that is dedicated to providing an informative, caring, festive and family friendly environment. We strive to connect with other Blacks (and their allies) who are living free of religion and irrational beliefs, and might otherwise be shunned by family and friends. Instead of accepting dogma, we seek to determine truth and morality through reason and evidence.
BN welcomes all regardless of sex, sexuality, gender identity, age, national origin or race. We extend a caring embrace to all who wish to participate in exploring a meaningful rational life.
The mission of Black Nonbelievers is to…
• Provide secular fellowship.
• Nurture and support nonbelievers in coming out.
• Promote atheist pride.
• Organize nonbelievers for charitable causes.
Mandisa Thomas, BNA President, (404) 213-9655
Rick Pace, AFS President, (770) 912-6974
Steve Yothment, AFS VP for Internal Communications/Programs, (770) 722-3171
Michael Buckner, AFS VP for External Communications, (404) 245-8980
It has been two weeks since the Blackout Secular Rally took place in New York City, and there is still a buzz surrounding the event. Approx 150 were in attendance, and while some may consider that a small number, it was great to bring a number of atheists/nonbelievers of color (as well as those from supporting organizations) together in one place. The mood was festive, the feedback from attendees was great, and there is definitely interest in making this an annual project. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on that.
In the meantime, please check out two articles written by me for the American Humanist Association and Black Skeptics ( blogs, as well as a video compilation put together by the good folks at the FreethinkingIsland podcast. Also, please continue to follow updates about other events and projects from Black Nonbelievers and Black Atheists of America – and we hope that you consider contributing financially toward our efforts. We appreciate the support as we could not do this without you. For more information, our website will be listed below.
Thanks, and continue to walk by Sight – NOT Faith!
***This note was originally written and published on May 8th, 2011. In light of the pain and struggles many nonbelievers face when it comes to family members, Mother’s Day can be particularly trying for many. It is for them – as well as others who battle emotionally with this holiday (including myself) – that I am republishing this piece. It is another area where we are not alone. Happy Day to all.*** ~ Mandisa
As we arrive at yet another Mother’s Day, I have some things on my mind that I wanted to share. I know that this is one of the most popular and highly celebrated holidays of the calendar year. For many it is a joyous occasion – as it should be. A mother (motherlike guardian)’s responsibility is not easy, and it is great to have a day set aside to acknowledge our hard work and achievements. However, there are many who cannot express this sentiment about their mothers – for very good reasons – and this is what I need to speak on for a moment.
Although there are many mothers that have raised their children and gave them plenty of love and support, there are just as many women who have either abandoned their child(ren), have been and are abusive, and planted some very damaging mental seeds that has handicapped their offspring in some fashion. Whether it is a false sense of obligation, the fear of never living up to a standard, and/or unrealistic expectations from others, these factors often prohibit children from leading healthy, independent lives. Many children have been made to believe that they should still honor these women inspite of these actions, which over time can lead to resentment, anguish, and apathy. They often feel (and have been made to feel by many well meaning, yet still misguiding family members and friends) as if they are at fault for why these things occurred, and that it is their responsibility alone to overcome that pain. I have encountered many individuals that have recalled less than loving experiences with their mothers, and yet they still feel that because they were given birth to and were financially provided for that there is still a need to put this being on a pedestal – which is not deserved. Some KNOW that it is not deserved, but with the stigma of such a holiday, it is considered blasphemy to speak ill of one’s mother – no matter how awful the experience. So they are faced with either keeping the pain to themselves, or expressing very openly – often to the dismay of others that are not honest with themselves about similar backgrounds. In any case, the level of discomfort is always present and can lead to very heartbreaking results (ostracism, depression, etc). This cannot be overlooked, and it is time for us to take an honest look at what many have been apprehensive to speak about for so long.
What we as parents – and especially as mothers - must remember is that it is mandatory to provide for our children and give them the love and support they need and deserve. As I stated before, it is not easy - in fact it is often very frustrating and can cause us to make mistakes along the way. But nothing is worse than when a parent places unnecessary blame and unfair burdens on children that can scar them for the rest of their lives. And it is even worse when children think they have no recourse other than to accept what happened to them and hold these people to a place of honor where there is none. When a parent messes up, it is OUR responsibility to fix the problem – and when a child expresses that you have done something hurtful to them, LISTEN – no matter how painful it may be to do so. No one is perfect by any means, and children will respect you more in the long run when you show that you are learning with them – as well as FROM them.
So I say to all those that are celebrating Mother’s Day with genuine appreciation, I wish you and yours a very Happy Day. And to those of you that cannot, I truly understand and I hope you have a great day still. No one has the right to discount your painful experience, and if speaking out gives you closure then by all means speak out loud. You are not alone at all. As for me, this holiday is dubious at best – I cannot say that I had the worst experience with my mother, but it definitely has not been the best and I am pushing for accountability as a result. But in the meantime, I don’t let that stop me from being the best mother I can be to my children. My pain doesn’t have to be theirs too, and because I recognize that I am at peace.
Have a great day!