The Bahai faith is a religion that believes people have worth and value, men and women are viewed as equals, and racism is considered a challenge.
One group in St. Petersburg, Color Me Human, has adopted these values and implemented them in community-based projects to inform others against racism.
Denise Johnson, leader for the organization, said that unless people learn, the world may never know peace.
Color Me Human is a non-profit organization educating society about the value of an individual, as opposed to devalue of a race, or looking down upon and discriminating against people because of their ethnic background.
Johnson said the nature of Color Me Human is an ongoing process facing problems as a community. The problems include racism, sexism, homophobia and other segregated beliefs. It is an educationally formatted organization that makes society aware of the negative effects of a prejudiced society. Johnson said the construction of race and the term “race” was designed intentionally to value and devalue people. The purpose of the foundation is to undo prejudice and racism.
“It is a learned behavior, and a learned behavior can be unlearned,” Johnson said.
One of the ways the organization promotes its beliefs is through events to educate. An upcoming event Color Me Human is participating in is Circus McGurkis, now in its 30th year, which will be held at Lakeview Park in St. Petersburg on Saturday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The fair celebrates people and groups that help to make the community a loving and honorable place to live. A collection of social concern groups will be working to educate others about subjects such as cleaning the environment, creating peace and fighting for human rights. The fair is a project of the Religious Society of Friends and Tampa Bay Peace Education Program. These groups conduct their programs as a statement of belief in dignity and worth of a person, as well as faith in the power of love and nonviolence, and strive to bring about change.
Admission is free and the event is open to the public. The fair will have magicians, crafts people, dancers, creations, storytellers, jugglers, community groups and musicians for entertainment. Color Me Human started as a community in 1995 and became an organization in 1998. Johnson describes the organization as the “oneness of mind.”
“Everyone is treated with respect, and everyone has value and worth,” Johnson said.
The organization receives funds from a number of organizations, including Walgreens, Eva-Tone and Allegany Franciscan, a foundation of nuns that receives its funds from hospitals around the area.
Johnson said her role in Color Me Human is to train others to be supportive and to increase knowledge to be a good ally. The system of the organization is to be in different sectors of society’s communities.
Another way the organization is trying to get its message across is by producing a collection of noncompetitive, creative writing which volunteers from all areas are welcome to contribute any material. In its sixth year running, it is a collection of student writings ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade. Public and private schools participate, contributing pieces about sharing and loving diversity.
Johnson said the main idea of the collection is to promote awareness of diversity and share the creativeness of students. Each person who contributes receives a copy of the collection.Volunteers for events are always wanted and appreciated, said Johnson. She said there is always availability in Color Me Human events for volunteers to donate time.
The organization has made a difference by “bringing the community together in peace,” she said.
Sharon Joy, a member of the organization, said the group makes a difference by “raising awareness about diversity and creates opportunity for dialogue.”
“Our group touches one person’s heart at a time,” Joy said. Both agree that the organization is a service for social change in the positive.
“We are all equal, and we are all part of one human family,” Johnson said.
The office for Color Me Human is located at The Free Clinic in the Sanderlin Families Service Center.
For information, call Denise Johnson at 727-328-1769.