A Shared American Dream: The Evolving Kahani of African American and Hindu American Relationship
- The Black-Hindu relationship continues to evolve, weathering social upheavals, enduring disparate struggles, and remaining steadfast through political polarization.
Over half a century ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. immersed the Hindu thought of ahimsa (nonviolence) championed by Mahatma Gandhi for India’s struggle for freedom from British rule, into the American civil rights movement. Today, thousands of Hindu children growing up in America learn about the efforts, sacrifices, and contributions of Black Americans in its history and society in schools and elsewhere.
Between these distant data points lies the fine print of a relationship marked by respect and cordiality of the two colored communities — African Americans and the Hindu Americans. The last decade has seen a rise in interest in Black History and the life story of Dr. King, and how Hindus are connected to it. In a HuffPost article in 2013, thinker and writer, Prof. Rajiv Malhotra urged the Indian American community to emulate the vision and leadership of the African American community to pursue community building from the ground up. Author and lecturer, Dr. Murali Balaji wrote eloquently in the Religion News Service explaining why Hindu Americans should celebrate Black History Month.
And some Hindu American organizations are doing just that. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS) celebrated Black History Month recently along with prominent members of the African American community in New Jersey, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, California, and Oregon. HSS chapters hosted these community leaders as guest speakers to learn more about Black history to draw inspiration for its activities and social causes. Children, youth, and adult participants of HSS listened intently and honored the speakers in the Hindu way.
In HSS’ Aurora-Naperville chapter, Clayton Mohammad, Aurora City’s Chief Communications and Equity Officer, delivered a presentation on ‘The Impact of Black Inventions & Ingenuity on Aurora, America and Across the Globe.’ In an event organized by the Concord chapter in North Carolina, Willie Fleming, the Founder and President of International Minority Coalition (IMC), called the gesture to celebrate Black History Month and recognize the struggles of the African American community a “great step forward.” In another event organized by HSS and the Hindu Society of North Carolina, four speakers from the religious, social service, and political arenas shared their experiences and challenges.
HSS and Sewa International of Dallas jointly hosted a discussion with four senior African American leaders in McKinney. They were musician and author – Eric Willis, founder of Defy the Odds, David A. Gethers, Sr. Executive Director of Community Care Resource Council, Karl Berry, and Dr. Glen Jones. The event culminated with a tour of the Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple in Frisco. The Folsom, Calif., chapter of HSS invited Citrus Heights councilwoman, Porsche Middleton to their Black History Month celebration. Porsche spoke about the importance of history and culture and shared her journey to become the only Black woman, who served as Mayor in the Sacramento area thus far. Encouraging the women in the audience to get involved in the community, she said, “Women bring a sense of voice and a sense of pragmatism”.
Earlier in the year, the Youth of HSS received the ‘2023 Service Above Self MLK Youth Leadership Award’ from Aurora (IL) Mayor, Richard Irvin at the 38th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. They were recognized for their food drives, highway cleanup, cultural education, honoring of schoolteachers and first responders, and other service activities in 2022. HSS volunteers in California celebrated MLK day with the local community and leaders. They also helped the event organizers with the setup and cleanup.
Through events like these, Indian Americans, and Hindus in particular, are increasingly understanding, appreciating, and embracing the African American community’s role in the American dream. The Black-Hindu relationship continues to evolve, weathering social upheavals, enduring disparate struggles, and remaining steadfast through political polarization. It provides a ray of hope for America’s future as a nation that upholds life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — because these ideals are not just meaningful to the story of the African Americans but are Dharmic in their very nature too!
Anil Kothari is an Oklahoma City-based mechanical engineer, yoga practitioner, and yoga teacher.
Very inspiring initiatives, thanks for sharing. When communities with shared dreams and challenges come together and engage in discussions, more positive outcomes emerge. Continue these positive efforts!