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Attendees of Baha'i Club's Meaningful Conversations "Healing Racism" discussion meet in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center at UAFS

Attendees of Baha'i Club's Meaningful Conversations "Healing Racism" discussion meet in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center at UAFS

Community | Events | StudentsFebruary 13, 2024

UAFS Student Organization, Baha'i Club, Examines Race Through Conversations

Written By: Ian Silvester

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith registered student organization (RSO), Baha’i Club, began February with a roundtable discussion exploring the spiritual nature of healing racism.

“Healing Racism” was part of the weekly Baha’i Club series Meaningful Conversations, which focuses on various topics or themes. The RSO, advised by UAFS associate professor of Spanish Dr. Mary Sobhani, works to provide a safe and productive space for students, faculty, and staff of all spiritual backgrounds and beliefs to enjoy unity in diversity and to build a new society through education and service.

“Healing Racism” welcomed UAFS students, high school students, and Fort Smith community members. UAFS sophomore and Baha’i Club member Dalton Cantu explained that the discussion was developed from a selection of Baha’i writings on racism, which sparked conversation amongst the RSO and those in attendance.

“We read a passage that really stuck with me,” Dalton said. “It said that racism ‘retards the unfoldment of the boundless potentialities of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress.’ People (in the RSO) had a lot to say about this, and it always expands my perceptions of the world, listening to other people share their stories.”

The conversation also attracted the attention of two other student organizations from UAFS, IDEAL Women and Men of Excellence (MOX). Both groups were well-represented and eager to participate in the discussions.

“This event was a beautiful way to discuss the difficult topic of racism,” said Sophie Mammarelli, a senior graphic design student and member of IDEAL Women. “I learned a lot from hearing other people in my group share their experiences, and it served as a great reminder to always stand up for what is important in this world. The main theme was appreciating and practicing oneness in the community and the world. I think that will lead us to a future where we can all love ourselves and our neighbors equally.”

Gabriel Racher, a member of MOX and a mechanical engineering student, echoed Sophie’s sentiment, saying he has “a better understanding of the challenges we face, along with a healthier philosophy on how we move forward as a community of people who want to change the world.”

The roundtable discussion was enhanced by welcoming viewpoints from Fort Smith community members of varying ages, backgrounds, and beliefs. Fort Smith Chief of Police Danny Baker attended the event and shared his insight on the connection between racism, law enforcement, and the community.

“Racism continues to be a divisive force, hindering our collective progress and growth toward a better world for all. It is particularly important to recognize how racism infects our social systems, especially policing,” Baker said. “I found the discussions relevant, sincere, and well-facilitated. I am very grateful that such discussions continue in our community, and I was honored to share this time of sharing and learning. I know we will be better people because of it.”

Reflecting on “Healing Racism” and the Meaningful Conversations series, Sobhani said there is no better place than UAFS for student and community engagement to come together, uplift, inspire, and express the human spirit. Sobhani continued by saying the conversations build bridges of unity and respect for all humanity.

The Meaningful Conversations series is free and open to all. Baha’i Club hosts conversations at 7 p.m. every Tuesday on the UAFS campus. For more information about the Baha’i Club and to view upcoming topics, visit the UAFS Calendar of Events at or NUMALink.

  • Tags:
  • RSOs
  • IDEAL Women
  • Baha'i Club
  • Men of Excellence

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