We have moved to: PasadenaBahai.org
Honoring Jim Nelson (May 19, 1927 – February 26, 2011)
It was a happening, no doubt about it. You know those films that show souls from unseen worlds speeding along overhead with an ambulance, or hurrying on to a wedding? That’s what it felt like. I write this as a dot, a mere dot, in a large universe of dots that loved Jim Nelson, human extraordinaire, and are equally dotty over his beloved wife Dorothy. The occasion?
The Memorial for James F. Nelson. That’s the facts, but here’s a sliver of a feeling, a perception of the day of his memorial. First, a week after he died, Dorothy continued the firesides, and as the first Wednesday evening came about without his physical presence, I sat there feeling like a small blip of a writer in observation mode. I also felt as if a giant spaceship, filled with love, landed on the Nelsons’ roof. I further felt as if Jim’s soul was tucked into this spaceship. It was such a big spaceship, but still, I thought, he had to tuck in the edges of his soul, as it was so big it almost didn’t fit.
Exaggeration maybe. Right up front let me say, “It’s never just Jim, as it is never just Dorothy.” We, the gang on earth, left to carry on the torches of all those gone on in service, bend towards Dorothy, anxious to absorb within our own souls, any pain of loss or sorrow. But meanwhile, we had a memorial to attend to.
Let’s just say, people in the surrounding community and from his long-time Bahá’í family followed Dorothy’s wishes, and all became like a human kaleidoscope, moving, stretching, bending, to the subtle needs of making this day, the day of Jim Nelson’s memorial, the best it could be.
As I prepared to be a volunteer, my soul felt an urgency, to rush, to be, to do, to join the other members of our community. And you know, that’s just what happened. The Baha’is worked together like meshed steel, and the people came. All the law clerks, judges, members and participants of the legal field were there at the Pasadena Convention Center. Then the Baha’is: children who sang in a choir, “Love is just a magic penny, … just give it away,” Glenford Mitchell, distinguished retired member of the Universal House of Justice, most of the National Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, noting the one not there was attending his daughter’s wedding. Counselors past and present.
All told, there were close to 700 people, and the afternoon was interspersed with Judge’s comments, friends’ tributes, prayers, passages from the Baha’i writings, and songs by children. A video, commencing with a resplendent baby in his birthday suit, brought “aawwws” and laughter. We viewed Jim’s life in images, and we were a captive audience. More photographs showed Jim’s appointment as a Judge, while later, his measured voice filled with kindness, eloquence and love echoed in the background. Images flashed to scenes of Jim, on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly, speaking about the persecuted Baha’is in Iran, to a Congressional Hearing. Some pictures of Jim as a fisherman, and a few interspersed showing Jim and Dorothy dancing. The last slide showed their last dance. Finally the program ended with a solo at the end, sung by someone who has the dusty voice of a winged bird.
Palpable love and unity floated between all of us, and later, we spilled out into the wide corridors surrounding the ballroom, and hugged and loved, and finally, went home, realizing as my daughter-in-law Laura said, “We all want to be better since attending this gathering.”
So that’s it. Word dots in a giant mosaic, representing a heart. Others will put it more eloquently, but as I said, “It was a happening.”
On July 9, members of the Bahá’í Faith from all over the world commemorate the anniversary of the Martyrdom of the forerunner of Baha’u’llah who held the title of the Báb (“the gate” in Arabic). This is one of only nine holy days on which members of the Faith suspend work and school. Today in Pasadena members of Baha’i communities from throughout the San Gabriel Valley gathered to mark this solemn occasion.
The following is a brief overview and account of the events of this Sacred day for Baha’is:
In Persia (now Iran) in 1844, the Báb declared that His mission was to herald the imminent arrival of the long-awaited Promised One, the Messenger of God Who would usher in the age of universal peace and transform the world. That Messenger was Bahá’u’lláh , Who in 1863 announced that He was God’s Messenger for this age.
The proclamation of the Báb attracted thousands of followers in a short time. Fearful of the Báb’s growing influence caused by His proclamation and teachings, which called for spiritual and moral renewal, religious and political leaders arose to oppose and persecute the Báb and His followers
More than 20,000 of His followers were killed in several waves of brutal persecution. Though guilty of no crime, the Báb was arrested, beaten, exiled and imprisoned by the authorities. On July 9, 1850, at the age of 31, He was executed in public by a firing squad in the city of Tabriz in northwest Persia.
The story of the events surrounding the Báb’s martyrdom has captured the interest of many because an apparent miracle was performed in the midst of tragic circumstances and in the presence of thousands of witnesses. The following is an account of the events surrounding this Sacred Day authored by Shoghi Effendi in his historical account of the early years of the Baha’i Faith entitled “God Passes By“:
The farrash-bashi had abruptly interrupted the last conversation which the Báb was confidentially having in one of the rooms of the barracks with His amanuensis Siyyid Husayn, and was drawing the latter aside, and severely rebuking him, when he was thus addressed by his Prisoner: “Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence Me. Though all the world be armed against Me, yet shall it be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention.” To the Christian Sam Khan — the colonel of the Armenian regiment ordered to carry out the execution — who, seized with fear lest his act should provoke the wrath of God, had begged to be released from the duty imposed upon him, the Báb gave the following assurance: “Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you of your perplexity.”
Sam Khan accordingly set out to discharge his duty. A spike was driven into a pillar which separated two rooms of the barracks facing the square. Two ropes were fastened to it from which the Báb and one of his disciples, the youthful and devout Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali-i-Zunuzi, surnamed Anis, who had previously flung himself at the feet of his Master and implored that under no circumstances he be sent away from Him, were separately suspended. The firing squad ranged itself in three files, each of two hundred and fifty men. Each file in turn opened fire until the whole detachment had discharged its bullets. So dense was the smoke from the seven hundred and fifty rifles that the sky was darkened. As soon as the smoke had cleared away the astounded multitude of about ten thousand souls, who had crowded onto the roof of the barracks, as well as the tops of the adjoining houses, beheld a scene which their eyes could scarcely believe.
The Báb had vanished from their sight! Only his companion remained, alive and unscathed, standing beside the wall on which they had been suspended. The ropes by which they had been hung alone were severed. “The Siyyid-i-Báb has gone from our sight!” cried out the bewildered spectators. A frenzied search immediately ensued. He was found, unhurt and unruffled, in the very room He had occupied the night before, engaged in completing His interrupted conversation with His amanuensis. “I have finished My conversation with Siyyid Husayn” were the words with which the Prisoner, so providentially preserved, greeted the appearance of the farrash-bashi, “Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention.” Recalling the bold assertion his Prisoner had previously made, and shaken by so stunning a revelation, the farrash-bashi quitted instantly the scene, and resigned his post.
Sam Khan, likewise, remembering, with feelings of awe and wonder, the reassuring words addressed to him by the Báb, ordered his men to leave the barracks immediately, and swore, as he left the courtyard, never again, even at the cost of his life, to repeat that act. Aqa Jan-i-Khamsih, colonel of the body-guard, volunteered to replace him. On the same wall and in the same manner the Báb and His companion were again suspended, while the new regiment formed in line and opened fire upon them. This time, however, their breasts were riddled with bullets, and their bodies completely dissected, with the exception of their faces which were but little marred. “O wayward generation!” were the last words of the Báb to the gazing multitude, as the regiment prepared to fire its volley, “Had you believed in Me every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and would have willingly sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you.”
The very moment the shots were fired a gale of exceptional violence arose and swept over the city. From noon till night a whirlwind of dust obscured the light of the sun, and blinded the eyes of the people. In Shiraz an “earthquake,” foreshadowed in no less weighty a Book than the Revelation of St. John, occurred in 1268 A.H. which threw the whole city into turmoil and wrought havoc amongst its people, a havoc that was greatly aggravated by the outbreak of cholera, by famine and other afflictions. In that same year no less than two hundred and fifty of the firing squad, that had replaced Sam Khan’s regiment, met their death, together with their officers, in a terrible earthquake, while the remaining five hundred suffered, three years later, as a punishment for their mutiny, the same fate as that which their hands had inflicted upon the Báb. To insure that none of them had survived, they were riddled with a second volley, after which their bodies, pierced with spears and lances, were exposed to the gaze of the people of Tabriz. The prime instigator of the Báb’s death, the implacable Amir-Nizam, together with his brother, his chief accomplice, met their death within two years of that savage act.
On the evening of the very day of the Báb’s execution, which fell on the ninth of July 1850 (28th of Sha’ban 1266 A.H.), during the thirty-first year of His age and the seventh of His ministry, the mangled bodies were transferred from the courtyard of the barracks to the edge of the moat outside the gate of the city. Four companies, each consisting of ten sentinels, were ordered to keep watch in turn over them. On the following morning the Russian Consul in Tabriz visited the spot, and ordered the artist who had accompanied him to make a drawing of the remains as they lay beside the moat. In the middle of the following night a follower of the Báb, Haji Sulayman Khan, succeeded, through the instrumentality of a certain Haji Allah-Yar, in removing the bodies to the silk factory owned by one of the believers of Milan, and laid them, the next day, in a specially made wooden casket, which he later transferred to a place of safety… No sooner had the news of the transfer of the remains of the Báb and of His fellow-sufferer been communicated to Bahá’u’lláh than He ordered that same Sulayman Khan to bring them to Tihran, where they were taken to the Imam-Zadih-Hasan, from whence they were removed to different places, until the time when, in pursuance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s instructions, they were transferred to the Holy Land, and were permanently and ceremoniously laid to rest by Him in a specially erected mausoleum on the slopes of Mt. Carmel.
Thus ended a life which posterity will recognize as standing at the confluence of two universal prophetic cycles, the Adamic Cycle stretching back as far as the first dawnings of the world’s recorded religious history and the Bahá’í Cycle destined to propel itself across the unborn reaches of time for a period of no less than five thousand centuries. The apotheosis in which such a life attained its consummation marks, as already observed, the culmination of the most heroic phase of the Heroic Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation. It can, moreover, be regarded in no other light except as the most dramatic, the most tragic event transpiring within the entire range of the first Bahá’í century. Indeed it can be rightly acclaimed as unparalleled in the annals of the lives of all the Founders of the world’s existing religious systems.
Hey Pasadena, here’s a rare opportunity to hear one of the most brilliant architects of our time. Fariborz Sahba, architect of the famed “Lotus Temple” Baha’i House of Worship in India will be speaking at the Los Angeles Baha’i Center on July 11th. If you have heard him speak, you know how inspiring and thought provoking he can be as he presents his work and shows you how he interweaves his spirituality with his brilliant gift for magnificent architecture.
A quick bio on Mr. Sahba from the Canadian Baha’i News Service:
Mr. Sahba was born in Iran in 1948. He received a Master’s degree in architecture in 1972 from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Tehran University.
In Iran, Mr. Sahba was involved in the design of a wide range of prestigious buildings.Bahá’í House of Worship, New Delhi, India.
In 1976, the international governing body of the Bahá’í community selected Mr. Sahba to design the Bahá’í House of Worship for the Indian subcontinent in New Delhi, India. The project, on which he worked for 10 years as the architect and project manager, was described by Canadian architect Arthur Erickson as “one of the most remarkable achievements of our time, proving that the drive and vision of spirit can achieve miracles.” With over 3.5 million visitors a year, the building, commonly referred to as the “Lotus of Bahapur,” is the most visited building in the world, according to a CNN report.
In 1987, the Bahá’í World Centre assigned Mr. Sahba the task of designing 18 terraces, to serve as a majestic approach to the Shrine of the Báb, one of the most holy places in the Bahá’í world. He was also appointed project manager of the Bahá’í World Centre building projects on Mount Carmel. The Terraces of the Shrine of the Báb received the 1998 Ephraim Lifshitz Award from the Municipality of Haifa and the 1999 Magshim Award from the Council for a Beautiful Israel.
Mr. Sahba has received many international awards, among them the First Honor Award in 1987 for “Excellence in Architecture” from the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture, an affiliate of the American Institute of Architects. Articles about his work have been published in almost 400 magazines and newspapers throughout the world.
View his online portfolio here: www.sahbaarchitect.com
AN EVENING WITH THE ARCHITECT OF THE THE LOTUS TEMPLE,BAHA’I HOUSE OF WORSHIP NEW- DELHI ,INDIA
SUNDAY JULY 11TH
LOS ANGELES BAHA’I CENTER
5755 RODEO ROAD,
Los Angeles, California, 90016
Hope to see you there!
This blog has been following the situation of the unjustly imprisoned Baha’is in Iran for the past year. Latest news from Iranian government is that the trial of the 7 Baha’i leaders will be on Monday, April 12th, 2010. The Iranian government has postponed the trial date so many times, it’s hard to say that if there will be any trial come Monday. In any event, these Baha’is remain imprisoned under no good reason, other than being a Baha’i. The seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders, sometimes called the Yaran, are: Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.
To remember the Baha’i 7, we’re posting below the video of the event to support the Baha’is held last August 12th, 2009 at the Western Justice Center. Over 150 were in attendance. It is in 8 parts, with a musical performance at the end.
9th Court of Appeals Judge Dorothy Nelson opens this special program to raise awareness of the plight of the Baha’is in Iran on August 12, 2009 at the Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California. Over 150 concerned citizens in attendance. As of April 7th, 2010, the 7 Baha’i friends (5 men, 2 women) mentioned in this series of videos have still not been released by the Iranian government, despite international pleas. Standing up for the Baha’is are US Congressman Adam Schiff, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, and Fire Chief (now in the Obama administration) Bernard Melekian. Sylvian Castel de Oro reads the opening prayer at the end.
Brief YouTube movie gives an overview of the situation of the Bahai’s in Iran. Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard speaks afterwards.
Judge Dorothy Nelson introduces Congressman Adam Schiff, of California’s 29th district, overseeing Pasadena. Congressman Schiff speaks knowledgeably about the situation in Iran.
Congressman Adam Schiff talks about the situation of the Baha’is in Iran and Iran in general. US Congress House Resolution 175 has passed condemning the Iranian government false imprisonment of the Baha’i leaders in Iran. Congressman Schiff also discusses Iran’s recent election, nuclear proliferation, and more.
Police Chief Bernard Melekian (now in the Obama administration) speaks about his support for the Baha’is. Judge Dorothy Nelson invites audience to ask questions. Congressman Adam Schiff is recipient of all questions.
Congressman Adam Schiff answers more questions from the public about the repression of the Baha’is in Iran and other questions.
Iraj Kamalabadi, brother of falsely imprisoned Baha’i in Iran, Fariba Kamalabadi, speaks up on behalf of the Baha’is at the Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California. 9th Court of Appeals Senior Judge Dorothy Nelson concludes the program.
Grammy nominated musical artist Tierney Sutton and Jamie Findlay perform “Skylark” at the conclusion of an event to support the Baha’is of Iran. Held at the Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California. 9th Court of Appeals Senior Judge Dorothy Nelson offers final remarks.
Event Participants: Senior Circuit Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, US Congressman Adam Schiff representing California’s 29th District, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, Pasadena Fire Chief Bernard Melikian (now appointed to a position in the US Department of Justice in the Obama administration), brother of one of the Baha’i’s in Iran — Iraj Kamalabadi, Grammy nominated jazz artist Tierney Sutton, guitarist Jamie Findlay, and Local Spiritual Assembly member and Faculty member at Cal Poly Pomona, Sylvian Castel de Oro.
Many other officials, religious groups, and non-profit organizations were present, including District 7 Pasadena Councilmember Terry Tornek, former Executive Director of the Western Justice Center — Najeeba Syeed-Miller, Assistant Director of Interreligious & Intergroup Relations for the American Jewish Committee Randy Brown, Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles, IDF Executive Director and Pasadena community activist Dorothea Bradley, and more.
This past Saturday a number of members of the Pasadena Baha’i community and their friends came out in the rain to serve the community at the 28th Annual Black History Parade and the Pasadena Marathon Health & Fitness Expo.
Black History Parade & Fair
Each year, Pasadena Baha’is support the Annual Black History and Parade with volunteers. Marching in the Parade were students from Pasadena City College Ujima Program, headed up by PCC counselor and community member Chiara Thomas.
Also supporting at the Fair, held at Jackie Robinson Park, was community member Scott Phelps, VP of the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education. He was promoting the passing of the parcel tax to increase financial support for Pasadena Public Schools in the wake of an impending budget gap facing school districts statewide.
Also representing at the Fair was the City of Pasadena’s Neighborhood Connections department, whose booth was staffed by this blog’s dear friend and community dynamo, Tania Flores. She was passing out information and promoting the Pasadena Neighborhood Leadership Institute, of which two of the Pasadena Baha’i community members are graduates, Dorothea Bradley in 2007, and Al Cadena in 2009.
The Baha’is were also there at the Fair. Despite the rain, many people came up to our table, asking profound questions and wanting to know the Baha’is relationship with Jesus (he is the Son of God), where the Faith was founded (Iran), where is its world center (Haifa, Israel), key principles like the equality of women and men, abolition of all forms of prejudice, and the unique role and contributions that African Americans have made to the Baha’i Faith over the years.
Seen at the Pasadena Baha’i booth were Bill DeTally and Esther Bradley-DeTally, stalwart volunteers in the community in regards to Race Unity, America’s most vital and challenging issue. Both have volunteered extensively with the San Gabriel Valley Interfaith Council and the YWCA’s Racial Justice Committee. Esther teaches a writing workshop, “Courage to Write,” at La Pintoresca library, located in Northwest Pasadena, and whose workshop will be featured at the All Saints Women’s Community’s Lunch of Compassion, on Sunday, March 7th, 2010.
Also representing at the booth were Renee Dixon, longtime volunteer for the Black History Parade and member of the Altadena Interfaith Group, and Mattie McCrae, newest member of our community.
Pasadena Marathon | Health and Fitness Expo
Later that afternoon at the Pasadena Convention Center, the Pasadena Neighborhood Leadership Institute (PNLI) Class had a booth to promote their class project: how to improve the community perception of Pasadena Public Schools, especially in light of all the recent improvement in test scores and other statistics.
PNLI have created an advertising campaign, “Yes! Pasadena Public Schools” which was prominently featured at the booth. Visitors to the booth were given business-card sized calendars with a fact about Pasadena Public Schools on the reverse. Quite a number of people came up and chatted with us. Al Cadena, Baha’i and PNLI Class of 2009 remarked: “People want to hear good things about the school district and are surprised and informed when they learn about the facts that we’re sharing with them.”