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Montreal, July 7, 2020 – There are already significant efforts underway to learn how to create models of unity in neighborhoods and communities throughout the nation. Baha’is have been persistently engaged in such efforts for many years. The aim is not unity in sameness—it is unity in diversity. It is the recognition that everyone in this land has a part to play in contributing to the betterment of society, and that true prosperity, material and spiritual, will be available to us all to the degree that we live up to this standard. We should earnestly discover what is being done, what truly helps to make a difference, and why. We should share this knowledge throughout the country as a means of inspiring and assisting the work of others. If we do this, we could soon find ourselves in the midst of a mass transition toward racial justice.

Eddie Elliot (the first Montrealer from African descent who accepted the Bahá’í Faith) participated as a representative of the National Spiritual Assembly, in the African International Teaching Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, in February 1953 but his untimely death in July 1953 while working on a high voltage transformer left the Canadian Bahá’í Community bereft of one of the few African Canadians to have embraced the Bahá’í Faith in Canada at that time. Eddie Elliot was known as a “very pure and distinguished soul,” having “warmth and strength,” serving as the “first bridge between Black and White communities in Montreal.” At one time he was member of the city’s Inter-Racial Board and the Committee of Management of the Negro Community Centre. According to Amine De Mille, a Bahá’í and a freelance writer, ”he distinguished himself by his loyal services, his honourable character, and his beautiful singing voice.”

Another African Canadian who had become a member of May Maxwell’s Fratority Club in those early days of the Faith in Montreal, although not a Bahá’í, was Dr. Phil Edwards (1907-1971), an Olympic champion and apparently, the first black West Indian to graduate as a medical student from McGill University, Montreal. A middle-distance runner, he participated in three Olympic games (1928, 1932, 1936) and in the 1934 British empire Games, winning increasingly greater honours. Apparently, Dr. Edwards also attended firesides in the Maxwell home. It was another eight years before another African Canadian – Mrs. Violet States (née Grant) – was to enroll in the Bahá’í Faith in 1942. Mrs. States was the organist in Rev, Este’s church, and the only other member to have joined the Bahá’í Community from that congregation.

The Bahá’í interest in reaching African Canadians was not confined to Montreal only. We know that Louis Gregory undertook a trip to Vancouver to speak in five meetings in early 1920’s. Bahá’í attention to African Canadians on Canada’s east coast, and in Toronto, achieved a number of results, either in terms of establishing general relations between the Bahá’í Community and African Canadians, or in terms of an increase in adherents, however modest. Such results occurred in the late 1960s.

One fifth of the membership of the Bahá’í Community In Montreal, at the present time, is comprised of African Canadians from various ethnical backgrounds. They are actively involved in the activates of the Faith for the betterment of the World.

“Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.” -Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words

 

 

Photos: Montreal's Bahá’í Community circa 1930 - Eddie Elliot is in the back row left

            Rowland Estall, an early Montreal Bahá’í (1906 - 1993)

            Violet States at a concert in Montreal (1950)

Sources : W.C. van den Hoonaard,  The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada

            Canadian Bahá’í News, April 1953

            Montreal Star, 11 July 1953

            Montreal Council, 1928

            McGill Student Registration Records 1930

            Rowland Estall, 1977

            Golgasht Mossafai, interviews with Violet States and Raymond Flournoy 2001-2016

 

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