March 18, 1991
Dear NSA Members:
I pray that this letter is conduit that will stimulate passionate dialogue among us as believers of Nichiren Shoshu. Earlier this year Shaka Khalpani and myself met with Our Atlanta Joint territory chief Mr. Sagano(?) and our territory chief George Kusaba. Our meeting resulted in much needed dialogue. Mr. Kusaba vilified Shaka and myself as racist. We find it very interesting that in America if an African/American speak of cultural ethnicity it is often perceived as racist. Euro-Centric domination is the prevailing thought processes in America. Our education system and society categorically and systematically interiorize and attenuate the value of Africa and African/American contributions to society. In fact our education system is guilty of intellectual maliciousness regarding African/Americans. Previously held erroneous views regarding people of African decent are now becoming antiquated. Among the intellectual African/Americans the Euro-centric zeitgeist view is being replaced with an Afro-Centric view which is centered and rooted in historical accuracy.
In 1990 the Berlin wall fell, Gorbachev introduced reforms in Russia, and Mandela was freed from prison. Despite the world epoch, NSA in 1991 does not have African/Americans on its executive boards, its hierarchy, or African/American males on its staff. Policies that systematically omit a culture does not reflect the view of a culture and it is xenophobic and insensitive towards that omitted culture.
Buddhist growth for African/Americans in Memphis is in a state of abeyance and is vacuous or nearly moribund. Buddhism for African/Americans in Memphis is culturally irrelevant and insensitive to the needs of African/Americans. In Memphis the demographics clearly reflect a dominant African/American population.
Despite the demographics African/Americans are expected to acculturate, assimilate, and subjugate to the cultural dominance of Japanese and Whites, yet the consideration of African/Americans is negated. In our meeting Shaka Khalpani and myself were characterized as racist simply because we proposed to infuse Afro-Centric views within the NSA organization.
First and foremost we are all equal in front of the Gohonzon. The Daishonin says in Gosho "That there should be no discrimination between those who chant Myoho Renge Kyo.
My charge is axiomatic, the facts speak for themselves, African/Americans practicing Buddhism in Memphis are on continuous decline, while African/American churches are enjoying record growth. African/Americans no longer greet this wonderful religion with the alacrity and dedication that was once enjoyed. Buddhist meetings for African/Americans have grown perfunctory, stagnate and enervating. Many members have grown dejected and have lost hope.
In the current World Tribune dated Monday March 11, 1991 President Ikeda lectured on the Great Pyramids in Africa. On page 5 in the heading "Testimony of a Plundered Land", in the final paragraph President Ikeda says "Blind obedience is frightening. Ignorance leads to unhappiness and victimization. History has shown time and time again that when a religion demands that believers be obedient, declaring they are evildoers otherwise, while at the same time suppressing the intellect of the people and harboring an aversion to culture, there is usually some dark machination to be found at its root. Therefore, to prevent such a tragedy from happening, I strongly urge you to polish your intellect."
Cultural insensitivity is resulting to blind obedience, ignorance, unhappiness and victimization of African/Americans. As President Ikeda notes, "harboring an aversion to culture, there is usually some dark machination to be found at its root." President Ikeda further urges us to polish our intellect to prevent such tragedies from happening.
I ask the question what is the fear of a people being culturally knowledgeable and proud? What is improper about using examples of great African and African Americans historical figures to explain this great Buddhism? Why not in our districts cater to African/Americans if you have an African/American district?
In my 17 years of unabated Buddhist practice I have voraciously studied most available Buddhist literature. I have studied historical figures from Japan to China from Europe to America. In my 17 years of practice there has been only one historical reference of an African/American in the Seikyo times. Less than a year ago a story was done on George Washington Carver. Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism is a universal religion for all people. One need not become or try to emulate a Japanese to become a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist. However in Memphis a dangerous precedent has emerged. Some of our African/American leaders in Memphis articulate with Japanese accents and posture as if they were Japanese. In NSA in Memphis African/Americans no longer have a cultural identity and at NSA meeting among African/Americans there is a cultural and spiritual void. Buddhism for African/Americans is no longer a religion, of the people, for the people and by the people , instead Buddhism has gravitated to be viewed as a foreign esoteric religion.
Buddhism should embrace the spirit of a people and the spirit of a people is their culture. If you destroy one's culture you can destroy the spirit of a people and this is the grave travesty that has occurred in Memphis. Our aim is to correct this travesty. We have attempted to address our concerns by presenting our perspectives and earnest heartfelt desires to our top leaders
Mr. Sagano and Mr. Kusaba and to no avail, these leaders simply cannot or refuse to comprehend our and others concerns. We will further send a copy of this letter to Mr. Williams and President Ikeda. Our aim and commitment is to continually and unabatedly practice and support NSA. Further we will initiate at our specific district meeting a cultural infusion of Africa and African/American ethos within the dynamics of NSA. We sincerely pray that our honored leaders who we love and respect Mr. Sagano and Mr. Kusaba recant their views regarding not supporting our efforts of us infusing our cultural values at our district meetings. Respect of our heritage and culture is paramount and relative to our growth and development. We will move forward despite our leaders disapproval and we will move forward with our faith in the Gohonzon.
We and many other members support this infusion effort and we look forward to rejuvenating our district. Further our efforts will strengthen our faith and create better unity based on sincere faith and not subjugation and subordination. We ask that all members whether you agree or disagree pray that we all unify and help everyone to become happy and grow.
Anthony "Amp" Elmore