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by Mandisa Thomas, Foundation Beyond Belief board member and president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
BN, Inc. was co-founded by Benjamin Burchall and me in January 2011. The mission was primarily to connect with other blacks offline who were in the closet with their nonbelief, and provide a social and support base surrounding relatable issues. We started out as Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta, and in February of that same year, we held our first general meeting. There were about 15 of us in attendance, which spoke to the importance of our existence. This told us that our premise for starting this group was indeed correct, that there was a need that the overall freethought community was overlooking, and that most important, we had to be the ones to initiate this venture instead of totally depending on others coming around to a resolution.
BN is very dedicated to maintaining a festive and grounded environment. While we strongly advocate for, and participate in, educational and informative activities, we also stress the importance of having fun and creating a relaxed atmosphere amongst fellow nonbelievers. Many of us are responsible for not only our careers and families, but also ourselves, and so having this outlet where we can let loose and let our hair down while building a strong foundation for support is crucial.
In the two years since our inception, BN has been featured in a number of podcasts and radio interviews, news outlets, focus groups, film student documentaries, and freethought-related events, including rallies and conventions. We also continuously host our regular meetings and events in the Atlanta area, including a New Year’s Bash along with Black Atheists of America. BN is also proud to be affiliated with and support such organizations as African Americans for Humanism, American Atheists, Camp Quest, Recovering from Religion, and most recently, Foundation Beyond Belief.
In March 2012, BN held our very first out-of-state gathering in Washington DC after the Reason Rally—an after party that turned out to be a huge success. This year, we are hosting a Freethought Jam in Austin, TX. This event is included on the itinerary of the 2013 American Atheists Convention and will feature great music and dancing, as well as an up-and-coming BN-affiliated lyricist, MC Brooks. Tickets are $20 in advance, and slightly more at the door. All proceeds go toward BN’s efforts to establish an extensive support base in our community, including financial help for members who need immediate assistance—especially surrounding complications as a result of revealing nonbelief to a loved one.
More information about BN can be found at www.blacknonbelievers.org. Information, events, and appearances are updated regularly.