June 21, 2009

A Buddhist Juneteenth

A Juneteenth celebration in East Orange, New Jersey at the Soka Gakkai New Jersey Community Center:
The gathering took place at the Franklin Street community center of Soka Gakkai International-USA, a 12 million-strong Buddhist association that promotes Buddhist chants, meditation and world peace around the globe. There are approximately 4,000 members in New Jersey.

Attendees ate barbecued food and joined in an African dance and hopscotch as they reflected on how their Buddhist beliefs related to Juneteenth.

“It’s about the dignity of every human being and the right to pursue their happiness,” said Courtenaye Lawrence of East Orange, who became a Buddhist in 1969. “You can turn a negative thing into a positive thing. People shouldn’t be deprived to seek opportunities to change.”

While most American Buddhists don’t belong to Soka Gakkai, the organization is one of the very, very few Buddhist groups that organized a Juneteenth celebration, not to mention that a member of congress belongs to SGI too. Now that’s a picture of Western Buddhism that you don’t usually see in Shambhala Sun or Tricycle.

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