As Black History Month comes to a close, Tricycle revisits reflections, teachings, and essays by African American Buddhists through the years—from a 1994 article by acclaimed author and scholar bell hooks to a podcast interview with law professor and mindfulness teacher Rhonda Magee. Black practitioners, scholars, and teachers have long grappled with the legacy of racism in the US in general and in Buddhist spaces specifically. Some suggest that if we want to embody the dharma, free from our individual biases, we all must confront the ignorance and xenophobia that often go unaddressed in American Buddhism. These writers envision a future where the dharma is for all—not just in name, but in practice.

  • A Vision of What Could Be
    By Jan Willis 
    An African American professor of Buddhism recounts her journey to the dharma, and encourages sanghas to rethink their attitudes toward members of color.  
  • Learning to See Our Racial Biases
    With Rhonda Magee
    Law professor and mindfulness instructor Rhonda Magee discusses her book The Inner Work of Racial Justice, and how we can heal by waking up to unacknowledged racial prejudice. 
  • Waking Up to Racism 
    By bell hooks
    In this article from Tricycle’s 1994 special section on Dharma, Diversity, and Race, acclaimed feminist scholar bell hooks considers the fraught historical relationship between colonialism and spiritual nourishment, and challenges ideas about who gets to be a “real Buddhist.” 
  • Awakening to the Apocalypse
    By Larry Ward
    Modern day discourse is finally questioning the “colonial mind” that encouraged the exploitation of people categorized as other. How can we move forward from deconstruction to reconstruction—from trauma to resilience? 
  • Black Coffee Buddhism
    Interview with Charles Johnson by E. Ethelbert Miller
    Scholar Charles Johnson discusses awareness of death, the importance of community, and how to stay curious by recognizing the mystery of life. 
  • Tolerably Black
    Interview with Aretha Busby by Emma Varvaloucas
    A Nichiren Buddhist explains why she creates art about her ancestry, and why she sees this dialogue with history as part of Buddhist practice. 
  • Why Are There So Many Black Buddhists?
    By J. Sunara Sasser
    What can other sanghas learn from Soka Gakkai International, a Nichiren sect that boasts a multi-racial community?
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