For Immediate Release
New York City Atheists Inc.
Press Contact: 212-879-2687
July 9, 2009
Think We Atheists Are Misunderstood and Persecuted?
Try Being a Black Atheist in Harlem
New York—He’s tall and angular and dark-skinned, with a deep, booming voice that would carry over the pews of any church in Harlem. The only thing is, he’s an atheist. And in Harlem, known for having “three churches on every street,” being an atheist is as close to being Satan himself as you can get. Old ladies hit him with their purses. “You will have your race card revoked,” he says, only half joking.
Sibanye—the name means “we as one” in Swahili—is the Harlem coordinator for the Center for Inquiry (CFI), a 30-year-old atheist organization based in Amherst, NY. For five years, he has held a discussion group in Harlem on the last Sunday of each month. About 15 to 20 people usually come, about a third of them white.
The white people come to the Harlem meetings because the Sibanye-led discussions are vigorous and volatile and you can say anything you like. Sibanye will tackle anything from politics to Obama to, no doubt, Michael Jackson. He researches everything meticulously, involves every person present and nothing is verboten. Going to a Sibanye discussion in Harlem is an intellectual and emotional workout.
Good, Bad & Ugly
On Sunday, July 12, Sibanye will speak to New York City Atheists at our Brunch on Race and Religion--what it’s like to be an atheist organizer in super-religious Harlem—or as he puts it, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Harlem’s Religions.”
He admits that taking religion away from Harlemites would leave a vacuum. The churches provide a sense of community and brotherhood. “We have to replace it with something—a sense of political unity, perhaps.”
And there are deep-rooted roadblocks to dialogue in Harlem. “Black people still go into shock when you tell them that there is no god. That’s a touchy subject,” he notes.
Let’s Show Our Support
Sibanye, who was born in St. Louis, came to New York via Chicago, where he worked developing school curriculums for Black and Hispanic males. He also lived in South Africa for six months in the 90s, after Nelson Mandela was elected, to work on developing its educational system, but came back to the U.S. when he realized it was going to be a long, uphill struggle and, also, he needed a cochlear implant to regain his late-onset hearing loss. Today, when he’s not proselytizing for atheism, he works as a computer programmer.
Come Sunday to hear this dramatic Black atheist, who seems dauntless in taking on difficult tasks. Lets show our support to the Black atheist community, small as it is; let’s join them in atheist brotherhood!
WHAT: “Race and Religion—The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” a talk
by Sibanye, Harlem Coordinator for CFI.
WHEN: Sunday, July 12, 2009
WHERE: Press Box Restaurant and Pub
932 Second Ave. (bet. 49th & 50th Sts.)
COST: Brunch, $20 (includes selection of buffet entrees and salad, one
Soft drink, coffee, tax, tip) Going back for seconds on their
delicious Eggs Benedict is expected!
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Director of Communications
New York City Atheists
Kenneth Bronstein, president
New York City Atheists
New York City Atheists Inc. is a 501C not-for-profit educational association dedicated to the separation of church and state and to promoting the atheist lifestyle and values. All are welcome, including agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and those just questioning and seeking.