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Mandisa Lateefah Thomas (born 1976)[citation needed] is the founder and president of Black Nonbelievers Inc. She has spoken at secular conferences and events, and has promoted the group's agenda in media outlets.

Mandisa Thomas
Mandisa Thomas speaks at American Atheists 2017 National Convention.
Thomas in 2017
Born1976 (age 42–43)
ResidenceFayetteville, Georgia
CitizenshipAmerican
Alma materQueens College, City University of New York
Occupationactivist
Years active2011–present

Early life and backgroundEdit

Thomas's upbringing was in a nonreligious, single-parent household, but she describes her grandmother as "staunchly religious".[1][2][3][4][5] At the age of twenty-one, Thomas moved with her husband to Atlanta, where cultural factors made it difficult to lead a secular life.[6] This experience led her to found Black Nonbelievers.[5][3]

She considers religion, and Christianity in particular, to have been ingrained into the African-American identity by force.[5][7][8]

ActivismEdit

Thomas spoke at the 2013 National Convention of American Atheists.[9] That same year she organized the Blackout Secular Rally in New York, the United States' first outdoor event headlined by nontheists of color, and the first secular rally celebrating racial diversity.[10][11] She credits Ayanna Watson with helping develop the idea after the success of the 2012 Reason Rally.[12]

In 2017, Thomas was recognized by name in a bill (SCR-79) introduced by state Senator Richard Pan, and adopted by the California State Senate, proclaiming October 15, 2017 as the 16th annual celebration of California Freethought Day.[13]

Thomas has made interview appearances in media outlets including CBS News,[14] WABE FM 90.1's Closer Look,[7], NPR's Code Switch podcast,[2] and the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Freethought Radio program.[15] She has been profiled in publications including Jet magazine[4] and Playboy[8], and has written opinion pieces for outlets including CNN.[6] Her acting credits include The Mythicist Milwaukee Show,[16] as well as the documentaries Contradiction (2013),[16] Racial Taboo (2013),[17] and My Week in Atheism (2014).[18]

Black NonbelieversEdit

Thomas founded Black Nonbelievers, Inc. in 2011, as a non-profit,[15] secular fellowship.[19][3] Its goals include eliminating stigma, increasing visibility, and providing support and networking opportunities around non-belief in the African-American community.[5][7][6][8] The organization's leadership is mostly female, and includes LGBTQ representation,[20] and it has chapters in ten U.S. cities.[21] It partners with other secular organizations including African Americans for Humanism, Openly Secular and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.[15][14]

In March 2018, in order to devote herself full-time to activism within Black Nonbelievers and the broader secular community, Thomas resigned from her full-time position as event services manager at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's conference center.[15]

Awards and honorsEdit

In 2018, the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association named Thomas its Person of the Year.[22] In 2019 the Secular Student Alliance presented her with its Backbone Award.[23]

Personal lifeEdit

Thomas and her husband, also an atheist, have three children and reside in suburban Atlanta, Georgia.[14][5]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Poole, Shelia M. "Every Day Is Sunday: As atheism rises, nonbelievers find one another". myAJC. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on December 25, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Demby, Gene; Meraji, Shereen Marisol (December 20, 2017). "Black Atheists, White Santas, And A Feast For The Deceased" (MP3). NPR Code Switch. NPR. Archived from the original on October 17, 2018. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Zuckerman, Phil (2014). "5". Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions. New York: Penguin Group. pp. 117–119. ISBN 978-1-59420-508-8.
  4. ^ a b Kyles, Kira (April 30, 2012). "5 Things About: Mandisa Thomas". Jet (April 30, 2012). Johnson Publishing Company. p. 36. Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e Erdman, Shelby Lin. "Atlanta Atheist Wants To Erase Stigma In Black Community". 90.1 FM WABE. 90.1 FM WABE. Archived from the original on December 25, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Thomas, Mandisa (March 28, 2015). "Confessions of a black atheist". CNN. Archived from the original on December 25, 2017. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c O'Hayer, Dennis; Scott, Rose (July 13, 2015). "Closer Look" (MP3). WABE: Closer Look. 90.1 FM WABE. Archived from the original on December 25, 2017. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Holland, J.W. (July 1, 2018). "Among the Atheists". Playboy (July / August 2018). Playboy Enterprises.
  9. ^ "2013 National Convention Speakers | American Atheists". Atheists.org. October 31, 2013. Archived from the original on April 29, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  10. ^ Niose, David. "Blackout Secular Rally: Atheism Makes Minority Inroads". Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  11. ^ "Blackout Secular Rally: An Organizer's Perspective". Thehumanist.com. Archived from the original on December 25, 2017. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  12. ^ "BLACKOUT, an Interview with Mandisa Thomas". Secular Woman. July 19, 2013. Archived from the original on May 5, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  13. ^ "Bill Text – SCR-79 California Freethought Day". California Legislative Information. State of Califormia. Archived from the original on December 26, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Rocca, Mo. "The challenges facing atheists in the U.S. (video)". CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. Archived from the original on December 25, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d Annie Laurie Gaylor; Dan Barker (March 22, 2018). "Freethought Radio: Black Nonbelievers" (mp3). libsyn.com. Freedom From Religion Foundation. Event occurs at 25:26. Archived from the original on March 29, 2018. Retrieved March 29, 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Mandisa Thomas". IMDb. Archived from the original on December 26, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  17. ^ "Racial Taboo – Cast". Racial Taboo. Brill Branding. Archived from the original on December 26, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  18. ^ "Mandisa Thomas". experience.umn.edu. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  19. ^ "BUSINESS INFORMATION: BLACK NONBELIEVERS, INCORPORATED". sos.ga.gov. ECORP. Archived from the original on December 28, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  20. ^ Cameron, Christopher (June 19, 2018). "Five Fierce Humanists: Unapologetically Black Women Beyond Belief". The Humanist (July / August 2018). American Humanist Association. Archived from the original on August 10, 2018. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  21. ^ "Black Nonbelievers , Inc. : Walking by sight, NOT Faith!". blacknonbelievers.wordpress.com. Black Nonbelievers, Inc. Archived from the original on December 26, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  22. ^ Justin Jagoe (May 11, 2018). "Mandisa Thomas to Receive UU Humanist Person of the Year Award". huumanists.org. Archived from the original on September 3, 2018. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  23. ^ "Secular Student Life Podcast - Unique Challenges for Black Nonbelievers with Mandisa Thomas". Archived from the original on August 27, 2019. Retrieved August 27, 2019.

External linksEdit