Byndom making Baha’i history with City Council run

Tyree Byndom’s decision to jump in to the City Council race for the First Ward representative spot involved serious prayer. There was the typical prayer seeking God’s guidance. After hearing “yes” coming from that place deep in his spirit, Byndom had to receive sanction from leaders of his faith tradition.

A portrait of Tyree Byndom, who is running to be the First Ward representative on the Columbia City Council. Tyree practices the Baha'i Faith, and running for political office is not usually done by Baha'is. Photo courtesy Tyree Byndom, via Facebook.

A portrait of Tyree Byndom, who is running to be the First Ward representative on the Columbia City Council. Tyree practices the Baha’i Faith, and running for political office is not usually done by Baha’is. Photo courtesy Tyree Byndom, via Facebook.

Byndom is a Baha’i, and the faith group prohibits holding membership in any political party and requires followers to avoid contention. Byndom says he is the first American Baha’i to run for political office. The first Baha’i assembly in America was formed in Chicago in 1907. If elected, Byndom says he will be the first Baha’i elected worldwide in their 170 year history.

It started when Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, a 25-year-old merchant in Persia, proclaimed God chose him to prepare the way for the coming of another Messiah called the Bab’s. From 1844-1850, the teachings of the Bab’s spread rapidly despite being viewed as heretical by the Persian government.  More than 10,000 citizens were present when they executed the Babs in the city of Tabriz, Iran on July 9, 1850.

Baha’is recognize the Babs as the forerunner of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i religion. Baha’u’llah, who was a member of a noble family that traced its lineage to imperial Persia’s Sassanian dynasty, rejected a life of wealth and privilege to become a disciple of the Babs.

It was in 1852, after being arrested, beaten, and thrown into a dungeon, that Baha’u’llah received the Revelation that He was the Messenger foretold by the Babs.

Byndom is a disciple of a faith that honors the sacrifices of Baha’u’llah.  From 1863-1892, Baha’u’llah wrote volumes of scriptures outlining his views regarding his faith.  Byndom had to be sure that he was abiding by the teachings of Baha’u’llah.

“My running for political office is teaching members of my faith about what it means to be Baha’i,” Byndom says.  “I had to show leaders there is nothing that restricts me from running.”

If elected, Byndom would be Columbia’s third African American to serve on the City Council. He was mentored by Almeta Crayton, a three-term Columbia City Councilwoman, who represented the First Ward.  Her death on October 21, 2013, has stirred Byndom’s memories of conversations with Crayton.

“I remember one weekend, when we were done doing our radio show on KOPN 89.5 FM, called Straight Talk, Almeta and Wynna Faye (Albert) were joking with me and they said ‘Well, Tyree, I guess we have to pass the baton to you, because ain’t nobody else around,’”  Byndom says. “My response to them was ‘I don’t want it!’”

What followed felt like a calling.

“The truth is that I didn’t feel worthy.  When we lost Almeta Crayton this past year, it did something to me,” Byndom says.   “Her words, the things she fought for, the people that she cared about, her lamentation at the challenges facing her son, this community that she loved, all echoed in my thoughts and the phrase ‘Be worthy’, was the reply.”

Straight Talk, Byndom’s weekly radio show on KOPN, offers Columbia’s black community a place to voice opinions.  Listeners talk about increasing gun violence, substance abuse, unemployment for youth and minorities, underemployment for professionals with skills, high cost of living, fast cash stores, growing poverty and a loss of middle class jobs.

The radio show is a constant reminder of the problems facing Columbia’s African American community.  Byndon kept listening, but his faith made it hard for him to say yes to running for office

The First Ward was formed in 1979 to make it easier for an African American to get elected.  Still only two African Americans have been able to win a seat in the ward with the highest percentage of African American voters. Crayton and Albert were correct to assert a need for someone to run.

“People often mention that I was the first African American to serve on the City Council,” Harold Warren, Sr.  says. “I tell them it’s not a good thing. It’s sad that I was the first and only one has been elected since.”

Warren mentioned a lack of interest among Columbia’s African American community.

“We need to mold leadership,” Warren says. “Where is the next generation of leaders? We need to find them.”

Byndom was willing, but his faith stood in the way.

Byndom had work to do before running.  He met with the Mayor and those interested in serving the First Ward to ask for their support in his running.

“I asked them to support my bid for office,” Byndom says.  “In doing so, I proved there is no contention in my running, but support from those running against me.”

Byndom stood in the middle of two callings: the one to honor the teachings of his faith tradition, and the other to concede the needs of the African American community.  There is a lesson related to the challenge of being caught in the middle of divergent needs.

It’s also a lesson about leadership, forming coalitions and bonds beyond the normal conflicts found in America’s political landscape.

Sounds like a model that all of us could follow. If so, let the Baha’i’s lead the way.

Further reading on the Baha’i Faith: 

9 Responses to “Byndom making Baha’i history with City Council run”

  1. Eric Blauer

    Eric Blauer

    It’s pretty vogue these days to say your a democrat and act like a republican, be for peace but support war, celebrate life but want to kill prisoners & babies, sexuality…well don’t even go there….everyone is redefining everything. You can claim a title, rich in historical meaning and just choose to make it mean something else today. It’s really getting ridiculous. Everyone wants to live by what is right in their own eyes. Your property? No, I think it’s mine. Your wife or husband, well,,define yours? Is it really your home, your paycheck, are they really your kids? Individual interpretations of reality are law and everyone’s the Pope. Poor children, what a world they are getting handed to them.

    Reply
  2. Tyree Byndom

    Hello Carl,

    I just read this article. I am honored that you took your time to research this and offer this independent perspective, as I was trying and am still trying to formulate this path that I am trailblazing.

    Blessings to your life, your movement and your legacy.

    Tyree “Paladon” Byndom

    Reply
  3. Bahai candidate for Columbia City Council breaks new ground | Sen's daily

    […] Colombia Faith and Values (blog), January 28, 2014 […]

    Reply
  4. Joe KomaGawa

    I have heard the rumors that Abbas, Mahmoud the president of Palestine was once a Bahai. But that he had to turn in his membership card because he believed that politics was more effective or perhaps faster than religion in changing people’s lives for the better. I have followed the activities of President Abbas through the internet; I believe home to be basically a sincere decent sort. But, I don’t see him improving people’s conditions any faster or more effectively. It is possible, or even probably that things would have gotten much worse, but who can say there is any more hope than when he first decided to run?
    So all this is to say that Byndom, though not in the same league or same condition, is seeking a political course to walk. There ARE good and honest men or women in any community who are Christian, Moslem, Jew, Bahai, agnostic etc. but they are turned off by what it takes to achieve something truly enduring and healing through the curren political process. I don’t see any role models for Byndom out there, but then the media attracts market share by drama and conflict usually.

    Reply
    • Angela Shortt

      Thank you for this wonderful article, Carl Kenney, I am very impressed by the extensive research you did on the Baha’i Faith. And I would also like to thank Joe Komagawa for the information about Palestine’s President Abbas. I didn’t know that he was at one time a Baha’i. I can see how someone could look at the strife and daily struggles of people all over the world and come to the conclusion that these tribulations are not easily resolved through religious practices.

      I have held similar beliefs, and I sometimes fall into despair now when I see and read about what’s going on in my city (Oakland, California), around the country and all over the world. It’s painful for me, and I want to do more to help. What does prayer and meditation do for the Oakland family whose daughter was brutually shot last month in front of her toddler son, who she had just finished strapping into his car seat so he would be safe? And what about the seemingly endless conflict between Palestine and Israel? Or the internal ones of Syria, Somalia, Russia, North Korea , Mexico, or Columbia? And what about the ever increasing income gap here in America, or the plight of women and children everywhere? The situation seems dire. I can see how politics would be the solution to addressing and helping to affect change for the people of the world. What I don’t see is how God works. I read the Baha’i Writings, pray and meditate, but I still don’t understand. That’s when I have to trust and surrender to God’s Will. It’s SO difficult for a wannabe planet healer like me.

      But I don’t have God’s Vision. I can only do whatever I can as described in the Baha’i Writings, and pray that this country and the rest of the world will see the extreme need for unity for the purpose of resolving these issues.

      Reply
      • Joe KomaGawa

        So as an aging Boomer, I won’t become political but I have just now filled out an applicatiion to join the Peace Corps for 2 years +

        one more thought. “Fear Rules” Just found an interesting Buddhist lecture by an Aussie monk in Pert on the Internet. 2 forces were always and still are probably equally as powerful as my mreligious belief. a) is fear. b) is a desire for approval/attention.

        When one becomes religious and political at the same time it mixes mysterious and psychological forces into the same bottle. the result is very unpredictable because largely we (the bottle) don’t adequately know our Self. We don’t have our own psycho-desires on a firm leash. So they can easily rise up and bite their master. If I were in the consultation, and Byndom came to us, I would give the approval with strong misgivings. But each person has to learn for themselves, just like in Hermann Hess’ “Sidhartha”.

        Sohayl, I kinda thought that could be true. Still I continued to read whatever I could about Mr. Abbas over the years. I can’t find much to dislike about him as a political leader in the situation he’s in. I suppose we all have our private opinions about the Middle East. I’m going to one of those places in March, but only as a tourist.

        Reply
    • Sohayl

      Dear Joe,
      The rumor about Mr Abbas being a Baha’i was actually manufactured by his opponents! What you need to understand for this to make sense is that in the Muslim countries, the Baha’is are made to be a bad thing, the enemies of Islam, the heretics… So, if you want to make your opponent look bad, what a better way to make them in the minds of the people associated with something that brings up hatred! Mr Abbas has denied ever being a member of the Baha’i Faith, and also the Baha’i Administration has verified that he has never been a member.

      I hope that this helps to clear the way for a better understanding of why Mr Abbas is rumored to be a Baha’i!

      Reply
  5. Paladon

    Great consultation!

    I contemplated and deferred this choice for over 9 years, and only decided to do anything as a result of some of the reasons mentioned.

    I received permission and guidance from the Local Spiritual Assembly, and then the National Spiritual Assembly, (who preferred that I not) but if I had good reason, to do so without campaigning or electioneering, and in consultation with my Auxilary Board Member for Protection from the Central States.

    Currently I’m studying a Tablet called “The Art of Governance” written by Abdul-Baha in 1893, in order to navigate this rare path, as it shares pitfalls and historical references where something like this ended horribly. It offers valuable wisdom.

    Correction: The Bab’s = The Bab
    Not the first Bahai, as I’ve discovered, but the first African-American Bahai, the first with active candidates, and a Bahai in good standing, God willing. Lol.

    Teaching about this has been a very rich experience indeed, and not campaigning, electioneering or participating in forums, while very challenging, is the truest form of democracy and governance, which many mistakenly call politics. Non-partisan races are allowable. Deeds not words.

    Reply
  6. Neary By Baha'i

    If election laws were changed, Baha’is could be elected to office and there may be a case for electing a person who is a Baha’i for an elected office of public service. What laws must change you ask? Well, to start with a write in candidate must have declared their intent to run as a write in. Then if the voters went in to the polling place and wrote down the name of who they felt most qualified for the job and that resulted in a Baha’i being selected without campaign or declaration of candidacy there would be absolutely no reason the Baha’i elected in such an election would be precluded from public service as an elected official.

    The above is an issues campaign, and Baha’is could suggest the election laws be change so that they may vote and participate in governance in a full measure of their citizenship and religious beliefs.

    I do not know the particular community you are running in. But, if you must declare for an open seat, I would assume you did so as being No Party Affiliation, and you announced you were offering your service and not running against anyone, or for any one particular interest other than to be of service to the community if they should select you.

    Reply

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