Holy Jumpstart, Batman!

Dateline 1959. It was a trying time for Baha’is, a highly-centralized religious group whose leader had recently died intestate. That means dying without a will; not dying emasculated.

For our family, though, it was a new beginning. Love conquers all.

Unless I am mistaken, Mom and Dad met at a big city Baha’i fireside, which is a kind of proselytizing event, at which Dad was a speaker. In the wink of an eye, Mom became a Baha’i and they were married at the Los Angeles Baha’i Center. They got off to a quick start, adding a daughter to Mom’s two kids from her previous marriage. Perhaps Mom’s poor health caused them to wait awhile before making any more little Baha’is. Aside from that, it seems they had a good thing going. Business was good, and there were plenty of distinguished big city Baha’is to hobnob with.

I was born a few years later, at the Inglewood hospital where Grandpa Jensen worked as a gardener. He had been suffering from diabetes for the better part of four decades, but he was still working in his lifetime occupation. I have no memories of him as an independent man, as he suffered from a stroke soon after we moved away.

I don’t know what inspired Mom and Dad to pack up the kids and move to the Deep South. Perhaps it was Faizi or Sears or Dunbar, Baha’i leaders whom they seemed to get a lot of guidance from. Perhaps it was my angelic, newborn gaze that gave them a new sense of purpose! Perhaps the Watts Riots had convinced them that there was great untapped spiritual potential in the oppressed Black American community. Whatever the reasons, we were in South Carolina by the time I was learning to walk.

As far as Mom and Dad were concerned, we were moving to stay. As it turned out, we would move ten times more within the next eight years. We were stepping into a whole new way of living.