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Ask Mandisa 63: African Americans for Humanism


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/08/10

Mandisa Thomas, a native of New York City, is the founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. Although never formally indoctrinated into belief, Mandisa was heavily exposed to Christianity, Black Nationalism, and Islam. As a child she loved reading, and enjoyed various tales of Gods from different cultures, including Greek and Ghanaian. “Through reading these stories and being taught about other cultures at an early age, I quickly noticed that there were similarities and differences between those deities and the God of the Christian Bible. I couldn’t help but wonder what made this God so special that he warrants such prevalence today,” she recalls.

Here we talk about secular communities and current issues (2020).

*This was conducted June 29, 2020.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, we’ve got some fantastic news. It has to do with mainly finance, but also, maybe, a change in some of the winds in terms of support for – let’s call it – African-American Humanism, if it is American based or black humanism. What happened?

Mandisa Thomas: Yes. So, in the month of June, BN and other black organizations have seen a surge in support, which I’m sure is in light of the tension that culminated with the tragic murder of George Floyd. We’ve attracted new donors, and people inquiring about supporting our work. Also, a couple  – fellow atheists – contacted us at our website looking to directly support one of our members financially. After careful consideration, including a potential suggestion for them to route this through BN, I put them in touch with one of our members, who is a struggling single mom. I wasn’t sure significant their support would be, but I learned later that it will benefit her and her family tremendously. In addition, my virtual speaking schedule has increased. So, I appreciate the enhanced support; hopefully, it maintains its momentum.

Jacobsen: When you get this support, I think we can all understand the overwhelming emotion that can wash over someone, especially in the midst of a pandemic. When an organization is running through some tough financial times, when you get that money, and you get the guarantee or have the promise of such finance, what do you do in terms of start running through your mind, plans? How many steps do you start looking ahead and then start filling in the details of what you can do?

Thomas: Oh, my gosh, I know my mind goes all over the place! Thanks to a generous grant from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, BN will go host an online event in July, which will have some prominent names attached, as we discuss religion in the black community. I always look to see how we can improve operations as well as our supplies. I think of new collaboration opportunities for the organization, and ways to better utilize and combine the resources that we already have. Overall, it is a matter of ensuring that we have enough that we’re not struggling, from year to year or month to month. Making sure that we are in a position where even when we fundraise, it doesn’t feel like a matter of life or death. We’ve also seen an increase in our online store sales, which has been great as well. So, all across the board, this gives us a boost.

Jacobsen: Now, you have a significant amount of experience and expertise in the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry is notoriously stressful and at times chaotic. So, you have the experience to know to buttress excitement here when it comes to the long-term planning of some of these financial contributions. So, when you’re looking at that plan forward: How are you making certain, as the founder and president of Black Nonbelievers Inc., to make sure the finances last a long time, are used with prudence and on projects that will have benefit to the community, and as outreach to a wider secular community?

Thomas: Yes. My background in hospitality and as well as management and administrative work, we save on overhead. So, in addition to representing the organization, I also do many things on the backend. While I know that I will want to eventually delegate and hire for some of those responsibilities, as long as I have the ability, then I will manage all of the things that are within my purview. This may be a little self-congratulatory here, but I am proud of my ability to communicate and work as hard as I do. I also pride myself on my ability to explore different various development avenues with the organization. And that’s the way I’ve always worked, even when I was employed by other companies. I am able to work independently, and also as a team, learning from what other people do. So, if I need to step in for someone, then I can. With BN still being so small, we’re able to keep things fairly manageable. It takes skill, time, and determination, but it is worth it.

Jacobsen: Mandisa congratulations, thank you so much for your time.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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