A forthcoming documentary and book—What Happened at Benham West: African American Stories of Community, Displacement, and Hopes in the City of Elkhart—is the focus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day program. The public is invited to attend the online event, which will be livestreamed at ambs.edu/mlkday.
The program will feature video clips from the documentary. Jamie Pitts, associate professor of Anabaptist studies and director of the Institute of Mennonite Studies, will discuss Black history in Elkhart. Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, intercultural competence and undoing racism coordinator, will provide background on the project. Members of the Elkhart Black History Project Advisory Committee (including consultant Larry App, photographer/videographer Oliver Pettis and interviewer Charles Walker) will take part in a panel discussion to reflect on their participation in the project.
The event follows up on AMBS’s 2020 MLK Day program, “Repairing the Harm: A Community Conversation on the Systemic Exclusion of African Americans in Elkhart,” which featured a panel discussion on the exclusion of African Americans in the community of Elkhart, Indiana, where the seminary is located. Conversations during and after that event among the panelists (local African American leaders Rev. Jean Mayes and Rev. Dr. Plez Lovelady) and participants emphasized the need to name and address both current and past harms.
In response to this need and with the encouragement of elders and allies both within Elkhart and beyond, two AMBS faculty members led a team to produce the What Happened at Benham West documentary and book, which will be released in spring 2022 by Wolfson Press. Together, the pieces explore life in the predominantly Black Benham West neighborhood—known to many as “the village”—including experiences of segregation in Elkhart, the city’s clearing of Benham West and some of the remaining elders’ hopes for the future.
To attend the program, click on the RSVP button above then follow the link provided for the online event.
For more information, contact the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574.295.3726.
This program received support from an Indiana Humanities Action Grant.