2022 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Program

What Happened at Benham West: African American Stories of Community, Displacement and Hopes in the City of Elkhart

Monday, January 17, 2022 — 2 to 3:30 p.m. EST

A forthcoming documentary and book — What Happened at Benham West: African American Stories of Community, Displacement and Hopes in the City of Elkhart — will be the focus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day program.

Read a brief write-up about the event.

Watch the recording of this event below:

The event will feature video clips from the documentary. Watch the trailer for the documentary.

  • Jamie Pitts, PhD, Associate Professor of Anabaptist Studies and Director of the Institute of Mennonite Studies, will share about Black history in Elkhart.
  • Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, MA, Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism coordinator, will provide background on the project.
  • Members of the Elkhart Black History Project Advisory Committee will take part in a panel discussion to reflect on their participation in the project.
    • Larry App, Stories Retold, project consultant
    • Oliver Pettis, Black Lion Cinematography, project photographer and videographer
    • Charles Walker, project interviewer and interviewee

Background

Interviewee Nadine Johnson talks through personal photos from her growing-up years in footage related to the forthcoming documentary, What Happened at Benham West: African American Stories of Community, Displacement and Hopes in the City of Elkhart, which will be the focus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day program on Jan. 17, 2022. (Credit: Oliver Pettis)

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 passionate encouragement of elders and allies both within Elkhart and beyond, two AMBS faculty members led a team to produce the aforementioned 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.

Funding for the documentary and book project came from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and Indiana Humanities.

More details