In 1991, Bethel AME Church became the first Black church with the distinction of being on the National Register of Historic Places. Sitting at 414 W. Vermont St., the church has become a true landmark in the Indianapolis community. Bethel AME’s rich backstory drove artist Manón Voice with the support of the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship to research the church’s history and craft it into an original dynamic story: “A Forerunner of Freedom: Indianapolis Bethel AME History told through Story, Song and Dance.”
“I think art is a beautiful way to convey history and tell stories. I am excited to bring two amazing young ladies with me on this journey, Jasmine Nikia Robinson, known as empressnikia, and Amani Jihan Muhammad. They will accompany me on stage performing song, dance, and poetic monologue.” Said Voice.
Voice grew up in the Black church and knows that it has always been the epicenter of social and political life for the Black community and, more intimately, a means for members to survive oppression through spirituality.
In this story, Voice will highlight the connection between Bethel AME, the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery movement before the Civil War. In 1864, the original church was tragically burned down. Historians believe that the fire was a result of the congregation’s support of the abolitionist movement, which made them a target. Despite the backlash, Bethel AME has continued to remain a beacon of optimism locally for the Black community through their commitment to education and community outreach.
“A Forerunner of Freedom” premieres at the Eugene and Marily Glick Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St., and online via Zoom on Nov. 5 at 4 p.m. Tickets for general admission are $15 and $25 for a household to livestream. Tickets can be purchased at www.storytellingarts.org.
Contact staff writer Braxton Babb at (317) 762-7854. Follow her on Twitter @BLIEVESHEWRITES.