by Sincere Williams
In early 2022, Bradley graduate Amanda Riggenbach reached out asking if she could interview me for a project that she was managing at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield called “Tumultuous 2020,” an oral history project. The purpose of the project was to capture the diverse experiences of people’s lives and, more specifically, their navigation through 2020 and what life has been like from that point. After successfully interviewing me, Amanda gave me the opportunity to conduct an interview myself.
I interviewed activist and pastor Benjamin Nicks Jr. for this project. Like me, it was Benjamin’s first time participating in oral history, so it was a learning experience for us both. During our sessions, Benjamin shared fascinating stories about growing up, and it was interesting to learn how he, as a pastor and husband, managed his church and personal life when the pandemic hit in 2020.
Benjamin grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and formed a connection with God early in life while frequently attending church. After receiving his diploma from Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, Benjamin enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1989 at 18 years old. Traveling the world, forming a life-long bond with a friend, and disciplined by supervisors due to his young, arrogant nature, Benjamin returned from the Navy in ‘98 to raise his son. He was then trained in ministry and preached his first sermon in Iowa. Years later, Benjamin pursued higher education, receiving his associate’s degree from Des Moines Area Community College and bachelor’s degree from Walden University. He completed his master’s in public administration, also from Walden. After being politically, socially, and spiritually active in his hometown and surrounding areas, Benjamin came to Peoria to continue his practices, now preaching ministry at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church. His navigation through the pandemic was a challenge, but bearable: safety measures were taken; events were canceled yet rescheduled; a quick COVID recovery; and small opportunities to continue life as normally as possible. Benjamin’s time in the Navy allowed him to adapt to change easily, and he realizes that as COVID enters the endemic stage, it will be a part of all our lives moving forward. Turning 50 last summer, he has a plan to live the second half of his life being more action-oriented.
Benjamin and I are grateful for the experience this project has given us. And we’re thankful to Amanda and Giving Voice for the leadership and guidance.
Learn more about about the project by clicking here.
About Sincere Williams
Sincere Williams is a community organizer and event planner with a focus on social justice. He double majors in political science and public relations, but during his current break from school, focuses heavily on his work in the community: HIV prevention work; prison reform; LGBTQ+ healthcare equity; racial justice; foster care awareness and equity; etc. Sincere has taken a break from his other passion, theatre, in the midst of his organizing, but is slowly getting back to his roots and the stage. He hopes to pursue all that he loves.
About Faith Marie
Faith Marie is a homeschooled 18 year old freshman at Ashworth College. She enjoys nature, rainy days, and her pet dog and snails. She has an abundance of love for Jesus and people of all kinds. The idea of creating art that has never existed before inspires her. You can find her on Instagram at @faithmariedraws or on tiktok at @_faitha.