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Stephens’ film is ‘documentary love letter’ to Black activism, thriving

September 5th, 2023

Dr. Caleb Stephens

A special presentation will launch the 2023-24 KIPCOR Film Series at Bethel while bringing an important and under-heard perspective to campus, from an alumnus.

Eat, Protest, Lift screens Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center, with an audience talkback to follow.

Bethel’s Department of Social Work is hosting Dr. Caleb Stephens, Lawrence, whose appearance at Bethel is being funded in large part by the Bethel College Women’s Association’s Carolyn Schultz Lectureship endowment, with support from the annual KIPCOR Film Series.

The film has been described as Stephens’ “documentary dissertation,” as well as “a documentary love letter to Black survival, thriving and fighting back.”

Stephens graduated from Bethel in 2011 with a degree in social work, and went on to earn a master’s degree in social welfare and a Ph.D. in performance studies, both from the University of Kansas.

Eat, Protest, Lift looks at “how Black bodies navigate through and exist in three spaces: Black brunch; Black Lives Matter; and powerlifting and Olympic weight-lifting,” according to Stephens’ description.

“I want the audience to know that this is a conversation that will feel like Love but will be immersed in the realities of Black Liberation,” Stephens wrote.

“The documentary is the culmination of real-life Black experiences, pain, truth and hope, and is my Love letter to my people and an ongoing call to action for community and Courageous Awe.”

In addition to showing his film and talking about it afterward, Stephens will give a convocation presentation Sept. 11 at 11 a.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium, continuing his exploration of themes from Eat, Protest, Lift.

Stephens is a Licensed Master Social Worker and a Licensed Master Addiction Counselor. He has worked in child welfare, addictions, schools, psychiatric residential treatment facilities, and with incarcerated individuals, and has been a community organizer and activist for the last 10 years. 

KIPCOR, the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at Bethel College, sponsors a film series each school year. It is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support KIPCOR and the series.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel was the first Kansas college or university to be named a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center. For more information, see

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