An Educators Journey
Mario Alonzo Jacob Bennekin is originally from Eatonton, Georgia. He attended Morehouse College where he discovered his love for History and African American Studies. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History from Morehouse College and later, his Master of Arts in History from Valdosta State University. His master's thesis was focused on the African American struggle during the Reconstruction Era, a time frame that lies between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Civil Rights Era. It was his love for history that led to his love of teaching and sharing this history with others.
When Mario was hired by Perimeter college over 20 years ago, he became an advocate of the teaching of Black and African American History. Within his American History courses, Mario would be intentional in teaching these historical topics with honesty and transparency. He would sometimes show newspaper clippings of lynchings during that time, or put students in the shoes of historical figures, such as Nat Turner and W. E. B. Du Bois, to debate issues from their perspective. Many students raved about his classes, and they often praised him for his teaching style. After ascending to the position of chair, Mario took his vision to a higher level, by initiating the creation of an African-American history course and pathway at Perimeter College. He also was responsible for putting on the first-ever "60's Symposium," which brought local speakers who lived through and participated in protests of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Mario was on a path to fully support this mission when he passed.
An Educators Legacy
After Mario's unexpected passing in 2019, the Social Science faculty at Perimeter College (which includes the disciplines of African-American studies, History, Political Science, Sociology, Social Work, Anthropology, Education, Criminal Justice, and Psychology) decided to continue his work by putting on the first Perimeter College Black History Symposium in his honor, named "The Struggle for Black Freedom," in February of 2020 on all six campuses of Perimeter College, which includes Dunwoody, Clarkston, Decatur, Newton, Alpharetta, and Online. The focus of that symposium was the Reconstruction Era, in honor of Mario. The symposium consisted of opening and keynote speakers, scholarly faculty presentations, student poster competitions, student dramatic performances, student spoken work contests, and movie/documentary screenings. The symposium was open to the college community as well as the public. During the three days, over 800 people were in attendance, and the college community gave rave reviews. This was the catalyst for raising the funds needed to name the symposium in Mario's honor. So, in 2020, family, friends, along with the college community, raised the money needed to name the symposium the Mario AJ Bennekin Black History Symposium. But, our work is not done!
Our Dream: The Mario AJ Bennekin Black History Symposium
Now that we have reached our first goal, of naming the symposium in Mario's honor, we now need help to build it. We anticipate the symposium growing bigger and having a greater impact on the community from year to year. The purpose of the symposium will be to highlight topics related to the struggle and plight of African-Americans, to be held yearly during Black History Month (February). The endowment will provide the needed funds for putting on the symposium. If enough funds are raised, we would be able to bring in highly visible and prominent speakers to bring more attention to our themed topics. Mario and I always believed that "with education comes tolerance," and I believe that this symposium will go a long way in making a difference in race relations in our country. Thank you very much for your assistance in achieving this goal. For more information about the symposium, go to https://perimeter.gsu.edu/bennekin-symposium/
(*Flyer from the first symposium named for Mario.)