• Witness: Design of the Tougaloo Center for Racial Justice and Equity
    Becky Beamer and Jori Erdman
    Becky Beamer & Jori Erdman

"Witness: Design of the Tougaloo Center for Racial Justice and Equity," 2022. Digital film still. Courtesy Becky Beamer, Mississippi. Photo: Jori Erdman

Witness tells the story of a remarkable process and place that led to the creation and design of the Tougaloo Center for Racial Justice and Equity, a unique partnership between the Episcopal Church and the Jackson-based Tougaloo College, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). It follows the design firm, Duvall Decker, as they deploy their twenty years of community engagement practice in the South to navigate the cultural connections and divides that are revealed among the various stakeholders. Through interviews and recorded meetings with the architects, Tougaloo College community members, and the Episcopal Church, the film explores the challenges and opportunities of addressing justice and equity through architecture and the design process. Woven throughout are scenes and images of the city of Jackson and the Tougaloo College campus, illustrating the significance of this project, in this place.

Becky Beamer is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, book artist, and Fulbright Fellow. Her specialty is interdisciplinary collaboration and international humanitarian storytelling that encourages public discourse on personal identity and humanitarian issues. For over fifteen years Beamer worked in documentary television for companies including National Geographic, Smithsonian, Discovery, and PBS. She received her bachelor’s degree from Pratt Institute and an MFA from the University of Alabama. Then, Beamer spent four years in the United Arab Emirates at the American University of Sharjah where she was coawarded four research grants. Currently, she is a university lecturer in the Journalism and Media Department at OSLOMET University in Norway and recently completed her first independent feature documentary film, MACHINE: Vivat Apparatus.

Jori Erdman is an architect, teacher, and proud Southerner. As an academic, she has written and taught in and on the South throughout her career including the development of the award-winning Studio South initiative at the Clemson University’s School of Architecture. Her collaborative work also includes the interdisciplinary Coastal Sustainability Studio at Louisiana State University. She received her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Virginia and her master’s of architecture degree from Columbia University. Erdman is a professor of architectural design at James Madison University where she is developing a book about the “Open South” and researching coastal inhabitation of the global south through an environmental justice lens.