Elijah Libbett is affectionately known as the Street Preacher on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. He is the Owner-Operator of Ellnora’s Kitchen located at 547 Eastern Avenue SE. The restaurant was named in honor of his late mother and has become a place of community conversations over some really good soul food.
As a young man, Elijah made some bad decisions and grave mistakes that led to a 15-year imprisonment. After his release from prison in 2003, he was able to completely turn his life around. In fact, earlier this year, Elijah celebrated 15 years of freedom and was honored at a gala hosted by Urban Family Ministries. He was recognized as a person of influence who has a unique ability to connect with those who spend a lot of time on the streets and build bridges across social-cultural divides.
Since his release, in an effort to give back to his local community, Elijah has helped establish two key programs: Mothers on a Mission and Unity. The first has been designed to offer sustainable support to mothers who have lost children to violence. The second was formed in an effort to connect former gang members with those currently involved in gangs. The focus is on providing insight and wisdom to young people who seem to be headed in the wrong direction so that they are able to make better, more informed choices.
More recently, Elijah was given the Bobby Seale Award for his community activism. In spite of resistance to his work and skepticism about his intentions, he has persevered in trying to make his area of Grand Rapids a better place to live and work. Elijah remains concerned about the negative outcomes that are part of the current gentrification process and the embedded challenges for people of color in the urban context. As a man of faith, he knows that everything is possible with God, and he is committed to seeking God as he continues to fulfill his call as an advocate and activist. After all, he is able to testify to his own transformation and to offer hope in the face of life’s challenges.