Thursday, August 1, 2013

Project Ujima families to study historic Montford Point Marines

Families in San Diego Unified's African-American parent program, Project Ujima, will be getting to know members of the historic Montford Point Marines next school year -- and sharing their stories with San Diego -- thanks to a $9,986 Community Stories Grant from Cal Humanities.
Project Ujima
Montford Point Marine veteran Joe Jackson shows his Congressional Gold Medal, awarded to all of the Montford Point Marines in 2011.
Students and their parents/guardians will interview the first African-Americans in the Marine Corps, called Montfort Point Marines after the segregated training center used for blacks from the Corps' integration in 1941 through 1949. Other African-American Marines are also planned to be interviewed for their perspective on the contribution of blacks to the Corps.

"This grant offers our families a unique opportunity to work with the Montford Point Marines of San Diego, our project partners, and broader San Diego community to develop inspirational stories," said Elneda Shannon, Project Ujima Director. "The reality of the Montford Point Marines affirms the strength and resiliency of everyday people, lessons we hope are learned our kids and families."

San Diego is home to several original members of the Montford Point Marines and an active chapter of the Montford Point Marine Association. According to information on the official Marine Corps website, the Montford Point Marines were the first African-Americans in the Corps, following President Franklin Roosevelt's desegregation of the federal government in 1941.

During World War II, approximately 20,000 African-American recruits were trained at Montford Point Camp, according to the website. Though their training was segregated, they went through the same demanding process as all other recruits, ultimately earning the title "Marine." Though officials were initially worried that allowing African-Americans into the Marine Corps would cause racial dissension in the ranks, once they were given the chance to prove themselves, it became impossible to deny that they were just as capable and deserving of the title "Marine" as all other Marines.

Project Ujima, based at San Diego Unified's Ballard Parent Center, is a dynamic program devoted entirely to engaging African-American families in reaching that all-important goal: student academic success.

The grant comes from the Cal Humanities Community Stories Program. According to Cal Humanities, Grants are awarded for projects that give expression to the extraordinary variety of histories and experiences of California’s places and people to ensure that the stories can be shared widely. These narratives help Californians to find cultural commonalities, appreciate differences and learn something new about how to live well together.

“With our state’s incredible diversity, fostering communication and connecting people to a range of ideas is vital for our general welfare,” Said Ralph Lewin, president and CEO of Cal Humanities. “Our grant award enables awardees to pursue the important work of engaging new audiences in conversations around stories of significance to Californians.”

Since 2003, Cal Humanities has supported approximately 400 story projects and granted nearly $3 million to enable communities to voice, record, and share histories- many previously untold or little known. Through video, photography, murals, zines, documentary theater, audio project, and more, these collected stories have been shared with broad audiences, both live and virtual. Cal Humanities is an independent non-profit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information on Cal Humanities, please visit