2/24/14 Student arranges gospel choir to honor Montford Point Marines
Sam Roberts / Times-News
Eastern Alamance High School senior Crystal Brown coordinated a gospel festival during which the Montford Point Marines were honored for Black History Month. Brown did this as her senior project for school. She plans on coordinating a similar festival next year.
Student arranges gospel choir to honor Montford Point Marines
By Molly McGowan The Times-News 2/24/14
Reprinted with permission.
MEBANE — It’s only been in the last couple of years that the Montford Point Marines — the fi rst African-Americans to join the segregated Marine Corps between 1942 and 1949 — have received national attention.
And, one Mebane high school student thought the local retired Montford Point Marines deserved additional local appreciation.
Crystal Brown, 17, has become familiar over the years with the members of the Montford Point Marine
Association N.C. Triad/Triangle Chapter 38, since her mother is chapter president . A senior at Eastern Alamance High School, Brown recently organized and hosted a gospel festival to celebrate Black History Month — and the local Marines — as her senior project.
“I did it because the Montford Point Marines, they haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve,” she said. “I wanted to just do that while they were still here,” and bring the community together in the process.
On Feb. 2, Brown and Manard “Busta Brown” from WXII Channel 12 cohosted the gospel festival at The Mebane Arts Center, where several local entertainers performed for the charity event.
Mark Webb & Family, Terry Poole, Burton Chapel Male Chorus, Heavenly Angels, Lee’s Chapel Chorale, Family Worship Center, Krayzie Prayze Community Mime Ministry, Children’s Chapel YCC Mass Choir and Sensational Royal Lights — which traveled from South Carolina for the event — performed for more than 200 people, including the special guests being honored.
Brown started planning the event a year ago, while still a junior at Eastern Alamance.
“I knew it was going to take a lot of work, so I just went ahead and started everything,” she said. “We just searched, and we just asked” all the entertainers.
She said it was a story from one particular local Montford Point Marine, Clero Florence of Green Level, that encouraged her to plan the event.
“He told me he was just coming back from a war, and that when he came back he had his uniform on and everything, and he still had to sit at the back of the bus,” Brown said. “People still mistreated him while he was wearing his uniform.”
Retired Sgt. John Phoenix, 84, of Green Level recalls the same treatment, despite serving his country.
“We had to sit in the back,” he said, “in the military or otherwise.”
Phoenix was one of the local Montford Point Marines recognized at Brown’s gospel festival, and said, “The whole program was outstanding.” He said, “She deserves a lot of credit.” According to a news release, the highlight of the event was when Brown’s father, Maj. Christopher Brown of Headquarters Battalion, 2d Marine Division, G-4, Camp Lejeune, presented Nimrod Woods, of Yanceyville, with his Congressional Gold Medal.
Woods had been unable to receive his medal in Washington, alongside his comrades, in June 2012, when the Montford Point Marines were bestowed the medal — the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Phoenix attended the 2012 ceremony at the Pentagon , and said he appreciated Brown’s insistence that he and his fellow Montford Point Marines be further distinguished.
“We just started getting recognition not too long ago” for “what we had to go through to accomplish our mission and training in boot camp,” Phoenix said. “Three months of hard training at Montford Point” was “hell on wheels,” he said.
Though she’ll be graduating in June, Brown said she intends to plan the gospel festival again next year to raise money for the Montford Point Marine Association. This year’s event raised more than $1,000, she said.
“I just wanted to make it fun and give them something to rejoice about,” Brown said.