Popular annual Gospel Festival returns

Original Montford Point Marine Mr. Robert Thomas of Durham (left) and North Carolina Poet Laureate and Mebane resident Jaki Shelton Green (right) were among those who took part at the 7th annual Crystal Brown Black History Month Gospel Festival, hosted by the Montford Point Marine Association of North Carolina's Triad-Triangle Chapter 38. The annual Gospel Festival originated as a senior project for then Eastern Alamance High Student Crystal Brown, and has evolved into a much-anticipated event in the local community.

At the National Montford Point Marine Association of North Carolina’s Triad-Triangle Chapter 38 7th Annual Crystal Brown Black History Month Gospel Festival, the First African-Americans to enter the United States Marine Corps were celebrated. The event was well attended by over 600 people, who traveled from as far away as Quantico, Virginia and Morganton, North Carolina to celebrate our local Montford Point Marines with Grammy nominated Gospel Recording Artist Bishop Marvin Sapp. 

The event originated from Eastern Alamance alumnus Crystal Brown’s senior project. From that, it has evolved into an annual event that has grown over the years. Mistress and Master of Ceremony was Minister Jaylaa Stewart of Ebenezer United Church of Christ and Pastor Maurice Boswell of Burton Chapel Baptist Church. This event opened up with local groups such as Pastor Powell and Praise, Burton Chapel Male Chorus, Dennis Garner and Praise.

Special Performances 

The mother of North Carolina’s own “Fantasia” - Pastor Diane Barrino - took everyone to church and prayed over the youth, while the North Carolina Poet Laureate,  Jaki Shelton Green, an Orange County native and the first black woman to receive it, performed an original poem in honor of the Montford Point Marines. Bishop Marvin Sapp performed and engaged the crowd for 45 minutes. Crystal Brown was awarded a plaque for all her hard work as the official Coordinator of the Crystal Brown Black History Month Gospel Festival for the National Montford Point Marine Association, NC Triad triangle Chapter 38. All monies donated will go towards the local communities for emergency short term food assistance, scholarships for our youth and other community projects for our Veterans. 

Community businesses recognized for their support included Alamance Funeral Services, L and M Barbershop,  Ralph Lauren Factory Store of Mebane, Target of Burlington, Hester Grove Baptist Church of Roxboro, and St Augustine’s Falcons of Raleigh. All were on hand to provide support as volunteers for this event.  

Mrs. Phoenix, widow of Original Montford Point Marine John Phoenix, who has attended all seven prior gospel festivals,, said, “It gets better each year and I can’t wait until next year already.”

The First Women of the National Montford Point Marine Association Carmen Cole of Quantico, Virginia, along with the National Association Legislative Officer Joe Geeter, were present. They are engaged and actively seeking out Veterans who served at Montford Point Camp in Jacksonville, North Carolina from 1942 to 1949. Out of about 20,000 veterans known to have served at Montford Point Camp, they have found about 3,000. If you or a family member know of a veteran who served in the United Marine Corps during that time, please contact Chapter President, Tammy Williamson at 336 684 5524 or email President@NMPMA38.org.