Sometimes a dream appears so big you wonder if it can come true. Here is our position: Believe that you can, and then bring together people who share your vision and are willing to contribute their talents, connections, time and money to make it happen. That’s how we got our newest national park and a tribute to Black history.
About five years ago we were asked to help create awareness and support for the idea of making Port Chicago – the Concord, CA area site where the largest U.S. home front disaster during World War II took place – a part of the national park system.
Our founder, Mel Shaw, had just brought together a group of local African American leaders and influencers to encourage Black families to visit Yosemite National Park — so we were the right people to ask. But would others come out to support Port Chicago as well? The only way to find out was to ask.
When we asked – and invited – people came out. They wanted to learn more about the explosion at Port Chicago and the young Black men who made history by standing up to the military, risking court martial, and who in the process helped integrate the armed forces.
The Port Chicago explosion at the naval magazine killed 320 men, 202 of whom were African-American. The explosion, work stoppage, and subsequent mutiny trial provide insights into the injustice of racial discrimination, the African-American experience in the U.S. military, and home front life during the Second World War. These events ultimately led to the desegregation of the armed services in the United States.
The people who came out that day five years ago launched the Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial a 501 c3 led by Rev. Diana McDaniel, a Unity minister from San Leandro. Fast forward to Fall 2009 and with the help of many friends, including Congressman George Miller (D-CA), our first African American president signed legislation that made Port Chicago a national park.
The legislation, signed as part of the FY2010 Defense Authorization Act elevates Port Chicago from an affiliated park site to a full unit of the National Park System. This allows the Park Service to create a national park visitor center and receive increased funding to hire park rangers to share the site’s story with the public.
This past Saturday the 66th commemoration of the explosion and dedication of our new national park was celebrated. Take a look at the event. For more information see www.nps.gov/poch. And as always, continue to have a FUNdraising Good Time!
What an accomplishment! You folks are making a difference to many people in many ways. A special thank you to Mel for spearheading this incredible project. It is about time, isn’t it?