There is a building located at 7011 S. Vincennes Avenue that holds historic value to Black Veterans—it’s called Montford Point Marine Veterans Center. The building is home to one of the oldest organizations of African American Marines.
Recently, the building and the association members have been in the news because of past due taxes and building code violations. This week’s radio show was to bring awareness to the problem and facilitate support from the public.
The Montford Point Marines are the first African Americans to serve in the United States Marine Corps. It was a segregated section within the boot camp located at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, between 1942-1949. Despite the segregated conditions, Black soldiers and marines contributed mightily to the U.S. and Allied victory in World War II. They fought on both the European and Pacific fronts, and when they came home, they still had to face racism and discrimination in housing, employment and every other sphere of life.
Following a reunion in 1965, these WWII veterans created the Chicago Montford Point Marine Association, a 501(c)3 charitable organization. For over 53 years the Montford Point Marine Association has been dedicated to educating the public, supporting youth, and serving the community and our veterans.
The building serves as a veteran and community referral center and meeting space.
In 2012, the Montford Point Marines were the recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal. In 2013, a Naval Vessel was named the Montford Point Marine. In July of 2018, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina a Monument was dedicated to their service.
Montford Point has been self-sustainable for over 50 years. Through its Scholarship program, it has given $40,000 to students, the Christmas Basket provided $50,000 for veterans and needy families, The Back to School program provided over 1000 book bags. The organization has provided over $50,000 at Veterans Bingo at the VA hospital.
During its more active days the organization boasted a large membership, today it has dwindled to around 35 members. Now they are in danger of losing their building if funds are not raised to redeem the taxes and repair the building by February 2019.
Marine Corps Veteran Sharon Stokes-Parry joined the Marine Corps in 1985 and served 10 years. In 2007, she joined the Montford Point Marine Association. Currently, Stokes-Parry is the president of the Montford Point Marine Association, Chicago Chapter. During the show she provided the history and what is being done to save the building. Although the building is in desperate need of repair, it is still open and operating.
The Montford Point Marine Veterans Center is located in Alderman Roderick Sawyer’s 6th Ward. He was on the show to show his support and share with the listeners actions he is pursuing to assist in the securing and restoration of the center.
Out of his own pocket the alderman is donating $1,000. Sawyer is also working with a tax attorney to resolve the tax issues, while reaching out to other business leaders and elected officials to help identify resources to save the center.
Other participants included James Reynolds, Jr., the Financial Secretary for Montford, who called into the show. Reynolds is the last living member from that WWII era, who trained and served in the segregated conditions of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Membership Committee Chairperson Paul Knox, Jr. was live in the studio. Knox, who is a Vietnam Veteran, joined the Marine Corps in 1964. After being honorably discharged in 1968, he worked and reitred rom Nestle Corporation after 45 years. He has been a member of Montford Point Chicago since 2010.
A GoFundMe Campaign was launched to raise the $100,000 to pay for the property taxes and building renovations.
Alderman Sawyer in a statement saluted Montford Point Marine Association and a call to action for the public.
“The Montford Point building has served not only as a fellowship center for the Marine Veterans, but as a resource center for today’s returning veterans, and has also been used for community meetings, youth programs and social events…“I sincerely hope that some civic-minded individuals and companies will make the contributions necessary to save the Montford Point Marine building as a show of our gratitude and respect. I understand that a GoFundMe campaign is raising the funds to save the building. I hope that we can also review the property tax debt and make sure that, in view of the dilapidated condition of the building, our veterans receive a full examination of consideration as to whether the property has been over-valued and possibly over-taxed.”