Monday, January 5, 2009

MLK Day Jan 19: Activist and Camp Susupe "Guest" Comes to Saipan for MLK Workshops and Keynote

SAIPAN-As an eight-year old girl at the close of World War II, MarshaRose Joyner--daughter of a military father stationed on Saipan--has fond memories of climbing the fence around the Camp Susupe Detention Center, and sneaking in to play with the Chamorro children living within the compound. On January 19, 2009, Ms. Joyner returns to Saipan for the first time since 1949, to deliver a special keynote address for the third annual MLK Day Commemoration organized by Saipan's African American Cultural Preservation Committee, Inc. (AACPC) with support by the Northern Marianas Council for the Humanities.

"We're privileged and honored to have Ms. Joyner return to Saipan and share her story with us for MLK day," says Joe Hill, AACPC Committee President. "As people who actually lived during those times get harder to find, it's rare to find individual servicemen who were stationed here to tell their story, rarer still to find entire families. So to have the perspective of a civilian dependent who is also African American, and who actually spent time inside the camp, is quite unique.”

Ms. Joyner's connection to Pacific region is a unique one. MarshaRose's father—Marshall Hood—a sergeant in the US army was assigned to an ordnance unit (recovering unexploded bombs, equipment etc.) after the battle of Saipan. In 1946, after traveling on military orders with her mother cross-country by train from Maryland to California, then by steamship to Hawaii, then by seaplane to Guam--where they reunited with her dad--the family journeyed to Saipan where they stayed until 1949. Even at that young age, the experience had a profound effect on her.

Having lived and experienced her memorable US-to-Pacific Island journey during the "Jim Crow" era in the US, where white racism was law, she was witness to, and victim of one brand of prejudice and segregation. Then, on Saipan, she witnessed another form of segregation and discrimination at Camp Susupe. She went on to be an activist for many civil rights causes, accumulating many honors and accomplishments, and then returning to Hawaii in 1970, where she currently resides. (excerpt from her memoirs will be available online ). She is an advocate of indigenous rights as Project Director for the Pacific Justice and Reconciliation Center.

This wife, mother, grandmother and cancer survivor says of her life's purpose, "I see my role in life as a grain of sand. To make a truly beautiful pearl there must be a grain of sand in the oyster. To make a truly beautiful world . . . there must be people like me . . .the irritants that keep everything growing".

As part of this year's upcoming MLK commemorative activities in the CNMI, (this year's theme: Color of Unity, the Pacific Way) she will be sharing her lifelong perspectives on the significance of Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, and its impact on the people and way of life here in the Pacific.

Plans are for Ms. Joyner to conduct workshops on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. She will be arriving on Saipan on Tuesda, January 13 at 8:50pm. (All are welcome to come out to greet her at the airport; use contact number below first as some items in schedule are subject to change). The MLK Day event, mini-march, forum, essay finalist performances, and keynote address will take place on Monday, January 19, 2009 at American Memorial Park beginning with a public forum at 1:00pm. All are invited to attend and participate.
Monday, January 19, 2009 marks the 3rd official Commemoration of Martin Luther King Day since Governor Benigno Fitial signed the bill enacting Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official CNMI holiday.

Details may be found on Contact Joe Hill at 670 234-6806.

The following is a tentative schedule of events.
(some items subject to change)

Sat, Jan 10: Student Essay (“What Would Martin Say?”) Finalist Selection; Memorial Park Auditorium; email

Tue, Jan 13: MarshaRose Joyner arrives on Saipan 8:50pm

Wed, Jan 14: workshops at schools on Rota

Thur, Jan 15: workshops at schools on Tinian

Fri, Jan 16: workshops at schools on SAIPAN

MLK DAY Mon, Jan 19--Forum: 1-2 pm; mini-March thru Garapan: 3- 4 pm; Program and keynote: 4-6pm

Tue, Jan 20--workshops at schools on SAIPAN

Wed, Jan 21—Dinner (details to follow)

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