Marin City Celebrates its 80th

Joseph James, who fought for equality within the Marinship unions | photo from Marin Center | post by Larry Clinton

Prior to WWII, the land across the freeway was occupied by a dairy farm and a handful of families. But in 1942 a settlement sprung up there to house 6,000 of the 20,000 employees who migrated from all over the United States to work at the Marinship, Sausalito’s waterfront shipyard.

Since Marinship was one of the last WWII shipyards, experienced workers were hard to find. The Bechtel Corporation, which built and managed the shipyard, devised a system of pre–fabricated elements which could be welded together quickly and with less expertise than previously. They recruited workers from all over the country, including women and minorities for the first time. Welding was easier to learn than riveting, so instead of Rosie the Riveter, Marinship became known for Wendy the Welder.

After the war, many families chose to stay in the California. Most white people moved to other nearby communities, but redlining, housing covenants and other discriminatory restrictions kept black families in Marin City, where they established a market, candy store and other amenities. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the community, and a year–long celebration of that milestone has commenced, under the banner “Marin City 80”. The woman behind all these activities is Felecia Gaston, well known in our community for her work with Performing Stars, a group of young entertainers who have appeared during FHA tours and at Day in the Park. Felecia has teamed up with Jahi Torman of Microphone Mechanics to co–produce the celebration.

So far this year, there have been art installations, an album of songs about Marin City and the shipyard, and a new cookbook with recipes by Marin City grandmothers, Grandmothers Feed Us Love.

The biggest Marin City 80 events are coming in August and September:

  • A California Story: 1942-1962. On display at the Bartolini Gallery at Marin Center from August 20 to November 1, this free exhibit will feature memorabilia from Black shipyard workers, along with contemporary art, artifacts in various media, a virtual reality experience, and never-seen-before photographs.
  •  A Housing Story: 1942-1962. This exhibit on the first and third floors of the Marin Civic Center from August 20 to November 1 will tell a narrative of housing discrimination, land grabs, predatory developers, and the continual fight for housing rights and equality in Marin City.
  • The Spirit of Joseph James. A multimedia show at Marin Center’s Showcase Theater will feature actors and singers celebrating the life of Mr. Joseph James, a shipyard worker and world-class singer whose stand against a segregated union led to a landmark ruling by the California Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first Black justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court, was one of the attorneys representing James. Performances will take place at 2:00 p.m. on August 27 and 28. Tickets are on sale now for $20 each.
  • Blues and Soul Party in the Park. The official celebration of Marin City 80 will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, September 5 in the 100 block of Drake Avenue. Featured will be live music, local artists and vendors, a car show, youth activities, food stations, and visits by local, county, and state officials. The event will also mark the launch of the Marin City Historical and Preservation Society and the release of the #MarinCity80 commemorative book.

For more information and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Felecia.