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Dominican University student interns Cece Trifoso, left, and Suzanne Blunk search through news clippings and other articles at the Performing Stars of Marin offices in Marin City on Thursday, Feb 10, 2022. The research is part of a project to collect items related to Marin City’s history for an 80th anniversary celebration later this year. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Dominican University interns flip through news clippings and other articles about Marin City at the Performing Stars of Marin offices in Marin City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

A news clipping from the Daily Independent Journal from 1949 about Marin City is among a binder full of articles at the Performing Stars of Marin offices in Marin City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. Dominican University interns are going through the archives for an exhibit celebrating Marin City’s 80th anniversary this year. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Louis Knecht, archives librarian at Dominican University, grabs some binders full of news clippings about Marin City in the offices of Performing Stars of Marin in Marin City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Dominican University student intern Suzanne Blunk reaches for a binder of archived news clippings at the Performing Stars of Marin offices in Marin City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. She is helping put together an exhibit for the 80th anniversary of Marin City. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Rilei Beene, a Dominican University intern, flips through news clippings and other articles about Marin City at the Performing Stars of Marin offices in Marin City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Dominican University interns Rilei Beene, left, and Nicole White, flip through news clippings and other articles about Marin City at the Performing Stars of Marin offices in Marin City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. They are among several interns from Dominican helping put together an exhibit about the 80th anniversary of Marin City. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

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New historical exhibits to mark the 80th anniversary of Marin City will explore the complex racial dynamics of the community’s roots.

The focus of the project is housing, discrimination, self-determination and racism of the Black residents from 1942 to 1962.

Delving into housing, redlining and restrictive covenants, one exhibit will be on display in the Board of Supervisors lobby at the Marin County Civic Center. Another examining Marin City’s legacy through memorabilia from Black shipyard workers, contemporary art, artifacts, a virtual reality experience and soundtrack listening stations is planned at the Marin Center’s Bartolini Gallery. The installations are set to be available to the public starting Aug. 20.

Felicia Gaston, executive director of the nonprofit Performing Stars of Marin, said a collection of newspaper articles, documents and archival information forms the core of the project’s historical architecture.

“What we are going to reveal is that the Blacks in Marin City have been fighting to stay here and they are still fighting,” Gaston said. “I feel honored by the ancestors to tell the true story. It’s a California story. It’s a good story.”

A team of activist students from Dominican University of California in San Rafael is investigating the expansive archives.

“We’re very intentional about making sure that this isn’t just about serving the community by handing out knowledge or service, but rather us learning from the community and how we can genuinely partner in solving issues related to equity,” said Nicola Pitchford, the university president.

This week, 22-year-old senior history major Cece Trifoso and 32-year-old humanities graduate student Suzanne Blunk sifted through three-ring binders stuffed with newspaper clippings, letters and photographs at the Performing Stars office in Marin City. Louis Knecht, a Dominican University archivist, typed on a little laptop perched on a box. Rows of papers, binders and boxes towered on the walls around them.

“It feels like opening up a time capsule,” Blunk said. “I didn’t realize there was so much Black history that pertained to Marin County.”

Their work is a preliminary step –– what Knecht called “historical appraisal” –– to catalog eligible pieces for the exhibit, which will be further refined by Gaston and her collaborator in the project, Jahi Torman. As of Thursday, they had identified about 70 individual pieces. They still have about 50 binders to go.

Torman, who owns the multimedia company Microphone Mechanics, said the exhibit would allow Black people in Marin City to tell their story “through our own eyes.”

“It’s historical in that we are preserving a story that has largely went untold in Marin County, let alone Marin City,” Torman said. “So selecting what we present to the community allows us to show Black people’s strength and resilience in the face of some incredible odds.”

Students involved in the project said the effort has opened their eyes to stories of persistent housing discrimination that were previously unknown to them.

Abbie Gould, a 20-year-old communications and media studies major at Dominican, has worked in Marin City since 2019 on various community projects, but transitioned to archival work during the pandemic. She said she has been focused on advertisements of the era that display small-town community life in Marin City during and after World War II.

“Being in Marin City for so long, I’ve noticed it’s really a family community. From these advertisements I’ve seen more of that family community come together,” she said.

Julia van der Ryn, executive director for the Center of University Partnerships and Community Engagement at Dominican, said the student archivists were guided by a philosophy known as “service learning.”

“It’s an honor to be able to work with them on this. They get to experience being in a community where everybody shows up for each other. We all get to learn so much,” she said.

“This is about inequitable and racist structures that have withheld opportunities from people. All of the stories that have not been told, the knowledge, and strength and persistence and resistance in Marin City. It just reveals so much.”

The 80th anniversary celebration will also feature a play, titled “The Joseph James Experience & 3 Man Play,” at the Showcase Theater at the Marin Center. It is being produced by Torman.

Gaston said the exhibitions were the first step in the establishment of a Marin City Historical and Preservation Society. Her goal is to establish a museum in Marin City.

“What a perfect time to launch it,” she said.

This content was originally published here.

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