Historical Storytelling Project Receives Special Grant Award
CONROE, TX – In 1871 Texas was experiencing transformational growth with the construction of the Houston and Great Northern Railroad line. The railroad provided steady work for many men in the area during the Reconstruction Era. At the time, newly freed African Americans were half the population of Montgomery County, Texas. Fishing, hunting, and farming provided sustenance for young families, but the world had changed, and small communities sprouted from the new railroad industry. Eight and a half miles south of Conroe, TX, the community of Tamina developed. The founders were some of the people newly freed from slavery, who had the money to purchase their own land. Today, Tamina is still home to several descendants of those who first established this community.
The final resting place of some of the founding families of the Historic Freedmen’s Town of Tamina, is the historically designated, Sweet Rest Cemetery. During the Reconstruction Period, following the Civil War, government Freedmen’s Bureaus were set up to operate hospitals and refugee camps and direct rations and clothing, supervise labor contracts, manage apprenticeship disputes, legalize marriages, reunite freed slaves with their families, establish schools, and many development programs. Unfortunately, no Freedmen’s Bureau was established near the Tamina area, and many historical records were lost. It was through the tradition of oral history sharing that the struggles and successes of Tamina’s early families were largely preserved.
Tamina has suffered decline from encroaching urban sprawl over the decades. The precious few families that reside in Tamina today keep their ancestor’s journey in their hearts, and proudly raise the next generation. In 2016, celebrated Texas photographer, oral historian, and community advocate, Marti Corn, published a collection of stunning photographs and oral histories from some Tamina’s residents in her book, The Ground on Which I Stand. That year, her cover portrait of resident, Mr. Johnny Jones, was selected for exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The book released its second edition in 2019. Corn has received many accolades domestically and internationally for her work.
In late 2021, Rita Wiltz, Tamina resident and descendant of Tamina founders, Maria Baños Jordan, President of Texas Familias Council, and Marti Corn submitted a grant proposal for the BIPOC Arts Network and Fund Grant in Houston. Their project proposal, “The Ground on Which I Stand: A Visual Storytelling Program to Explore Personal Historical Journeys” was selected this January as one of 120 recipients for funding in the Greater Houston Region. Marti Corn’s book and traveling exhibit are the project centerpieces to share the significance of Tamina through an immersive experience that provides people, young and old, the opportunity to creatively explore their own ancestral journeys. Rita Wiltz, Executive Director of Children’s Books on Wheels, is the project lead, along with her community support.
Since 2004, Rita Wiltz has been nurturing the Tamina family through her advocacy and community programs. Children’s Books on Wheels was born of her mother Della’s and grandmother Lou’s love of community and learning. Grandmother Lou was a trailblazer as a female community leader in Tamina. This legacy continues in the preservation work of so many over generations.
Rita Wiltz and Maria Jordon have partnered over years to serve the region’s most vulnerable communities. Jordon, a native Houstonian, supports family progress, and the many cultures that built Texas over hundreds of years, “Our shared history is woven from the same hopes and dreams, and as ancient storytellers understood, the stories of struggle and triumph strengthen our identity as one community. We three women represent these diverse paths united in strengthening our children’s future through art and learning. We are proud to share this news during National Black History Month.”
The project, “The Ground on Which I Stand: A Visual Storytelling Program to Explore Personal Historical Journeys,” will be formally presented this Spring through workshops and presentations. For more information on presentations please visit www.TaminaTexas.com contact Marti Corn at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Rita Wiltz at email@example.com or www.ChildrensBooksOnWheels.org.