I had the honor of representing the MST at the Ocean City Jazz Festival this summer. Celebrating its fourteenth year, this festival’s mission is to promote and preserve the history and expand the knowledge of the Ocean City Community, to preserve the historical site and to support tourism. The MST runs right through Ocean City on Topsail Island.

In the 1940’s, the inception of this beautiful beach community located on Topsail Island, was where Black people could own homes and enjoy the beach. Out of 3,500 miles of shoreline in our state, this strip of land, only a few miles long, was the only place Black North Carolinians could purchase and own property at the beach. Today, descendants of the original property owners work tirelessly to protect their heritage by promoting the beauty and history of their community through events like the Ocean City Jazz Festival. In July 2022, the NC African American Heritage Commission marked Ocean City, NC as one of 50 sites in our state to be recognized on the NC Civil Rights Trail.

I had the honor of presenting a hiker safety workshop to our guests prior to hiking along the MST and learning about the historical sites in Ocean City from the Chestnut and Torres families. We learned about the founding families, the Wade Chestnut Memorial Chapel and witnessed the environmental impact on this community.

This 3-day festival was filled with talented jazz musicians from all over our country who played late into the evening and had the crowd on their feet swaying to the music and beach breeze. If you are a lover of jazz, history, and our beautiful coast, I encourage you to attend next year’s festival. It filled my soul.

Friends of the MST has had a presence at several festivals and events so far this year, allowing us to connect with new people and places and spread the word about the MST. If you have any interest in representing the MST at an event or festival in your community, let us know.

– Sherri Seagroves, Friends of the MST Membership and Engagement Coordinator