A West Virginia University journalism professor was honored recently by the Congressional Black Caucus VeteransBraintrust in Washington, D.C., for his work on a documentary about African-American veterans.
Assistant Professor Joel Beeson of the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism (SOJ) is producing a documentary film titled,Fighting on Two Fronts: Untold Stories of African American Vets from WWII ,which will air on PBS this fall and be previewed during WVU President Mike Garrisons inaugural celebration.
The documentary reveals the stories of fiveGreatest Generationveterans who were forced to fight two battles�€against racism at home and against an enemy on foreign lands.
The film grew out of Beesons work as director of West Virginia Veterans History Project, a collaboration between the SOJ and the Library of Congress to collect the oral histories of West Virginias veterans. The SOJ became involved with the project in 2001 when state Sen. Robert C. Byrd approached former WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. and asked the university to take a leadership role in the project. Hardesty then turned to the SOJ to conduct interviews and collect oral histories.
Beeson was honored at the groups 19th Annual VeteransBraintrust Awards Reception Friday, Sept. 28. Braintrust Co-chairs Corrine Brown, D-Fla., and Sanford D. Bishop Jr., D-Ga., who also serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee, presented the award to Beeson.
Gen. Colin Powell established the Braintrust Award in 1990 to recognize people and organizations that have provided exemplary national and community service on behalf of African American veterans.
It completely came out of the blue,said Beeson.I felt very blessed and honored to be there. What was wonderful about it is that youre working on this project for four years, and youre sort of isolated. When youre recognized with others doing the same work, it inspires you to keep going.
Beeson attended the Braintrust issue session, themedIn the Name of Justice: Military Justice or Injustice in the 19tth, 20th and 21st Century,with other media scholars, legal scholars, historians, political scientists, religious leaders, elected officials, and military veterans and veteransorganizations.
The Braintrust serves as an advisory group to members of Congress on issues related to African Americans and veterans affairs. Recipients of the award are nominated by members of the groups committee and by past winners of the award. Ron Armstead, who is the executive director of the Veterans Braintrust, nominated Beesons project for the award.
The VeteransBraintrust is one of the most powerful political and educational groups advocating on behalf of African American veterans and those serving in the armed services. The group, composed of representatives of many African American community-based groups, serves as an institutional think-tank and advisory group for the Congressional Black Caucus and for other members of Congress on critical issues of education, health care, mental health, aging, research, employment and training,
homelessness and affordable housing, small business development and veteransbusinesses and services.
Weve interviewed more than 40 [African American] veterans for the project, have more than 50 oral histories, plus 500 photos,said Beeson.The documentary is an hour long, so we had to narrow it down to five people to be in the film. It was a difficult task because all the stories are so powerful. Its important to capture them before the stories arent here anymore.
Beeson was awarded a media grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council to produce the documentary about West Virginias African American veterans.
His specialty areas are visual journalism, multimedia and documentary fieldwork. His photography has appeared in USA Today, Southern Living magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Phoenix Gazette, The Times of London and the Dallas Morning News, to name a few.
He received his masters and bachelors degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Ethnic and Media Studies at the Union Institute and University to document, preserve and promote their local cultural resources.