By Melissa Spellman
Fall Intern 2023
New Journal and Guide
JoAnne Cramatie, of Hampton, is a Renaissance woman using all her knowledge and abilities to make a difference in the lives of marginalized and disenfranchised children in the Hampton Roads area. Malon’s Project Inc., her youth organization, is dedicated to her grandson who was senselessly murdered in the summer of 2020. She serves as the Director of Operations of Malon’s Project.
Cramatie is a retired RN Supervisor from the Department of Defense with 44 years of continued service. She is the founding member of the 54-40 African-American quilting guild in existence since March 1993. She raised her grandson from three months of age into his teenage years taking him to countless doctor appointments, practices, and sporting activities. Their relationship was special, and her world orbited his. Her world would soon come to a halt.
On August 24, 2020, Malon Aikee Pearson was violently murdered in Hampton and the lives of his family, friends, and his grandmother JoAnne Cramatie were forever changed. Malon was 17-years-old, 6’4, and an avid swimmer. He was an all-around athlete playing basketball, baseball, and soccer. His grandmother describes him as having a caring and giving heart. Malon would sneak his friends in through his bedroom window at night. “It sounded like deer on the rooftop. I thought he was having a party while I was sleeping,” said Cramatie. However, she would later learn that his friends were homeless, and he was giving them a place to rest at night. Groceries would disappear from the home because Marlon was giving food away to his friends.
Cramatie recalls buying groceries on Sundays – a gallon of white milk, a gallon of chocolate milk, and a gallon of orange juice – and by mid-week it was all gone. Then she would get a call from Malon to buy more drinks.
Amidst the tragedy Malon’s grandmother and legal guardian decided that she had to do something to remember her grandson. “I decided to start a non-profit organization where I could at least reach some of these kids that are marginalized. Some of the kids that wanted to feel like they were a part of society,” said Cramatie.
She was cleaning out Malon’s room and found a journal he had written when he was nine or 10-years-old. In the journal he had a dream of wanting a 14-story building where he could have people like him, who were ADHD diagnosed, come and be themselves. Malon’s journal read, “I wish for one free house for homeless people and the house will have 14 stories. The 1st floor will be a cafeteria. The 2nd floor will be a game room.” This journal would become a catalyst for the work of Malon’s Project.
Cramatie shared a condition of many children who are ADHD, Autistic, or have some other learning differences which may cause them to become disruptive in the classroom, leading to their expulsion. Malon’s Project seeks to aid these children, so they are not left criminalized but instead learn life skills and are treated for their ADHD/Autism, the underlying cause of their behavior.
Malon’s Project targets teens 13 to 19. The organization offers services such as mental health counseling, after-school services, job training, job preparedness training, life skills coaching, anger management coaching sessions, and many other personalized services.
Cramatie discussed more about the work Malon’s Project is doing. “We have gone into the Hampton juvenile center and taught a 17-week creative writing class. We have four adults that we train on Monday evenings so that they can help us as volunteers and go into the different community centers to teach,” she said.
Malon’s Project seeks to instill eight positive attitudes which are honesty, humility, gratitude, objectivity, caring, responsibility, open-mindedness, and willingness. “We teach eight positive attributes to help move kids from criminality to creativity,” Cramatie added.
Malon’s Project is a non-profit and faith-based organization. Cramatie plans to meet with a delegate from Newport News as well as Virginia Beach Probation to discuss growing Malon’s Project. The goal is to have three to four creative writing classes going on in each of the seven cities. The organization wants to partner with schools, churches, and juvenile services.
There is a creative writing class starting soon at West Hampton Community Center on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m. The class will teach creative writing on Monday and music appreciation on Wednesday. It’s a 6-to-8-week class. Teens will learn to write their own songs and make their own beats.
Parents who want to get their children involved in Malon’s Project can visit the website to sign up at malonsproject.com. This organization wants to help teens create a professional plan to show them the tools and skills they need to get them to their desired career destination.
Malon’s Project keeps Cramatie moving forward with her commitment to the youth, but it is her quilting that brings her peace.
JoAnne Cramatie exhibits the strength, resolve, and reverence of a queen serving her community through her work with Malon’s Project Inc. and serving as founder and original member of the only African American Quilters Guild in Virginia. She is a master quilter, a skill she learned at the feet of her grandmother who was born in 1875, ten years after slavery ended. Each year Cramatie creates a quilt to raffle off as a fundraiser for Malon’s Project.
To learn more about Malon’s Project and how you can help, volunteer, or donate visit malonsproject.com.