By Carla Thomas
It’s as if Mount Rushmore met Oakland as the sun brightly shined at Kaiser Memorial Park in Fox Square. Three larger than life bronze sculptures were unveiled in homage to over a dozen humanitarians; such as, Ruby Bridge, Maya Angelou, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks. The passion and pain etched in each face could be felt--all carefully sculpted by artist Mario Chiodo. “I wanted to make a pure art piece that depicted people who brought about a lot of change,” he said.
Former major league baseball great, Vida Blue, Mayor Jean Quan, Father Jay Mathews of St. Benedict’s Church, entrepreneurs Robert Chew and Renee LaChaux, including children from Bay Area schools along with a multitude of community advocates were on hand for the celebration
Inspired a decade ago by the 9/11 tragedy Chiodo said, “I wanted to celebrate humanity in a diverse world and empower the youth with the ability that they all possess to make a change."
Chiodo explained that the 9/11 attack was done by people that must have had no hope and a lot of fear.
“The idea was to take the fear away and bring hope in by using examples of people from all over the world that made a lot of change for the better that wasn’t expected. Chiodo described the event as Phase 1 of the unveiling and that the monument is formed in the shape of a helix, representing the building blocks of life (DNA) in all humanity.
The Oakland East Bay Symphony, conducted by Michael Morgan, performed “American Fanfare.”
Chiodo also penned the “Remember Them” poem, emblazoned on the artwork, which was recited by actor/director Peter Coyote to the sounds of the harp.
|Moreau Catholic High Honors Choir|
Many of the honorees were represented by family members. Ruby Bridges, however, who at the age of 6 braved an angry mob as the first to integrate an all-white school in Louisiana attended with family members. Bridges said, “I’m glad to see my own personal heroes, Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks represented. Dreams do come true.”
93-year-old Alice Withers, a fifth generation descendent of Frederick Douglass, was also in attendance. The petite woman humbly stood side-by-side with the relatives of the other greats, such as, Joel Wright, daughter of Oakland's Mother Wright, one of several locals humanitarians that will be added to the monument.
|Oakland Mayor Jean Quan|
Mayor Quan felt that this was a great day in Oakland and thanked artist Chiodo as she acknowledge him as a product of the Oakland public schools.
The Oakland Symphony Chorus sang “America the Beautiful" as dozens of white doves were released into the air. The doves circled the area above the crowd for several minutes to the delight of the guests and soon disappeared into the deep blue sky.
Former Martin Luther King, Jr's., attorney and speech writer, Clarence Jones, was acknowledged and Bernard J. Tyson, President and COO of Kaiser Permanente, proudly discussed the momentous occasion.
|Malcom X's daughter Attallah Shabazz|
Tears streamed down the eyes of Twinkie Bradshaw Flores, draped in a photo of her mother, and local activist, Carmen Flores. Other family members included Julianna Roosevelt, the great-grand daughter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sister Barbara, who worked with Mother Theresa and the daughter of Ralph Abernathy, Donzaleigh Abernathy, who discussed going to the same boarding school as Malcolm X’s eldest daughter Ambassador Attallah Shabazz.
Oakland School Superintendant Dr. Tony Smith said, “I see this as a place of gathering, a place of community and unification. And of these humanitarians, every success story is a support story. As we look to these humanitarians, we have to look to ourselves.”
"None of us have all the answers, but together we’re infinitely stronger and wiser,” said Donald R. Knauss, Charirman of the Board and CEO of Clorox Company.
Ken McKneely, President AT&T California, referred to his company’s guiding principle “rethink possible.” He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King as he emphasized the importance of serving others and global transformations. “’Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Chiodo acknowledged Congresswoman Barbara Lee as a woman of courage being the only representative to vote against the war in Iraq. Congresswoman Lee described Maya Angelou as “A woman of many talents,” as she introduced her son, Guy Johnson, who also addressed the audience.
Chiodo expects to have the monument completed by the Spring or Summer of 2012. For more information view: www. Remember-them.org