Multicultural Center Unveils Mural of Diverse American History
As part of the 50th anniversary of California State University, Dominguez Hills, the university’s Multicultural Center (MCC) will unveil “Manifest Diversity,” a large-scale multimedia mural created by students under the guidance of award-winning and nationally recognized Los Angeles muralist Eliseo Art Silva on Sept. 9. The mural was created to celebrate the diversity of CSU Dominguez Hills and its surrounding areas, as well as historical social accomplishments that have contributed to a more inclusive and multicultural America.
Family and friends of mural honorees such as the late United Farm Workers of America labor leader Larry Itliong, along with local officials, students, and university faculty and staff will be present at the unveiling event and reception, which will take place on the East Walkway outside the Loker Student Union. Alumna Karen Bass (Class of ’90, B.S., health science), Speaker Emeritus for the California Assembly and Congressional candidate will also be in attendance.
“The purpose and history of murals have strong links to spaces like the Multicultural Center,” said Center coordinator Lui Amador. “Both give voice and honor to traditionally marginalized communities. Both have made statements that celebrate the rich and complex histories of diversity in America.”
The Multicultural Center in partnership with the Department of Chicana/o Studies conducted a special multicultural history/mural-making class in Fall 2009 for the purposes of creating the mural. Using Howard Zinn’s books including, “A People’s History of the United States” and lessons given by Silva on the history of murals and the power of art as a voice for people, students in the class were tasked with conceptualizing the theme of the mural and the scenes and figures from American history that would be depicted on it.
The final design of the mural features approximately 95 images of individuals and iconic scenes in American history, from Pre-Columbian Native Americans to the present day struggle for social justice in health care, and immigrant rights. When viewed from a distance, the shapes, details and colors of the singular images combine to form to form the profiles of Sojourner Truth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, President Barack Obama, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, and Jose Rizal.
Marco Cabrera, a senior majoring in studio art, says that the experience surprised him with diverse histories that he had never been exposed to.
“Learning things I’ve never learned in any history class was shocking,” he says.
One surprising discovery for Lydia Aguilera, junior, health science, was the story of the Manuel Dominguez family, after whom CSU Dominguez Hills is named. The Californio rancher and statesman settled the Rancho San Pedro, a 75,000 acre land grant that eventually became the cities of the South Bay. She was also intrigued by accounts of how Mexican and Filipino farm workers joined forces to form the United Farm Workers under the leadership of Cesar Chavez.
The mural has become a family affair for Aguilera and her three sisters, who have all attended CSU Dominguez Hills and are depicted in the work as students reenacting the Little Rock Nine.
“It’s kind of exciting, not only because we are in it but because we contributed to [painting] it,” says Aguilera, who with her sister Hilda, a sophomore majoring in health science, participated in the class last fall. Also featured in the mural are Ruth Aguilera, sophomore, undeclared, and Yadira Aguilera (Class of ’04, B.A., liberal studies), who is now a teacher at Clinton Elementary School in Compton.
The students all collaborated on which historical figures would be featured on the mural. Hilda Aguilera chose Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Her sister Lydia thought that the mural should include Mother Teresa, the Black Panthers, and the Brown Berets. Cabrera, who is also depicted in the mural, is shown leading CSU Dominguez Hills students and faculty, including Dr. Irene Vasquez, chair and professor of Chicana/o studies and Randy Zarn, former associate vice president of Student Life, as the Little Rock Nine.
“As a student, I was thinking about how I would feel going to a school where nobody wanted me there and how I would approach the situation,” he says.
Painting of the 8’ x 32’ mural took much of the spring semester and summer. In addition to those in the class, alumni, faculty and staff, students from the Multicultural Center’s Diversity in Action internship program, middle and high school youth in the Zimmer Museum’s YouTHink program, and patrons at the South Bay Pavilion mall in Carson participated in the mural’s painting, making the project a true community effort.
Amador says that one of the greatest benefits of “Manifest Diversity” is that “it’s not going to be a done deal when we present it.”
“One of the major powers of a community mural is that it’s a living thing,” he says. “It’s a great way to empower students to share this information.”
The unveiling will take place at 3 p.m. and is open to the public. For more information, contact (310) 243-2519.
- Amy Bentley-Smith and Joanie Harmon
Photos above: Lydia (at left) and Hilda Aguilera are proud of their work on "Manifest Destiny" - and that they and their sisters are portrayed in it.
Jose Pina (Class of '09, B.A., studio art) worked with muralist Eliseo Art Silva (at right) on the "Roots and Wings" mural on a building on Main
Street in Carson.
Josue Aguilar, senior, music education, puts the finishing touches on "Manifest Diversity."
Photos by Joanie Harmon