August 29, 2011 – early in the morning we looked out our apartment window overlooking Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, and saw three parts of the new “Remember Them” sculptures on huge trucks ready to be shifted around the corner and installed in the permanent location next door to our apartment building! I blogged about this important installation a few weeks ago, and have been eagerly anticipating the scheduled “unveiling” ceremony on September 6. If you are in Oakland, plan to come — Maya Angelou is rumored to be on the schedule of honored guests! You can see the details on the Facebook “Event” page for the project.
Being one not to miss a great occasion, I raced downstairs and spent the better part of the morning watching the huge pieces being lifted high into the sky, then slowly down to the base that has been in preparation for several months. I have created a photo journal on Shutterfly showing the process as it unfolded over the first two hours! I met the sculptor, Mario Chiodo, my neighbors Barbara and Dorothy, and talked to a host of other excited neighbors who were there to witness this wonderful occasion! The last part of the monument will be installed, hopefully, by Martin Luther King Day 2012!
Along with watching what was happening, the small gathering of neighbors engaged in what we call in Hawaii, “talk story.” We each shared what we knew about the people represented on the monument, which, amazingly, was all too little for each of us. None of us could identify all the faces on each piece, although, looking at the web site and seeing the names and faces documented there, most of them are somewhat familiar from somewhere in our memories. Before I learned about the monument, I could not have told anyone who Ruby Bridges is (the child standing next to Maya Angelou), and when my neighbor asked a group of us who the child is, I was the only one who happened to know. I, on the other hand, had no idea who the local Oakland faces on the monument are, and I have not yet been able to locate documentation on this part of the monument on the web. One of them, my neighbor Barbara informed me, is Sister Wright, who helped feed the homeless in Oakland for many years, sharing her own meager social security income to do so.
This monument was inspired after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Sculptor, Mario Chiodo, was inspired to create the monument to commemorate people who have inspired him and who believed in human rights and peace. The project is not simply an amazing monument, it includes a city-wide curriculum that will be taught in all of the Oakland Schools to educate our children about the lives of those represented on the monument, but also about the importance of the values that were central to the kinds of humanitarian work to which they all devoted their lives.
In addition to the dedication/unveiling on September 6, the monument will be the site of a September 11 silent memorial vigil at 5:30 a.m. (the time that the planes hit the towers in New York City). You can follow the project on Facebook, and of course watch this blog for more information as it unfolds right next door!