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Friday, May 27, 2022

These 6 Riverside Sculptures Make a Peace Walk, But Fewer People Know It

If you’ve visited the pedestrian mall downtown Riverside, which runs between the Mission Inn and City Hall, you’ve certainly seen at least one bronze statue of a historic figure, even if you weren’t paying attention. .

But did you know that there are six such statues in three blocks, and they form a walkway?

From south to north, they portray Yasmael Villegas, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Ahn Chang Ho, Mahatma Gandhi and Eliza Tibet – more on all of them in a moment. The idols were erected in pieces from 1995 to 2013 through personal efforts.

I saw one or two without thinking much about them. Then I read Jim and Deborah Follows’ book “Our Towns” and its chapter on Riverside.

The authors call the statues Peace Walks and place them in reference to Ron Loveridge’s campaign as mayor from 1994–2012 to revitalize the city. And he quotes what Loveridge said at the unveiling of the Chávez statue in 2013, as excerpted from a press-enterprise story.

“Apart from DC,” Loveridge declared, “there is no other city like this. This is a social justice pathway.”

A Social Justice Path! I think my mouth has opened.

(Potential new civic motto for Riverside: “America’s First Wok City.”)

If this Peace Walk is almost unique in the country, more people should know about it. To learn more, I met with Loveridge and current Mayor Patricia Locke Dawson outside City Hall one recent afternoon.

I wanted to see the sculptures in sequence with two experts. Loveridge knows how they came to be. Locke Dawson wants to draw more attention to them.

Mayer Love and Mayer Locke, let’s get started.

Interestingly, there was no overall vision for a walk, peace or otherwise. Different groups each proposed monuments, inspired by whatever monuments had come before, and usually raised $400,000 or more in funding to build them.

That there is a collective power in the six idols is a happy accident.

“It was not a master plan by the City of Riverside,” Loveridge explained. “It emerged organically. No public money was spent. This community was on the move.”

We started with a statue of Villegas, a native of the city’s Casa Blanca neighborhood and a World War II hero. He was the first riversider, and one of the first Latinos to receive the Medal of Honor.

The Villegas statue in combat gear, running, was manned by Villegas’ family and unveiled in 1995. This inspired the honor of a nearby military wall two years later, in which every riverside figure who died in military action was named.

One block north is the MLK statue, which was built in 1998 thanks to the city’s African American Historical Society. It depicts King walking, carrying two children with school books in his arms. On his cloak are reliefs of black history figures such as Rosa Parks.

“I didn’t like it on paper,” Loveridge admits. “I thought it had too many details. I was wrong.”

When Yolanda King, one of King’s children, visited, “she said it was the best monument she had seen,” Loveridge said.

Locke Dawson praised it, saying, “It has a lot of movement to it.” As we moved on, he squeezed the girl’s hand.

The third statue is the most recent one for Cesar Chavez. He too is walking, being chased by small farm laborers and small children leaning on a field. “They start small and they get bigger,” Locke Dawson observed.

The disjointed nature of the halfway and monuments is becoming apparent. Chávez is the only monument with lights, and it is the first with explanatory text on separate markers.

The fourth statue is that of Korean independence leader Ahn Chang Ho, who lived for five years at Riverside. While here he helped establish Pachappa Camp, which is considered the first Koreatown community in the United States. (It is the subject of an exhibition at the UCR Art Museum until January 9.)

Ah stands tall in a suit, hands clasped behind his back, expressing dignity. I would say quiet dignity, but statues are not known for their playfulness.

Its concept as a Peace Walk becomes clear with the fifth statue. Mahatma Gandhi holds a walking stick and looks down at us. The small garden includes a Magnolia champaca tree, which is native to India, and quotes about or about Gandhi are set in the sidewalk.

“This might be my favorite,” Locke Dawson said of the monument.

“There was a little pushback from the Pakistani community,” Loveridge admitted.

If you’re walking north, the last statue is an outlier, not just a geographical one. It stands for Elijah Tibet, the riversider who started California’s citrus industry in 1875 through two imported orange groves.

The photos show Tibet as slim, dark-clad and serious, resembling Queen Victoria. “One of the great mysteries was what she was going to look like in this statue,” Loveridge remarked dryly.

In the statue, she is young and curvy, walking around in a flowing dress like a ballerina, arms raised up. She is more Elijah Doolittle than Elijah Tibet.

“It’s a cynical interpretation,” said Locke Dawson, laughing.

And what is the Orange Queen doing on the Social Justice Walkway? Besides dancing, I mean.

Tibet fought for black rights and women’s suffrage, Locke Dawson said, and transformed California’s economy despite not having the right to vote. Loveridge said Tibet’s presence is a “stretch” but away from Gandhi and the rest.

How can riverside promenade attract more attention?

One way is to make it clear that this is a walk, not just random public art. “There is nothing to take you from one to the other,” said Locke Dawson.

Common signage with QR codes on each is being considered. More events surrounding the statues could help, such as the opening of the Civil Rights Institute in the city in June 2022. More sculptures are likely to be made.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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