On Friday, Feb. 2 San Bernardino celebrated the unveiling of the long-awaited Rosa Parks statue that will occupy the state building named after “the first lady of civil rights.” Hundreds, including officials from neighboring cities, converged at the front of the building to commemorate the occasion and to reflect on the legacy of a woman who had the courage to stand up against injustice and inequality.
“I hope this statue will inspire countless acts of anonymous courage and kindness,” Congressman Pete Aguilar said to the diverse crowd. “Take action and combat injustice.”
Students from the San Bernardino City Unified School District were also in attendance to witness the unveiling of the only statue of a prominent African American within any state building.
Rialto Councilman Joe Baca Jr. was responsible for introducing legislation during his term as an assemblyman to name the building after Rosa Parks, which occurred in 2008. The decade-long effort to erect a statue of the iconic activist was the result of a collaboration between the San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation, Caltrans District 8 and Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-San Bernardino.
Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson who served as the event’s Mistress of Ceremonies took a moment to recognize key individuals who worked tirelessly to bring this project to fruition: SBCUSD Board President Dr. Margaret Hill, Rev. Bronica Martindale-Taylor, Dr. Dotti Garcia of the San Bernardino Arts Commission, Genevieve Echols, Evelyne Gonzalez, Jessica Garcia, Troy Inghraham, Ezequiel Adeleke, Gigi Hanna and the San Bernardino City Council.
“To all of the partners who came together, we thank you for championing this cause for our community,” San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis said. “May this monument serve as a reminder for all of us to speak up and out against injustice and to continue (Rosa Parks’) great legacy.”
Reyes, keynote speaker, compared the city of San Bernardino to Rosa Parks, citing strength in its resistance to accept the disparate access to resources that are readily available in other communities.
“A better place could not have been chosen for this statue, as just like Rosa Parks, San Bernardino has not given in to fear,” the Assemblywoman declared. “The people of San Bernardino have resisted and persevered and continue to fight to create an equitable community that uplifts and gives opportunity for all.”
Robertson acknowledged artist Patrick Jewett who designed and created the sculpture that “captured the essence and spirit” of the civil rights activist. She also introduced members of Rosa Parks’ family who traveled from various cities to attend the celebration.
The statue graces the lobby of the state building, and will serve as a “permanent reminder of her legacy and contribution to society,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “May her heart, spirit and courage reside in the hearts and minds of all of us.”
Other dignitaries in attendance included Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), Assemblyman Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga), 5th District County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, Grand Terrace Mayor Darcy McNaboe, Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby, Colton Mayor Richard DeLaRosa, San Bernardino Council persons Virginia Marquez, Benito Barrios, John Valdivia, Bessine Richard, and Colton Councilman Ernie Cisneros.