Riverside Community College District and community leaders, artists and community activists celebrated the grand reopening of the Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties on Friday, April 8.
Situated in the Riverside Community College District’s Renaissance Block, the building was inspired by and born out of the bequest of Miné Okubo, a Japanese American artist and Riverside City College alumna who played a role in documenting the lives of Japanese Americans in the United States.
Formerly the location for Citrus Belt Savings and Loan, the 1926, two-story 10,000-square-foot building was designed by architect Stiles O. Clements in a California Churrigueresque revival style. The District purchased the site in 2005 and planned to demolish the building, but upon becoming aware of its architectural significance, the District instead undertook a $5.5 million restoration project in collaboration with the city of Riverside. The museum first opened in June 2012.
With Okubo’s passing, the District inherited more than 8,000 pieces of artwork, professional and personal papers, and memorabilia that Okubo accumulated during her 50-plus years living in the Greenwich Village area of New York City.
“I believe that art and creativity expressed in the exhibits which are presented in this building will inspire changes – in perspective — in the diversity of voices we hear, and ultimately in the way we treat each other,” Wolde-Ab Isaac, Ph.D., chancellor of RCCD, said to gathered guests. “Visitors and learners of the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties will learn to value human rights and respect foreign viewpoints and discover the importance of social justice.”
“Celebrating, studying and promoting the uniqueness of different people and populations will lead to more informed discussions and decisions that can benefit everyone. More perspective gives us better solutions.”
Today the Center supports educational activities in partnership with K-12 schools, and colleges and universities. Tracy Fisher, Ph.D., who joined the District as director of the Center in 2021, is on a mission to bring cultural and historical experiences as they relate to social justice and civil liberties. In fact, from April 9 through July 8, the Center is hosting an exhibit entitled Black Lives Matter: Voices of Protest, Activism, and Art.
“I am so pleased that we decided to kick off the grand reopening of this Center with the Black Lives Matter exhibit,” Bill Hedrick, president of the RCCD Board of Trustees, said. “This is a recognition of the importance of this movement in our community, the state, this country, and our world.”
Since its original opening, the Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties has told stories of individuals and families who were committed to social justice causes in the region during the 20th century. For more information about future events, please visit socialjustice.rccd.edu.