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Cesar Chavez Mural

The Cesar Chavez mural was dedicated on May 5, 1995, about seven months after the San Francisco State University Student Union was renamed after Chavez.

The mural is divided into four parts: Chavez, the United Farm Workers logo, the flaming torch, the dove, and “Grapes of Wrath.”

Chavez is shown in the center of the mural, and is honored because of his contributions to the farm workers movement of fair pay and working conditions. In 1962 he founded the National Farm Workers Association, which would later merge with the Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee to become the United Farm Workers of America.

The UFW logo of an eagle is shown in the background of the mural to honor the organization and what the image means to so many.  The eagle was taken from the Mexican flag.

The UFW was the first successful farm workers union in U.S. history with a membership of 100,000 at its peak. Chavez and his brother Robert originally designed the logo with the goal of creating an image that would be easily identifiable and reproducible by farm workers. Artist Andy Zermeno, Chavez’s friend, produced its final design.

The colors of the logo were chosen to represent hope (white), struggle of workers (black) and sacrifice (red). Among many farm workers of Mexican descent, the eagle image is very meaningful and recognizable. The logo has become a symbol of the Chicano Rights movement.

Chavez holds a torch in the mural, which represents his inspirational leadership and what he endured in fighting for workers’ rights.

In his left hand he holds a dove, which symbolizes his belief in non-violent resistance.  Chavez drew inspiration from Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and exuded his peaceful stance through fasts and marches.  In 1972 he carried out a 24-day, water-only fast and in 1988, a 36-day fast. In 1966 he marched from Delano to Sacramento and in 1969 through the Imperial and Coachella valleys to the border of Mexico.

Chavez believed that publicity and education were the most important tools of a movement, as opposed to violence. It was Chavez’ s peaceful actions that resulted in powerful boycotts and promoted change.

Also present in the mural are the “Grapes of Wrath,” which resemble skulls to signify the harmful effects of pesticides on farm workers. The grapes also represent the first consumer boycott of the UFW, the 1965 Delano strike. The small boycott evolved into a public five-year strike against California table grapes.

The lead artist on the Cesar Chavez mural was Carlos “Cookie” Gonzalez.  The mural is located in the Malcolm X Plaza.

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Malcolm X Mural

Cesar Chavez

To make the Malcolm X Plaza complete, a corresponding mural was dedicated to Malcolm on May 15, 1996 beside the Cesar Chavez mural.

The quote, “By any means necessary” on the bottom of the mural and other images represent Malcolm’s progression as a spiritual leader. The mural also has a theme of day and night, represented by a moon and sun in each upper corner, to symbolize Islam.

The image of Malcolm in the upper left corner is based on a picture of the leader addressing a Harlem rally in support of integration in Birmingham, Alabama on May 14, 1963.

The other image of him, in a dashiki, is based on a picture taken in Accra, Ghana on April 11, 1964 while he was visiting the W.E.B. DuBois Center for Pan African Studies.  The picture was taken after his pilgrimage to Mecca and captures his dignity. He is shown with a book in his hand, to represent the importance of self-education, and a ring on his finger, with the Arabic spelling of Allah, indicating his ability to read Arabic.

An image of the continent of Africa engulfing the United States is shown in between the images of Malcolm, and is based on the Mercator projection, which conveyed the relative size of Africa compared to the U.S. It also reflects the international aspect of Malcolm’s teaching.  He passionately argued that African Americans need to internationalize the struggle, as their struggle is the African struggle and vice versa.

A shield and spear appear in the lower left corner to symbolize the warrior, freedom fighter and militant. The words, “ Our objective is complete freedom justice and equality,” another quote of Malcolm’s, is written above a silhouette of supporters.

The intent of the mural, along with the dedication of the plaza, was to honor, promote and understand the teachings of Malcolm including: his legacy of political, spiritual, economic, and social philosophy; the fact that he was an independent thinker who contributed to the movements for civil and human rights in the 1960s; and regardless of status, everyone can speak and act for social change, justice, and freedom for all.

The painting was the second Malcolm X mural for SF State. The first, completed in May 1994, drew public outcry from Jewish students and gained nationwide media attention for being what some thought as anti-semitic. The controversial mural depicted Malcolm amongst dollar signs, Stars of David, skulls, and the words “African Blood.” In response to protests, the mural was sandblasted and permanently removed. 

The current, and not at all controversial, Malcolm X mural was painted by SF State students Eric Norberg and Kamau Ayubbo. Malcolm’s widow, Dr. Betty Shabazz, was an honorary speaker at the dedication ceremony.

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Filipino Community Mural

Rosa Parks

With assistance from over 200 students, faculty and community members, the Filipino Community Mural was dedicated on April 4, 2003 after four years of work.

The mural is divided into four sections: solidarity, community, struggle in the Philippines and struggle in the United States. It represents both ancient times and the ongoing importance placed on community and heritage. “We Stand on their Shoulders” is written in ancient Philippine script at the bottom of the mural to recognize that today’s Filipino community stands tall because of the achievements of their ancestors

In representation of solidarity, a sun rises in the background of the mural, symbolizing the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonization. The rays of the sun represent the numerous regions that resisted the Spanish domination for almost 400 years. People stand linked arm and arm, in front of the sun, to represent solidarity with all people of color. A Filipino family, the center of the culture’s existence, is also shown.

Community, an important part of the Filipino culture, is represented in the mural through important figures Purmassuri, Lorena Barros, Al Robles, Violeta A. Marasigan, and Philip Vera Cruz. These icons of the culture paved the way for future generations through their bravery, dedication and persistent hard work.

The struggle in the Philippines is a component of the mural so that the Filipino-American community will not overlook it today. A carabao, a water buffalo, represents the Filipino people who are tillers of the land.  Peasants are shown to represent those who continue to struggle for the rights of their lands. An image of a woman playing Kulingtang emphasizes importance of music in the Filipino indigenous culture, and students and workers are shown fighting for a dignified way of life.

The right side of the mural shows the struggle in the United States through pictures of struggle from the Filipino-American community. The top image is of the International Hotel and those displaced through eviction. Veterans and nurses are shown to represent the struggle for equality and fair pay. The DJ, balancing out the women playing Kulintang, and the SF State students represent the life and trial of the young Filipino-American culture. Lastly, the farm workers are shown planting the seeds from which the roots of the community are grown.

James Garcia was the lead artist on the mural with assistance from André Sibayan and others. It is located at North Plaza of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

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Asian & Pacific Islander Mural

Rigoberta Menchu

Dedicated on April 30, 2004, the Asian & Pacific Islander mural tells the story of hard-working and determined people who fought for the rights of their community; and those who continue the plight today.

Ten local, national and international heroes are featured on the mural, as well as cultural symbols and representations of important events and groups, all culminating into a dedication of the Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.

Among the people included on the mural are: Yuri Kochiyama, Angel Santos, Mohandas Gandhi, Tupua Tamasese, Queen Liliuokalani, Queen Salote, Lakshmi Bai, Larry Dulay Itliong, Ahn Chang Ho and Haunani-Kay Trask.

The Japanese American Redress and Reparations, Third World Strike at SFSU, Chinatown Red Guard Party and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan also appear on the mural, as well as a kava bowl, a central tree with Elephants of Laos, rice stalks and a dove.

Gandhi, the peaceful spiritual and political leader, is honored for his resistance against injustice, which led to India’s independence and inspired freedom and civil rights movements across the world.

Kochiyama, who is a Bay Area native, is a strong voice for ethnic studies and workers’ rights and works towards reparations for the Japanese-Americans incarcerated during World War II. She is shown on the mural with her fist held tightly in the air.

Surrounding Kochiyama on the mural are Gandhi, Santos - who served as democratic senator in the Guam legislatures; former Samoan Head of State Tamasese - who was one of the framers of the Constitution of Samoa; and the depiction of rice stalks and a dove - which are symbolic of peace.

The last monarch of the Hawai’ian islands, Queen Liliuokalani, sits near a central tree with three Elephants of Laos, which represent the different regions and cultures of Laos, and a large kava bowl, which signifies unity and hospitality.

Also shown on the mural is Queen Salote, who was the Queen of Tonga from 1918-1965, and was the last monarch in Polynesia. Positioned near Salote is Bai, who was the queen of a principality called Jhansi in northern India in the 17th century. Only in her 20s, she was a great heroine of India’s War of Independence in 1857 against the British.  Embodying nationalism and heroism, she died in the revolt.

The far right of the mural features Itliong who was the founder of the Filipino Farm Labor Union in California in 1956, cofounder of the United Farm Workers of America, and a key organizer and vice president of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. Near him is Ho, who established the Young Korean Association, and was a leader and organizer in the early Korean American community and Korean Independence Movement. Lastly, Trask is shown with her fist clenched in the air.  She is a professor of Hawai’ian Studies at the University of Hawai’i and a Native Hawaiian nationalist. 

The lead artist on the mural was David Cho, with assistance from Albert Yip. The mural is located in the South Plaza of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

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Palestinian Cultural Mural: Honoring Dr. Edward Said

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Lead Artists: Fayeq Oweis & Susan Greene

Dedicated on November 2, 2007, the Palestinian Cultural Mural honors Dr. Edward Said.

1. Professor Edward Said (1935 - 2003)
Edward Said was a Palestinian Arab-American educator, writer, philosopher, and civil and human rights activist. His activism for human rights, justice, and a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict inspired millions of people around the world. His writing has also been an inspiration for Arab-Americans and others. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest Arab-American thinkers and scholars of the 20th century primarily for his work dissecting the stereotypes of "Orientals," which have been perpetuated in Western society for hundreds of years. In the mural, Said wears a Palestinian headdress or scarf (Kuffiyya or Hatta), which is a cultural garment that has come to symbolize the struggle to maintain and preserve Palestinian identity.

2. The City of Jerusalem
Jerusalem is the birthplace of Said, and its representation in the mural (through its landscape and monuments) complements the poem in items 5 and 6 ("I am from there…"). Jerusalem represents the genesis of Said's thought. Since Said was born and lived in Jerusalem, his earliest experiences (and hence his thought process) were influenced by Jerusalem.

3. Palestinian Folkloric Dance
Debka is a traditional, folkloric Arab dance. Palestinian Debka is a non-violent form of resistance and preservation of Palestinian culture and heritage. It is presented on the mural to bring attention to the rich culture of the Palestinian people, and performed by students at San Francisco State in the Malcolm X Plaza (item 14) wearing traditional Palestinian clothing. One of the women dancers is holding a Palestinian flag. The presence of Palestinian women pays homage to the matriarch responsible for maintaining and preserving Palestinian life and culture. Palestinian women play an integral part in Palestinian life, society, resistance to occupation, and in the struggle for human rights through mobilization and education.

4. Said's Books
Said's scholarly work and his contributions to academia are imperative to, and have influenced, such fields as literary studies, comparative literature, area studies (specifically the Middle East and the Arab/Islamic world), anthropology, political science, comparative religion, and music. Books represented include: The Question of Palestine, Orientalism, and Covering Islam.

5. Mahmoud Darwish Poem (in traditional Arabic Calligraphy)
Mahmoud Darwish is a well-known Palestinian poet who was a personal friend of Said. He wrote a farewell poem in Arabic dedicated to Said in 2003. For the mural, a verse of the poem that reads: "ana min hunaak, ana min huna," ("I am from there, I am from here") was selected. The selection of a verse from this poem serves several purposes: it recognizes Said's identity as an Arab-American and reflects the identities of others in the diaspora. Arabic calligraphy, with many styles, is an art that has been used to decorate architectural monuments, manuscripts, and objects of daily life for over 1,400 years. The Arabic poem noted above is rendered in an artistic form to enhance the Arab and Eastern influence of the mural.

6. English Translation of Darwish Poem
The same verse noted above (in item 5) is rendered in English on the Wall of Jerusalem.

7. Cacti
Cacti (Sabr in Arabic) are a resilient plant and a part of the landscape of Palestine. They represent Palestinian people's desire for peace and their patience waiting for it.

8. Dove
The dove is the universal symbol of peace and represents the Palestinian desire for peace for all people. Two doves are rendered in Arabic calligraphy using the word "Salam" which means "Peace" in Arabic.

9. Olive Tree
Olive trees are indigenous to Palestine. Palestinians have a deep cultural connection to the olive tree because it represents their subsistence, their deep history and their profound connection to the land that gives them life. Furthermore, the olive branch is a universal symbol for peace.

10. Children Reading
Children are the bearers of the future who will carry on the cultural traditions of the Palestinians. Their presence on the mural represents the recognition of Palestinians children's right to freedom, life, and education. The children reading a book complements the mural's overall theme and its dedication to a great writer.

11. Postage Stamp
The postage stamp represents the hope that one day Said will be recognized on a U.S. postage stamp as one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century. The postage stamp includes Said's name in both Arabic and English.

12. New York City Landscape
The landscape of New York (where Said spent most of his life in exile) is represented by a Colombia University building where he taught and by well-known New York City monuments like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.

13. The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge (in conjunction with images of the New York City landscape) illustrates the vast geographical scope and reach of the Palestinian diaspora in the United States.

14. Malcolm X Plaza
The Cesar Chavez Student Center's Malcolm X Plaza is included in recognition of student activism at San Francisco State, as well as to pay homage to the connection between the Palestinian-American and other civil and human rights struggles in the United States.

15. Piano Keys
The piano keys honor Said's artistic talent. They also make reference to his efforts to use music to bridge the Palestinian-Israeli divide. Together with conductor Daniel Barenboim, Said created the East-West Diwan Orchestra in 1999, featuring young Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

16. Edward Said Quote
The following quotation by Edward Said is taken from his most influential book, Orientalism: "Humanism is the only, and I would go so far as saying the final, resistance we have against inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history."

Traditional Arabic Calligraphy
Each quotation in the mural is translated into Arabic and rendered in a traditional Arabic calligraphy style, recognizing the Arabness of Palestinian culture and demonstrating the importance of art, language, and culture to all Arabs.

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Native American Community Mural

native american muralNativeAmericanMuralKey

The Native American Mural was commissioned in October, 2005, by the Cesar Chavez Student Center Governing Board. It was dedicated on November 20, 2009. The mural depicts community activism, self determination, resistance and survivance of Native American peoples, and the defense of native lands.

The Native American mural aims to counter the invisibility of native peoples and to further public consciousness and respect. It is intended to empower native communities by informing people of the strong leadership, continuous presence in all walks of life, and Indigenous resistance of American Indians, thereby countering the stereotypes of American Indians that limits their impact and presence.

These words communicate the continued presence and strength of Native Americans in the Bay Area, remember the Ohlone land and replicate graffiti from the occupation of Alcatraz. They represent the continuing spirit of self-determination and political struggle throughout history.

2. Animals and Condor Feathers.
The feathered cape is a symbol of ceremonial regalia of condor feathers used in traditional dances. These images portray animals that are sacred to California Native Americans tribes, contained in their creation stories and lore.

3. Self-Determination and Political Struggle Throughout History.
These figures are inspired by the famous photograph by Iylka Hartmann (2009) entitled “We Will Not Give Up”, which shows Indian occupiers, Oohosis, a Cree from Canada (left) and Peggy Lee Ellenwood, a Sioux from Wolf Point, Montana (right), moments after their removal from Alcatraz Island on June 11, 1971. (Photo © 2009 Iylka Hartmann). The goal of the occupation led by the Indians of All Tribes (IAT) was to bring national attention to broken U.S. treaties with American Indian Nations and to protest the federal policy of termination.

4. The Connections between SF State strike of 1968-69 and the Occupation of Alcatraz Island six months later.
The central role of the historical occupation of Alcatraz Island (depicted here) is a potent symbol of American Indian activism and the genesis of the modern “Red Power” movement. Some of students participating in the occupation were also involved in the SF State strike in which students of color resisted the oppressive forces institutionalized into the CSU system. The SF State graduate in purple regalia shows that their demands created programs that would outreach to and empower communities of color and working-class students.

5. Birds
The Condor and the Eagle, the sacred birds, are united in the sky, representing the uniting of the north and the south according to indigenous prophecy. Along with other aspects of the mural, these birds evoke the notion of survivance.

Survivance by definition includes two important terms: survival and resistance. It is the process by which Native (and other peoples) transform their experiences of historical trauma into the capacity for moral courage, forgiveness, and healing through political activism and cultural revitalization.

6. Exploitation, Destruction, and Defense of Native Lands
The bulldozer that leaves a field of skulls in its wake represents the genocide and holocaust resulting from the European invasion of Turtle Island. The bulldozer is crushing native redwood trees, and threatening the Grizzly bear, now extinct, an animal that is sacred to many California Native American communities.

7. Cultural Preservation and Revitalization
The Ohlone basket contains traditional foods and sustenance, and an Abalone shell containing a ceremonial sage smudge stick used in ceremony. The Salmon is another important part of the diverse and productive ecosystems that tribal nations carefully tended and managed before colonization, and that they are fighting to protect today.

8. Ohlone Tribal Nations
The Ohlone are the original inhabitants of the Bay Area. The Ohlone Roundhouse and the traditional Ohlone figures represent cultural preservation and revitalization as well as the sense of community, continuity, and traditional culture. At the time of European and US Imperialism, the Ohlone were, as they still are, displaced off their land and not recognized as a sovereign nation on this continent.

9. Children
The male and female children reflect the intertribal council of male and female leadership, with an emphasis on the matrilineal leadership evident in many Native American traditions. They reflect male and female leadership, both past (the activists, [3] traditional figures [8]) and future.

One T-shirt reflects on the continued incarceration of American Indian activist Leonard Peltier and the other reflects the struggle to protect sacred sites.

10. Border
The mural border is a traditional design of the Hoopa, a Northern Californian tribe.

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Cesar Chavez Mural

Malcolm X Mural

Filipino Community Mural

Asian & Pacific Islander Mural

Palestinian Cultural Mural

Native American Community Mural


© The Cesar Chavez Student Center , 2015
San Francisco State University | ACUI