WESTMINSTER, CA – The City of Westminster today opened the doors to collecting donations to produce a Mendez v. Westminster School District memorial statue honoring the historic anti-school segregation case that was a precursor to Brown v. Board of Education. The memorial will be part of the Mendez Tribute Monument and Educational Trail project, which will connect the Hoover Street bike trail via a series of trail markers to a park featuring a statue honoring the civil rights court case with historic roots in the City of Westminster. The City will be accepting donations for the monument effort via www.MendezTribute.com.
“The case of Mendez v. Westminster impacted us all, yet most residents have never heard about it,” Westminster Tribute Monument Committee Founder and Westminster City Councilman Sergio Contreras said. “This case paved the way for later decisions that would end school segregation once and for all in our nation. By reminding people that equality is what ultimately leads to the end goal we all seek – a society where people succeed and are judged based on their merits rather than on their skin tone or affluence – we can work to progress in that direction. By building this statue and park, we hope to further expand Westminster’s profile as a national leader and solidify its civil rights legacy in the minds of residents and visitors.”
The 1946 court case, Mendez v. Westminster School District, had an immediate impact on California and put a human face on the legacy of racism and potential psychological costs to American children. The Mendez case centered around 13 families joining together to argue that segregating schools violated the 14th Amendment as an unconstitutional denial of equal protection.
During the suit, the school district countered the plaintiffs by arguing that Mexican American children were inferior to Anglo-American children, carried contagious diseases, and were limited by their “language deficiency.” The Mendez case was ultimately heard by the state and federal court. The verdict delivered declared these separate “Mexican Schools” unconstitutional. That decision paved the way for Civil Rights Legislation nationwide.
The Mendez Tribute Monument will be designed by famed artist, muralist and sculptor Ignacio Gomez, who also created the Cesar Chaves Memorial Statue in downtown Riverside, and will ultimately rest in a new park approved by the City earlier this month. The park sits at the intersection of Westminster Blvd. and Olive Street, near the head of the Hoover Street bike trail, which will be lined with historical markers gradually telling the story of the case to those progressing toward the memorial along the bike route.
The Mendez Tribute will feature bronze sculptures of two children of differing races walking together, books in hand. One child has his arm outstretched before him pointing toward the future. The sculptures will also feature a full body depiction of Gonzalo Mendez, overseeing the children’s’ journey toward a brighter future. Behind the children will be a large book with text inscribed on the “pages” outlining the history of this monumental achievement. Surrounding the circular-shaped memorial there will be benches, for the community to gather and take in the significance of this historic achievement. Nameplates will be available on the benches for donors who contribute above a certain threshold.
The Westminster Heritage Memorial aspires to begin construction in 2019 and will not use city general fund dollars. In order to reach this target, $100,000 must be raised by March 31, 2019. Donations are being accepted at www.MendezTribute.com.
If you or someone you know would like donate toward this valuable cause, please send checks in any amount to City of Westminster, c/o Westminster Heritage Memorial Fund, 8200 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, CA 92683.
All donations are tax deductible. Donations in amounts over $1000 will receive special recognition at the memorial site or an inscription of their name on the memorial itself.
Further information and renderings of the site can be found at www.MendezTribute.com.