Campaign aims to renovate Riverside’s Martin Luther King Jr. memorial – Press Enterprise

Community leaders launched a campaign to raise $250,000 to restore the monument to civil rights icon, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in the Riverside Pedestrian Mall.

It has been more than 20 years since the statue was erected near Riverside City Hall, and campaign organizer Rose Mayes said the sometimes vandalized monument needs to be repaired and upgraded.

As of Friday, January 28, $3,625 had been raised through the gofundme fundraiser. Mayes, vice president of the African American Historical Society of Riverside, is optimistic.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “But you know how it is, it all starts slowly and eventually speeds up.”

The monument to the man who helped lead the civil rights movement that ended segregation in the South is part of a social justice path known as the Peace Walk in a pedestrian corridor that lines Main Street. A stroll through the mall’s shops also takes you to statues of farmworker advocate Cesar Chavez, Korean independence activist Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, Indian independence leader and champion of nonviolence Mahatma Gandhi and Riverside pioneer Eliza Tibbets, who helped launch the region’s citrus industry and advocated for Black rights and women’s suffrage.

There’s also a statue of a local World War II hero, the Medal of Honor-winning sergeant. Ysmael R. Villegas of the Casa Blanca neighborhood of Riverside.

The mall is a special place, said Robert Earl Bogan, president of the historical society, and the King’s monument is an important part of it.

“We want to make sure that everyone who passes through that section of Main Street has the opportunity to appreciate that statue, as well as the other statues,” Bogan said.

The statue depicts King walking, embracing two children with school books. On her cape are reliefs of historical figures such as Rosa Parks, the African-American woman who was arrested and fined for refusing to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 to a white man. There are also images of civil rights marches and the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to him in 1964.

“When I look at this, I look at it from memory,” said Bogan, who grew up in Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s.

The memorial is near the Southern California Interior Civil Rights Institute, which is under construction and is expected to open in October, Mayes said.

Mayes said the statue itself is in good condition, although it needs to be cleaned. Other features of the monument are not.

According to the campaign page, plans call for redesigning nameplates listing donors, repairing cracked concrete and cleaning up the site. Bogan said existing dog tags “are eroding and therefore some of the names cannot be distinguished.”

Rose said the plan also calls for the construction of recorded media that feature notable quotes from King, including this one: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot expel hate; only love can do that.”

In addition to the repairs, Mayes said the effort will involve strengthening the monument to make it more resistant to vandalism. The partnership plans to create a $25,000 fund, to be administered by the city, for ongoing maintenance, he said.

The monument needs good maintenance so the Inland region can celebrate “Dr. King and his legacy, and who we should be and what we should be working toward,” Bogan said.

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