The Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California broke ground on its new home in downtown Riverside on October 22. It received over $3.5 million in funding from the state of California in June.
Over 150 people gathered at a dirt lot on the corner of Mission Inn Avenue and Fairmount Boulevard to celebrate the ground breaking of Mission Heritage Plaza. It will be the new home of the Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California and the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County.
“We’re trying to enhance cultural relationships. We’re trying to bring a community together," said Vice President of the Board of Directors Rose Mayes. "We’re trying to understand each other more [and] our cultural differences, but at the same time respect those things.”
Mayes believes the center will facilitate that respect, and that it will lead to a less racist and more compassionate world. It will be a mixed-use space where 72 units of affordable housing will sit above a regional community center devoted to civil rights exhibits, educational programming, and meeting spaces for community organizations to gather.
The idea is to give people a chance to securely put down roots which will allow them to invest in improving civil rights within their community. Many of the event speakers, including former Riverside Mayor and Board President Ronald Loveridge, congratulated Mayes on her leadership on the project.
“Mission Heritage Plaza began as a dream of Rose Mayes some 12 years ago," said Loveridge. "The plaza will be a result of her dedication, her leadership, her vision. Rose is a force of nature that brought us together and made it happen.”
Of the many people in attendance was Riverside resident and artist Charles Bibbs, who said the city’s homelessness problem is an important issue for him. He came to send the signal that the community supports the center’s vision for a new kind of affordable housing.
“As an artist, I believe in community outreach. I believe in community involvement," said Bibbs. "We have so many, so many problems in our community, but it’s going to take an effort, a community effort to resolve these problems. And we just are here putting all of our community influences together and see what we can achieve.”
The power of achieving change through community action was highlighted by the installation of a mural on site that honors the extraordinary life of civil rights leader John Lewis. Orson Woodcock of Riverside County is one of five artists responsible for the detailed timeline that starts with Lewis’s work as a freedom rider in the 1960s followed by key moments until his death this summer.
“So if you look at the mural there is a banner that runs through the top of the mural that says ‘Good Trouble’," said Woodcock. "And that banner is interwoven through every scene all the way through the last scene. And that was one of his mantras, his main mantras, good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Woodcock said he thinks it’s important that the center is a place for all people of the Inland Empire and he thinks Lewis’s life in art form sends that message.
“What was important for him was understanding and valuing people and their rights," said Woodcock. "I think this site is important for that as well. I am glad they chose John Lewis as sort of a way to get people to understand and get more involved in what we are doing.”
Valuing others is what Rose Mayes said will help break the cycle of discrimination so that the next generation can move the community even closer to equality.
“It is very essential that we look out for one another and that way we all grow together because you cannot grow if you leave people behind, because eventually you are going to have to go and pick them up somewhere, somehow, so why not bring them along all at the same time?” said Mayes.
The center is set to open in 2022.