Community Heroes Honored with Mural in San Francisco

In April 2022, the Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco proudly unveiled its new mural. The organization partnered with Wells Fargo to honor a dozen community leaders that often go unrecognized in the city.

Each person depicted in the mural comes from Pacific Islander or Asian-American descent.

Executive Director Jenny Leung said that the planning process for the mural was a year-long journey to see it to completion. “We reached out to the youth in our community to have [the mural] be a youth-nominated process,” she told KRON-TV. “We wanted to highlight stories that haven’t been recognized, shared, or told that our youth haven’t heard.” [1]

About 5,000 Students Offered Nominations for the Mural

Once the idea was released to San Francisco’s youth, about 5,000 students offered at least one nomination for the mural. After receiving the various leaders that were suggested, a group of community panelists met to determine the final selections.

One of the unique components in the mural tells the story of the Hotel Manilatown Center, honoring an event instead of a specific person. Aaron Peskin, a supervisor who represents the area, says that the tenant eviction in the 1970s was a significant turning point for the pro-tenant movements in the city.

“This is sacred ground, with sacred heroes in it,” Peskin said. “Knowing those heroes are being recognized today is profoundly important.”

Another of the community heroes depicted in the new mural is Betty Ann Ong. She was the American Airlines flight attendant who alerted the United States to the terror attacks that happened on September 11, 2001.

Ong was working on American Airlines Flight 11 that fateful day. Shortly after the hijacking, she spoke to the ground crew, staying on the radiophone for 25 minutes to relay information that led to the FAA closing airspace for the first time in the country’s history. [2]

Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 AM local time.

Sponsors of the mural project say that their goal is to raise the awareness of all the good things people do in the community.

“It’s been a difficult few years for everyone, so it’s important we celebrate the contributions of the community and make it a lasting legacy in Chinatown,” said Cynthia Sugiyama, who works with Wells Fargo.

Here Is the Complete List of the Individuals Honored in the Mural

The people and events depicted in the new mural represent the hard work that the organizers wanted to convey through this project. Each addition tells a bigger story involving the AAP population in San Francisco.

Here is the list of those who were honored with this mural. [3]

1. Jeanette Lazam

Lazam worked as a housing activist, social justice artist, and anti-racism advocate. She represented 150 elderly Chinese and Filipino tenants at the International Hotel. Police evicted all in 1977 after fighting for ten years to stay in their home.

2. Wong Kim Ark

He was born in San Francisco to parents who immigrated to the United States to find work. Kim Ark returned to China in 1890. After returning to the country of his birth, he found the Chinese Exclusion Act had been passed. It blocked laborers from entering the country, and immigration officials refused him entry because he wasn’t a citizen.

After suing the government, the court system interpreted the 14th Amendment to let children born in the United States have citizenship birthrights, even if their parents aren’t citizens.

3. Ruth Asawa

Asawa is one of the 20th century’s most important modern artists. She created art from found materials, developed looped-wire sculptures, and advocated for arts education in local schools. In 2020, the USPS released a set of ten stamps that showcased her work.

4. Caroline Cabading

One of Cabading’s greatest achievements was to bring back three of the original residents to the International Hotel in 2019. She helped to open venues in the city to honor the legacy of this event.

5. Cynthia Choi

Choi works as a community leader and Korean-American activist. She co-founded Stop AAPI Hate, a multi-language website that tracks, documents, and responds to civil rights violations and racial discrimination.

6. Layton Doung

Doung was the fourth generation of his family to be born in the United States. He felt disconnected from his family’s culture, so he brought the Yangge dance style from the Shanxi region to local schools in San Francisco.

7. Reverend Norman Fong

Reverend Fong fought for affordable housing in the city because of his personal experiences of almost becoming homeless. Even though he has retired as Executive Director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, he continues to advocate for low-income renters.

8. Yuri Kochiyama

After seeing what happened at the internment camps in the 1940s, Kochiyama fought for civil rights throughout the United States. She would earn a Nobel Prize nomination for her work.

9. Tiffany Long

Long currently serves as an elementary educator at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco. She’s a first-generation American who activel;y supports students who identify as part of the AAPI community.

10. Betty Ann Ong

Because of her heroic actions on Flight 11, Mayor Willie Brown declared September 21, 2001, to be Betty Ann Ong day.

11. Alok Vaid-Menon

This writer and comedian travels the globe to promote transgender rights and support for mental health awareness. Their writings explore themes of belonging, trauma, and what it means to be human.

12. Judy Yung

Yung dedicated her life to writing accurate accounts of Chinese-American history. She chronicled the efforts of the first immigrants to come to the United States in the mid-19th century.

You can see the stories of these community leaders at the corner of Grant Avenue and Jackson Street in San Francisco.



[1] https://www.kron4.com/news/bay-area/chinatown-mural-depicts-12-aapi-community-heroes/; [2] https://www.911memorial.org/connect/blog/remembering-911-hero-flight-attendant-betty-ong; [3] https://asamnews.com/2022/04/27/unsung-heroes-in-the-asian-american-community-depicted-in-new-mural-in-san-francisco/

CategoriesDaily Dose