Bay Area celebrates 20 years of campus Malcolm X mural

May Day marked the 20th Annual Malcolm X Mural Celebration for SF State, while students and Greek life from around the Bay Area joined together to honor the mural’s creation.

According to the Cesar Chavez Student Center, the intent of the mural, along with the dedication of the plaza, was to honor, promote and understand the teachings of Malcolm X 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.

Malcolm X mural was painted May 15, 1996 beside the Cesar Chavez mural by SF State students Eric Norberg and Kamau Ayubbo. Malcolm’s widow, Dr. Betty Shabazz, was an honorary speaker at the dedication ceremony.

In appreciation of the importance that the Malcolm X Mural on the Cesar Chavez Student Center holds for SF State, Black Student Union members and faculty gathered students in the Malcolm X Plaza to embrace the diversity and unity on campus. Over the years, the mural and student center have not only provided African American empowerment, but has encouraged pride throughout all races and cultures.

“May 19th was the birth of Malcolm X and African Americans traditionally celebrate his work because of how he transformed their thinking and also transformed himself as a model,” said Dr. Francine Shakir, culture and arts program director for the Richard Oakes Multicultural Center who led the organization of the event.

The event kicked off at noon with various activities including poetry, diversity exercises and presentations from Greek organizations in the Malcolm X Plaza. Emcees Anthony Amaro and Roson Muhammad kept the flow going throughout the day.

“We wanted this event to bring awareness and get people more engaged. I think today was good motivation for students to do so,” said Anthony Amaro, who hosted the event. “The only way you’ll create something is through your voice. That’s what we are trying to achieve today.”

Nicholas Ross, thought “this mural celebration is about unity within the black community, and just letting people know they have support no matter what campus they’re on.”

However, the current mural is not the first version. The first portrayal was painted on Malcolm X’s birthday May 19, 1994, by a local artist. The initial mural incorporated the face of Malcolm X surrounded by dollar signs, Stars of David and skulls and crossbones and was considered by many to be anti-semitic. A series of paintbrush wars between administration and students defending the original mural broke out after the president of the University at the time, Robert A. Corrigan, ordered the mural to be removed entirely.

After students camped out under the mural in defense, during finals week, the debacle finally came to an end when a crew under police protection sandblasted the mural off the wall to prevent students from recovering the original piece. Two years later, a new Malcolm X mural was unveiled that depicted two separate images of Malcolm X next to a silhouette of the African continent inside which, painted in black, is the United States. In the bottom left corner, muralists Norberg and Ayubbi inscribed a quote from Malcolm X: “Our objective is complete freedom, justice and equality By Any Means Necessary.”

“I hope people gain a better understanding of the truth, struggle, strength and resilience of people of African descent,” said author Dr. Joy Degruy while explaining her expectations for the event.