Inland Empire civil rights museum underneath building in Riverside – Press Enterprise

An institute that will highlight the historic efforts of residents of the Inland Empire to advance civil rights and advocate modern civil rights concerns is coming to downtown Riverside.

The Civil Rights Institute in California’s interior, which will serve Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is under construction on the US $ 43 million Mission Heritage Plaza on Mission Inn Avenue.

The institute will share the first floor of the building with a large conference room called the Bank of America Diversity Center, which can seat 150 people, and an office for Riverside County’s Fair Housing Council, said Rose Mayes, vice president of the institute and executive director of the Rates.

Lalit Acharya, treasurer of the institute and president of the Riverside Mahatma Gandhi Peace Foundation, said that 72 affordable housing units will be available on the second, third, fourth and fifth floors, 25 of them for veterans.

Construction is expected to be completed in late spring 2022, and the complex will open shortly thereafter, Mayes said.

  • From left: Lalit Acharya, Rose Mayes, and Angel Rodriguez can be seen on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at the site of the future Civil Rights Institute in inland Southern California. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • From left, Lalit Acharya, Rose Mayes, and Angel Rodriguez visit the Civil Rights Institute website for the Southern California interior in downtown Riverside on Wednesday, February 10, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

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  • From left, Lalit Acharya, Rose Mayes, and Angel Rodriguez can be seen on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 as the Civil Rights Institute is built in inland Southern California. The new library in downtown Riverside is in the background. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • From left: Lalit Acharya, Rose Mayes and Angel Rodriguez, seen on Wednesday February 10, 2021 helped develop the idea behind the Inland Southern California Civil Rights Institute, which is being built in downtown Riverside. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

  • Lalit Acharya (left) and Rose Mayes (Wednesday, February 10, 2021) created the idea of ​​the Civil Rights Institute in inland Southern California. It will be part of the 92,000-square-foot Mission Heritage Plaza in downtown Riverside, which will include 72 affordable residential units. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise / SCNG)

Angel Rodriguez, board member of the institute, said the project was largely Mayes and Acharya’s vision.

“We found that people had no place to learn about the region’s rich civil rights history,” Acharya said. “We realized that we need a space in which all of this can be brought together.”

The region got some sort of preview a few months ago with the unveiling of a half-block-long mural featuring civil rights icons like John Lewis, the famous Georgia congressman who passed away in July. Lewis led about 600 protesters on a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, which formed the basis for the passage of the voting law later that year.

Acharya said the institute will be located next to Riverside’s new main library and the Fox Performing Arts Center.

“We’re in a very desirable place,” he said.

In front of the building along Mission Inn Avenue will be a line of pavers honoring civil rights pioneers who come from or have ties to the Riverside and San Bernardino counties. So far, Mayes said, people have bought cobblestones to celebrate 40 people on a regional civil rights trail.

At the institute’s museum, visitors can examine exhibits and artifacts about these local heroes, Mayes and Acharya said.

Examples are César Chavez, the famous advocate of better working conditions for farm workers; Dalip Singh Saund, the first Indian American to be elected to Congress; Lulamae Clemons, nurse, public health director and pioneer in equal education; Jack Clarke Sr., the first African American to be elected to the Riverside County Board of Education and Riverside City Council; and Tomàs Rivera, the first minority chancellor of a UC campus when he took over the helm at UC Riverside, according to the institute’s website.

“These people made a difference,” Mayes said.

The museum won’t be static.

“As we grow we will add heroes,” said Acharya.

People will have the opportunity to expand the area’s civil rights history, Acharya said. A media center, for example, offers the possibility of making video recordings of “unsung heroes”.

“There are so many people that we don’t know who contributed in their own quiet ways,” he said.

The conference room offers community groups a place to meet and discuss current issues.

The institute, Acharya said, “will be the voice of civil rights.”

Mayes said it will be a place to celebrate too.

“We’re going to celebrate our diverse community,” she said as the region marks Black History Month. “It’s about unity, diversity and inclusion.”

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