Late in 2016 I posted on the time/weather/vine-ravaged mural that has a date with the wrecking ball at the former offices of the Center for Independent Living (CIL) on Telegraph.
I am sad to see it go, but will find strength in what remains behind, which in this case is a collection of fabulous public art at the Ed Roberts Campus – 3075 Adeline directly east of the Ashby BART station. The Ed Roberts Campus is a nonprofit corporation formed by seven organizations that share a common history in the independent living movement of people with disabilities. It is named after Ed Roberts, a founder of the independent living movement in Berkeley.
Disability rights historian Ken Stein, an early staff member at CIL, arranged the tour. When you step inside the Ed Roberts Campus, a spiral ramp winds up to the second floor.
A photographic mural named “Patient No More” winds its way up the ramp, documenting and celebrating the 1977 Section 504 sit-in. It includes photos by Anthony Tusler, HolLyn D’Lil, the San Francisco Examiner archives, and the Bancroft Library.
Margit Stange of Berkeleyside wrote of the sit-in: “On April 5, 1977, disability rights protesters marching on San Francisco’s federal building spontaneously transformed a sit-in into a 26-day occupation, achieving the longest sit-in of a federal office building to date. Four years earlier, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 made it illegal for federally funded facilities or programs to discriminate against disabled people. But Joseph Califano, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), failed to issue regulations to implement Section 504. By 1977, angered and impatient, a coalition of activists launched protests across the country. San Francisco’s occupation of the HEW Building at 50 United Nations Plaza became the focal point of the protest. Enduring hardships, deprivations and medical risks, the occupiers dug in, finally emerging to join an April 30, 1977, victory rally after Secretary Califano signed the proposed 504 regulations unchanged.”
Corbett O’Toole talked us through the individual photos. She is a disability rights activist and author who worked at the Center for Independent Living from 1973 to 1976 at the beginning of a long career that brought the issues of gender and being queer into the movement for disability rights. And she sat in the Federal Building for 26 days.
She identified the people in each photograph and told their backstories.
Last year, Ken Stein, himself one of the 504 demonstrators, staged and took this “then and now” photograph showing Judy Heumann.
Disability rights luminary Judy Heumann, who along with Kitty Cone was one of the organizers of the sit-in, was at that time deputy director of the Center for Independent Living. In subsequent years, she worked on disability rights issues for the World Bank as well as the Clinton and Obama State Departments. The “then” photograph is by HolLynn D’Lil, whose book Becoming Real in 24 Days documents the history of the sit-in.
We left the photographic collage/mural and met Dmitri Belser, president of the campus and executive director of the Center for Accessible Technology.
He showed us several hundred of more than 3000 hand-painted masonite tiles in the Campus collection. They are stunning, every one of them, and the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Fran Velesco had the original idea for the tiles. What a great idea!
Ready for some close-ups, Mr. DeMille?
Mark O’Brien, a polio survivor, was portrayed in “Sessions” by John Hawkes, with Helen Hunt playing the sexual surrogate who helped O’Brien fulfill his determination not to die a virgin.
The photograph shows the CIL staff in 1975. Sadly, according to Stein, more than a third of the people in that picture have since passed away.
Here is a close-up within the close-up:
The center tile here is an artistic depiction of bipolar disorder.
“Quiet Strength” is a celebration of the artist’s mother whose arthritis did not contain or define her.
“Quasimodo” was the nom de plume (and name of the eponymous column in Grassroots newspaper) of early CIL employee and 504 demonstrator Michael Willliams, His work revolved around augmented communications (the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language).
In 2011, the Campus installed a smaller group of larger versions of some of the interior tiles on the eastern exterior of the Campus.
Dmitri took us outside to see them.
I will miss the old CIL mural. It reflects the values of our dear old Berkeley, honoring those who fought for their rights.
But, as a friend pointed out, not all is lost when it comes to our dear new Berkeley. Those who are moving here are still choosing Berkeley, not Orinda and not Marin and not Walnut Creek. The public art at Ed Roberts Campus is vibrant and celebrates life and struggle. This is why we love Berkeley and even when saddened by what seems to be senseless and aesthetically lacking development, we choose to stay.
I asked my friend to look at the photos and give me his impression. He took the time to click on many of the photos, going to full-screen mode. He slipped back to his living quarters and returned in a couple minutes with this button.
“You can see in one of the photos – Frank Moore was there. He didn’t usually hang with the political crowd. I think he was probably recruiting for his shaman deal.”
Okay, okay. What about the post, my friend?