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The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling exhibit series celebrates California’s rich cultural and artistic histories and dynamic changing demographics. Multi-generational storytelling and testimonials articulated in this exhibit through a variety of visual media. 

WordsUncaged: Voices from inside Lancaster Prison

In the United States, 49,000 people are currently serving life without parole sentences. The thoughts, hopes, and dreams of prisoners are silenced the moment their sentence is delivered, and the prison door slams shut. We forget that a change in environment doesn’t strip you of your emotions and your ability to grow as an individual. Prisoners still feel happiness, sorrow, and remorse as we do. WordsUncaged is an attempt to explore those silenced feelings.

WordsUncaged is a creative platform created by the men of A-Yard California State Prison, Lancaster, most of whom are serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole (LWOP),  envisioned by California State University, Los Angeles professor Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, and funded by California Humanities. Its purpose is for incarcerated artists, writers, students, and poets to critically engage in dialogue with members of the public through portraits, paintings, and oral and written history. The project began as a journal with a collection of creative and autobiographical stories, poems, and visual art made by some of the incarcerated men in California State Prison, Lancaster and has since expanded into an art exhibit and a second journal.

See below for a video of the opening reception on May 17, 2018 with remarks from WordsUncaged Project Director Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy and Jon Grobman, a life without parole (LWOP) inmate recently pardoned by Governor Jerry Brown, as well as a live musical performance by Tim Stafford playing original songs inspired by his conversations with Lancaster Prison inmates.

This exhibit has been extended and is available to view through the end of 2018 at the California Humanities office at 538 9th Street, 2nd floor, Oakland, CA. To schedule an appointment, please contact jfry@calhum.org.

See below for a video of a panel held at the WordsUncaged exhibit reception on September 27, 2018 including opening remarks from the project director and professor at California State University Los Angeles,  Dr. Bidhan  Chandra Roy, and special remarks from Travielle Craig Pope, DeAngelo McVay, and Jon Grobman – three men who were serving Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) sentences until recently when Governor Jerry Brown pardoned them.

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Bradley Joe G. Arrowood, age 48, admitted 1995

Photo credit: F. Scott Schafer

I am Bradley Joe G.  Arrowood.  I am responsible for the death of Mark Albanese in 1993. I was 23 years old and sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole the “Walking Dead” I became. I had nothing left to live for. I had self fulfilled the prophecy of my father that I was worthless and would amount to nothing. In 1996 I quit drugs and returned to church. I quickly realized that everything  bad in my life was by my choices to use, sell, and collect money for drugs. In  2000, I found out I had a daughter in the foster care system. Another victim of my actions. I now realized that if my daughter was a victim, what about Mark’s children, Mark’s family, witnesses, my community and society itself; where does it all end…. I was ashamed I had done all this. From that point on I knew that I had to change forever. I had to be better for others, not just myself.  I started with life skills, parenting and anger management classes. I started going back to school.I had to make sure if my life was over, someone else’s would not be. I killed a man and cannot undo this, but I can still change; I did change; and I am giving back.


Remorseful and ashamed of myself

A college graduate

A Cal State University, Los Angeles Student

Saving dogs’ lives who were slated for death

Training Service Dogs for Military Veterans

diagnosed with PTSD

A College  and GED tutor

An example of change for others to follow

A community minded person

A loving Father and Grandfather


and now I have hope too. The Governor of California has granted me mercy, based upon  change, education, helping juveniles, Veterans and other prisoners; has commuted my sentence to Life With the possibility of Parole to allow me to prove myself to the Board of Parole Hearings.

An excerpt from WordsUncaged the book written by  Bradley:

I have been, and continue to be, reintroduced to the uncomplicated, joyful colors of my humanity.

Tobias Alfonso Tubbs, age 47, admitted 1993

Photo credit: F. Scott Schafer

I identified me as a man who has grown tremendously in the last three decades. A man who regardless of being   sentenced to death, housed in the most horrendous and terrifying conditions positively changed his life, and helped others change their lives. Identify me as a man who has reconnected to his humanity and fully understands  the preciousness of all living beings. Please identify me as a man who has taking full advantage of the time allotted to me to address the childhood fears, shame, trauma, and hyper-vigilance that lead me to point I assisted in taken of human life. Identify me as a person who totally dedicated to a life of atonement, amends, and service. I am a man who has cultivated his talents, skills and gifts though  higher education, intense rehabilitative efforts and profound spiritual endeavor. Please identify me as a man who offers loving-kindness, critical consciousness, vision and voice to every space he enters. Lastly, identify me as a man if, when, I return to my community, know that I am humbled, appreciative, and driven by emotional literacy, holding tremendous social capital.  Thank you!

Tobias Alfonso Tubbs was sentenced to serve 27 years, LWOP commuted to 25 to Life (juvenile offender).
An excerpt from WordsUncaged the book written by Tobias:

Prior to my incarceration, my life reflected that of a productive law-abiding citizen. I was not gang-affiliated, nor did I have a criminal record. I wore many hats: I was a youth mentor working with a  police basketball league, a co-business owner with my father (electrical construction), a coach, a social activist, a junior mentor at my church, high school graduate, a loved son, big brother, stepdad, and  pillar of my community.

Hidden amongst those admirable qualities, was a young man that exercised inexplicably poor  judgment. Misguided trust put me on the path of destruction. Innocent lives, like candlelight, were extinguished in an appalling wave of devastation, shattering countless lives in its wake. Twenty-six years of relentless remorse and pain have driven me to better myself, to prove I am worthy of redemption. This is when Critical Pedagogue One, or CP¹, was born.

Tin Tri Nguyen, age 45, admitted 1995

Photo credit: F. Scott Schafer

Within my Prison Blues

P24706 was 24 when he committed a horrific crime, and was incarcerated at the age of 25. He was scared, hurt, angry and fill with hate. He was “dumber than cow; lets’ hope he is good with his hands,” thus, insecure. He was a gang member , drug addict and criminal; “He’s either gonna  be buried under dirt or concrete.” He was an inmate, convict or CDCR prisoner; “He’s an animal; lets lock him up.”

Beyond Prison Blues

Tin is a son, brother, uncle and friend. He is loving, kind, and gentle.  He is honest and trustworthy. He has compassion, patient and empathy. He is intelligent and is a student at CalState LA. He is a tutor for fellow inmates who wish to acquire their GED or AA/BA degree. He is a service dog trainer for veterans with PTSD, and a mentor for Paws For Life (PFL) newer members. He is a human being, a man.

I Am

I am serving “The Other Death Penalty,” Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP). I am a living amends with an apologetic heart for the crime I committed against  Mr. Stanko Vuckovic , families friends, and the community. I am remorseful. I am a Catholic, and regardless of who I am, or where I am, my place is next to God. There, I am hopeful; I am happy; there I am alive and I know I will be alright.

I am my past and present, and with positive changes, I will make my future.

An excerpt from WordsUncaged the book written by Tin:

Coming to America at a young age was confusing to him. He was trapped between the generation of Vietnamese refugees that knew they were Vietnamese, and the generation of Vietnamese Americans that were born here. At the age of five, he had to learn a new language, but he did not yet understand his first language. Trying to learn his ABC’s at school, and speaking Vietnamese at home was taking its toll. He would rather play marbles. Falling behind in his English as he grew. His family was too busy (earning monthly rent) to teach young Tin proper Vietnamese. The community labeled him unintelligent. Through the years, he heard comments ranging from “dumber than a cow” to (in its most polite form) “some are good with their brain, and some are good with their hands. You’re the latter.” Using this as his justification, he decided school was not for him. This is the heart of Tin’s insecurity.

Charlie Praphatananda, age 41, admitted 2001

Photo credit: F. Scott Schafer

In 2008, I earned my A.A. degree, and in 2009 I co-founded the inmate activity group A.C.E. (Achieving College Education) which supports indigent inmates       enrolled in the Coastline program and I started  volunteering  my time to tutor inmates studying for their  GED. In 2012, I co-founded the inmate activity group H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Everyone Attain Real Transformation).  And I co-founded the peer-to-peer group  F.O.L.C.C. (For Our Local Community Charities) which  donates crocheted items. I am an activist in the struggle to abolish LWOP, and to end the oppressive nature  of the Prison Industrial Complex. I am a pro-active and valued member of The Other Death Penalty Project (T.O.D.P.P.) a non-profit organization that fights to get the word out that LWOP is not just a death sentence, it’s a cruel death

sentence that needs to be abolished.  In 2013, I was  featured in T.O.D.P.P.’s anthology Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough (available on amazon.com or at www.theotherdeathpenalty.org). In 2016, I was also one of the first prisoners selected to be in the pilot cohort of incarcerated Cal-State-L.A. students. I continue my living amends through charitable work and crocheting for those in need, while mentoring my nieces and nephews in the  importance and power their choices have.


My identity is that of a Son, a Brother, the world’s greatest Uncle, and an Activist in the struggle to end the inhuman sentence of LWOP, a Cal State-L.A. Student, an Innovator, Creator, and a Crocheter.

I am a Man, who has flaws, who makes mistakes, and who struggles daily to make amends to the community I have harmed. I am Charlie Praphatananda, not T-05163, but a Human Being.

Lorenzo James Flores, age 42 , admitted 1998

Photo credit: F. Scott Schafer

I am Lorenzo James Flores. I am 42 years of age. I was   incarcerated at the age of 21. I was sentenced to 3  consecutive 20 year gun enhancement (that is 25 to life, plus life, plus life, plus 20 years).

The insight of my life has awakened me. Wrong choices are a matter of life and death; the grave or life in prison. The right choices I now make, lead me to a life of service unto others. My main concern is our at-risk youth who come from broken homes as I did. I will continue to work,  intervene, counsel, and find some way to detour our youth from ending up in prison for life. I will continue to do this work from in here and when I come home if I am granted a second chance. I am sorry for the wrong I have done to the community and to our country as a whole. I find solace  living a life of amends. Thank you for listening.

Roel Escobar, age 67, admitted 1990, Recreation

Chris Branscombe, age 43, admitted 1996, Mother and Son

Mother and Son is taken from a photo of Allen Burnett, one of the WordsUncaged writers at Lancaster. It is painted from a picture of Allen and his mother in South LA to commemorate her passing while Allen was still in prison – both men currently have life with parole sentences.

I am Life Without Parole, J30016
I am whosoever will.
I am changing.

I am her Daddy, her big brother, her grandson.
I am husband, love of my life.

I am their inspiration and motivation, the example – their example.

I am leading, learning, and growing, i am Black / Asian,
California multicultural.

I am change.
I am Allen Burnett.

Brian Hefner, age 54, admitted 1983, Through a Mother’s Eye

This painting symbolizes a mother watching the scene in the final moments leading up to her son’s execution. Even in this moment, being present shows the Mother’s support.

Sadiqu Saibu, age 34, admitted 2007, State of Mind

The painting is a combination of a “happy accident” and a “screw you.” The painting underneath was a tank scene I painted for a commission of a Correctional Officer, and he flaked me. Also, I always wanted to do a painting of Malcolm X, and I became tired of waiting on the C.O…so I started painting over the tank scene and my co-workers told me to stop and look at what I was doing.

​I started to see how both paintings began to meld together and what it started to say to me, “conflict between politics and religion.”

Chris Branscombe, age 43, admitted 1996, Entangled Illumination

This is about transformation and being thrashed between our primal urges and conscious mind. We have all experienced this in some way only to find that we cannot accept our actions or do not find them as fulfilling as the fantasy that produced them. Sometimes an action is so all consuming  it destroys that part of the person utterly. In its place is born insanity or enlightenment… Such things can be hard to distinguish at times, outwardly anyway. So this is a vision of madness and enlightenment. Much like Tibetan mandalas sacred moments can be quite ugly & contradictory.  We are the product of how we see our short-comings. The idea of perfection is the illusion and the seed of all real failure.


Chris Branscombe, age 43, admitted 1996
Chris Mann, age 44, admitted 1995

Life Without parole (LWOP) offers no hope or path to redemption. Cast aside like trash — and regarded as such — viewed differently than all mankind and stamped “Irredeemable” by a system built on failure. LWOP inhumanely assess that a human-being is incapable of positive change and lacks the capacity to make a positive  contribution to society. To be permanently defined  by a    moment in time — a singular senseless act, lacks the practical purpose to rehabilitate or serve society. The purpose for labeling something is to be able to quickly identify it. In prison we are labeled and transformed into a commodity… no longer human beings; we are inmates. If the outside world sees my self-rehabilitation, desire to change,   or the value I have developed; the Department of Corrections ensures that the stencil on my clothes “CDCR PRISONER” announces that I’m labeled as IRREDEEMABLE.

Brian Hefner, age 54, admitted 1983, Transcendence

My painting is a symbolical representation of my own struggles in understanding what kind of man I want to commit to being and building the courage to live in this better way, even in the face of all opposition.


Kwebb, age 27, admitted 2011, Queen Kunta

This is a portrait of the sun, moon, and constellations, light the darkness,  embodiment of god’s creation. She is beauty in the flesh; she is every synonym of love that exists.This is my heart, my love, my best friend.


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Exhibit Opening

Pictures from the Field

Miriam Pawel, 2016
All images © 1975-2016 Mimi Plumb

In the summer of 1975, a young photography student spent months in the Salinas Valley, watching farmworkers make history. Mimi Plumb shot dozens of rolls of 35 mm film, packed all the negatives up in boxes, and went on to a distinguished career as an artist and educator. But she never forgot that summer. When she retired from teaching, Plumb went back to the boxes of negatives with the hundreds of images she had captured four decades earlier.

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Cesar Chavez speaking at a labor camp in Salinas, August 2, 1975

On July 1, 1975, Cesar Chavez set out to walk 1,000 miles across California, from the U.S. – Mexico border north along roads that bordered tomato, strawberry, and lettuce fields, citrus orchards and vineyards – the places where farmworkers would soon make history. In two months, they would be able to petition for state-sponsored elections and cast secret ballots for the union of their choice. Chavez planned the route of his Caminata (the march) to pass through dozens of towns, so he could talk to workers in small groups along the way to explain how the law worked and how it might change their lives.  In the evenings, the United Farm Workers (UFW) held larger rallies. The first section of the march started in San Ysidro and culminated a month later in Salinas after a ten-day walk through the Salinas Valley, home to the largest number of farmworkers.

Cesar Chavez is pictured here speaking at a labor camp outside Salinas during the Caminata. Salvador Bustamante (far left) was one of the guards who watched over Chavez, who had received various threats over previous years.

Women listening to Cesar Chavez speak at a rally in Oxnard

Women were influential to the farmworker movement grassroots mobilization. Oral history account from Robert Garcia serves as a microcosm of the role women played in the struggle for farmworker rights. In 1970, Robert Garcia was a 27-year-old foreman in the Salinas Valley, making good money. He had worked his way out of the fields and was driving a bus for a large vegetable grower. When the UFW came to the Salinas Valley, the growers refused to negotiate with the union, and thousands of workers walked out of the fields in protest. Robert’s mother, Guadalupe, was one of the first to join the strike.

Robert recalled his mother saying:

‘Mijo, you should join us.’ And I was saying, ‘I don’t need to join anything.’ She said, ‘Don’t you feel there should be justice for us? Don’t you feel that we need to be treated like human beings?’ At that time, I was a foreman. I used to treat farmworkers like dirt, too. I think that the best organizers for some of us in those days were the people that worked for the company. Because there was no respect. They treated farmworkers like machines. 

I had never heard about Cesar before. I wasn’t into all that stuff. I was a foreman for Mann Packing. And my mom and my dad decided to join the farmworkers union, and they wanted me to join the strike. I told my parents, ‘No, you guys do whatever you want to do, I’m going to stay, cause they are going to pay me good money. I’ll continue being a foreman. I don’t care about the strike or anything else. I’ll support you guys, don’t worry about the rent or food or anything, I’ll take care of you guys. You just follow whatever you want to do. That’s on you.’

So I was driving the bus, taking farmworkers who were breaking the strike. One day I saw my dad, picketing at Mann Packing. My dad was holding a picket sign. I saw a sheriff knock him down, take away his huelga flag. He just threw him down. I said, ‘You don’t have to do that. All he’s doing is holding a flag – and you attack him.’ I thought, ‘There’s something wrong with this picture.’ I felt pretty bad; They didn’t need to treat farmworkers like that. They weren’t doing any harm to anybody. All they wanted was better wages, better treatment. So I decided to walk off the job. I told my crew, ‘Let’s go, let’s get out of here. I’m not going to take this.’

My mom was really the inspiration. She was really hard core. She had always been a farmworker, and she knew how they treated them, and I guess she saw something coming that would be better for them. Better pay. They had to go to the bathrooms anyplace, especially the women. The union talked about toilets, and a medical plan, and unemployment for farmworkers. ‘Justice for farmworkers,’ that’s what she said. I remember that. She said, ‘Justice for farmworkers. Finally, there’s someone that has enough courage to stand up and fight for us Mexican farmworkers.’

Everywhere there was a vigil, my mom was there. There was no place the Virgen de Guadalupe walked that she didn’t walk. That was her patron saint.

Chuy Salano speaking with workers in the lettuce fields in Salinas Valley

Forty farmworkers were hired to work fulltime in the Salinas Valley for the UFW in the summer of 1975 to help organize their coworkers and win elections. They were paid token amounts, at most $100 a week, far less than they would have earned in the fields. But for many it was an entry into new, exciting worlds. Chuy Solano (pictured bottom right corner) worked for the UFW to inform workers of their rights in the union during work break periods. He went into the fields before work, during the first break at 9:30 a.m., and for a half hour at lunch time. Just his presence in the fields impressed workers with the power of the new law.

“The people who work under United Farm Workers contracts, we own ourselves. We make our own contracts. We discuss them, negotiate them, sign them. And we enforce them. I know my rights and my benefits. Now it’s time for me to start helping people, to open their eyes and see what’s going on.” – Chuy Salano

Marcher in Salinas Valley

Workers took turns carrying homemade versions of the traditional United Farm Workers flag.The UFW flag featured a black eagle on a red background — the symbol adopted in September 1962 by the first farmworker organization that Chavez and Delores Huerta convened the National Farm Workers Association, the predecessor of the United Farm Workers Union.

“The idea of the march is to try to make all the farmworkers who suffer, all your families, understand that what these days are about is something very important. And we are trying to make this clear in a way that they will then understand that this is so important that we are ready, with you, to make a sacrifice, to walk 1,000 miles, from San Ysidro to Salinas, and from Sacramento to Delano, Bakersfield, La Paz. So in this very palpable way, in a very real way, to honor all the farmworkers, that what these days are about is very important, so important. We are prepared, together with you, to sacrifice so that everyone understands that this is necessary, that we cannot wait, and that all farmworkers who want a union to improve their economic and social life — now is the time.” – Cesar Chavez, August 3, 1975


Cesar Chavez, Camp Roberts, July 26, 1975

On July 26, 1975, the temperature reached 100 degrees and the marchers stopped to rest at Camp Roberts, an old Army base at the southern end of the Salinas Valley. Chavez talked about the importance of the new state law giving farmworkers the right to protected union activity and state-sponsored elections.

Marchers Heading to King City from San Lucas in Salinas Valley, July 29, 1975

Always at the front of the march was a banner with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint and an important cultural symbol for many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

Downtown, Salinas Valley

A worker balancing a tower of boxes twice his height as he walks carefully down the rows of lettuce headed “Downtown” to cities across California and the country. 

Maria Cervantes preparing lunch in Salinas Valley, August 2, 1975

Maria Cervantes is pictured here preparing lunch for Cesar Chavez. Maria opened her Salinas home to union organizers who needed a place to eat or sleep, including Chavez who often stayed there. Chavez walked between ten and twenty miles and then was driven back and forth to rest stops and overnight stays at missions or supporters’ homes.

Mariachi in Greenfield, July 30, 1975

On July 30, 1975, after 29 days and 465 miles, Chavez and the marchers entered the small city of Greenfield and were greeted by mariachis.

Chavez addressed another large audience that night:

“The sixth of June this year, there was a miracle in California. On that day, Governor Brown signed this law. It’s a unique law. The farmworkers’ law. The law gives us hope for a brighter future for ourselves, and many benefits. Brothers and sisters, the time is now! You are creating a campaign, a movement, a consciousness.” 

But they must work to make the law meaningful, he warned:

“The law, then, can be used as a tool. Because the law is not enshrined on a piece of paper. For it to have life, for it to be worth something, for it to mean something, you have to use it. You have to deal with it. If not, nothing will work.”

Mario Bustamante in Salinas Valley

Mario Bustamante had left his home in Mexico City as a teenager to find his father, Salvador, in California. Mario followed his father into working in the lettuce fields, and then a few years later, into the United Farm Workers.

Mario Bustamante (far left) a lettuce-cutter turned union organizer, holding a meeting in his Salinas home. The UFW educated and convened workers in small groups in their homes as well as in the workplace. His 8-year-old daughter, Isaura (center), listened, too; she grew up with a sense of the importance of fighting for social justice. She now works in a migrant education program in Nebraska.

“I learned that people are much more comfortable talking about things in their homes, rather than at work.”  – Mario Bustamante

Children play baseball in a labor camp in Salinas Valley

This image is a perfect example of how family life in farmworker communities continued amidst the struggle for social change and justice.

I have six girls. I never got them involved in big things for the union. Honestly, my wife didn’t like it. She never was opposed to me doing what I did, and I thank her for that support. She saw it was something good for the whole family. But she didn’t want to get involved. I took my daughters, when they were little, I took them to knock doors, walk with me in the streets and get the vote out sometimes. Because the union wasn’t only organizing in the fields, we were organizing for change in the political system. I tried to engage them in that kind of process to see those things I was doing, to motivate them to be involved. But the union stuff, not so much. 

But they were looking at me all the time. I had the flyers all the time in my car, all the things I was carrying. They knew what I was doing, they saw me everywhere. I didn’t know how much, until they grew up. My older daughter went to San Jose State, and then she decided to become a social worker. At one point we were talking and she was talking about people’s needs, and I said, why are you doing this? She said, ‘Papi, you don’t realize it, but we’ve watched you, and you had an impact on us. We were influenced by what you had done with your life. So without you saying anything, or telling us what to do, and even though we didn’t say anything to you, we have seen all that you did. And that motivated me to do something, on a different level, but similar in that it is also about helping people. – Sabino Lopez, Organizer

Men sewing a flag in Salinas Valley

Workers from each of the dozens of ranches in the Salinas Valley designed and sewed flags with the name of their company to demonstrate the depth of support for the UFW. They assembled the flags in the Salinas UFW office to prepare for the arrival of the Caminata in the valley.

Teatro Campesino performer in Salinas Valley

The Teatro Campesino was born on the picket lines of the grape strike in Delano in 1965, when Luis Valdez returned to his hometown and began teaching farmworkers to improvise skits thateducated and entertained.

A decade later, the theater troupe had achieved international acclaim and settled in what would become its long-term home, San Juan Bautista, just north of the Salinas Valley. Though independent of the UFW, the Teatro continued to supported la Causa and performed frequently at union rallies.

One thing had not changed, The Teatro’s blend of pointed humor in improvised skits that lampooned growers and authority figures. They used humor to reduce the powerful to the very human, to help overcome fears and instill in farmworkers a sense of their own power.

Agricultural Relations Labor Board office, Salinas, September 2, 1975

Union lawyer Sandy Nathan (center, in hat and glasses) and UFW organizer Rosa Saucedo (in hat) on the morning the Agricultural Relations Labor Board office opened filing a petition for an election at the D’Arrigo Company.

At 8:00 a.m. when the office opened, the UFW’s rival, the Teamsters union, tried to sneak in to file the first petitions. But the workers who had waited all night in the cold swarmed in protest, determined to achieve this symbolic first. After the UFW prevailed, organizer Marshall Ganz and attorney Sandy Nathan addressed the waiting crowd:

“We have just filed 19 petitions for Oxnard, Santa Maria, and Salinas, representing 5,500 to 6,000 workers,” reported Marshall.

“We’ve got one week to keep working on these ranches – and then all the other ranches in the valley, and we’re going to need everyone’s help to get the elections done in the next five, six, seven days,” said Sandy

A man writing in labor camp in Salinas Valley

There are so many people who have yet to be identified in Mimi Plumb’s collection from Salinas Valley. Some worked for the UFW as organizers or in the fields; others attended union marches and rallies. In some cases, we have a name, without any more information. For most, not even that. Since they are an important part of history, author and journalist Miriam Pawel – the creator of the Democracy in the Fields website (demointhefields.com) – is asking for any information you might have about the gentleman pictured or others featured in the on website.

Artichoke farmworkers in Salinas

Three months after the Agricultural Labor Relations Act was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on June 6, 1975, the first elections to unionize farmworkers were held on September 5, 1975 at the Molera Farms Company, a small artichoke ranch in Salinas, California. Vidal Oseguera, a farmworker at Molera Farms, had organized his 14 coworkers and had each of them sign a card so they could petition for an election. By chance, their vote was scheduled first. The brand new state agency set up the polls in a shed on the farm. 

Vidal Oseguera was close to tears as he explained how he organized his fellow workers:

“There were few of us, and we knew that people in the union were working very hard at the larger companies. The workers at all the small companies should be able to organize themselves, because that way we will have greater strength, and that way we will win.” 

During the first month alone, more than 30,000 farmworkers voted in 1975 elections around California. Over the next few months, hundreds more elections took place – more in the Salinas Valley than any other region.  More than 9,000 votes were cast for the UFW, 5,300 votes were castfor the Teamsters, and 2,000 votes for No Union.

March on Gallo in East Oakland

Several hundred members of the United Farm Workers of America began a 110‐mile march in Union Square, San Francisco to focus attention on their nationwide boycott of Gallo wines. The march was a part of the boycott against Gallo winery in Modesto, the nation’s largest winery. The boycott started in the summer of 1973 when Gallo decided not to renew its contract with the farmworkers and signed instead with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with whom the farmworkers union has been competing to organize the state’s field hands for a decade. The march featured rallies in six cities — Oakland, Hayward, Pleasanton, Livermore, Tracy, and Manteca — between San Francisco and Modesto, with farmworkers staying in the homes and churches of local supporters.

Mario Hernandez in Salinas Valley

Mario Hernandez taking a turn leading the march, carrying the banner with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who first appeared to an indigenous peasant on a hilltop outside Mexico City in 1531.

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This exhibit ran from October 19, 2017 – March 29, 2018

Exhibit Opening

Exhibit Closing

RYSE: Richmond Youth Raise Their Voices

The third installation in The Art of Storytelling featured the work of youth from the RYSE Center in Richmond, California. RYSE creates safe places for grounded in social justice for young people to love, learn, educate, heal and transform lives and communities. 

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Francisco Rojas Meraz, Age 21

Keeping the phrase “No soy de aqui ni de alla” meaning “not from here nor there” in his mind, having to be a Chicano from the Bay Area, juggling culture, tradition, and contemporary social problems. These are common themes that come to mind in his creative thinking process to produce work that is not only meaningful and healing to him but as well yells out a statement or brings some sort of connection to a specific community of people.


Francisco Rojas Meraz, Age 21

Keeping the phrase “No soy de aqui ni de alla” meaning “not from here nor there” in his mind, having to be a Chicano from the Bay Area, juggling culture, tradition, and contemporary social problems. These are common themes that come to mind in his creative thinking process to produce work that is not only meaningful and healing to him but as well yells out a statement or brings some sort of connection to a specific community of people.


Francisco Rojas Meraz, Age 21

Keeping the phrase “No soy de aqui ni de alla” meaning “not from here nor there” in his mind, having to be a Chicano from the Bay Area, juggling culture, tradition, and contemporary social problems. These are common themes that come to mind in his creative thinking process to produce work that is not only meaningful and healing to him but as well yells out a statement or brings some sort of connection to a specific community of people.


Transparency Portrait Series Artist Statements

These portraits were created to show youth voices as layers of affirmations to remind oneself to reflect on personal growth. Each art piece was created for the viewer to interact with, learn and get a glimpse of the multifaceted experiences of young people in Richmond. Each one showcases their own individual styles of poetic thoughts and the different layers of self as people see us and who we are inside. Feel free to lift the transparent portrait photographs to interact with each piece as their own identities and inner art works.

Jakia Kiel, Age 17

Jakia Kiel was introduced to the arts by the artist Aware and the filmmaker Gemikia Henderson at RYSE Youth Center. She has been a multimedia artist involved in video production for four years. Jakia’s artistic style is laid back and chill and she challenges herself to try new mediums. Jakia’s artistic influence is Justin Bieber, because he shows her never to give up and to always try new things in life. Her plans for the future are going to college, pursuing video, becoming a doctor and joining the Air Force. Her video You’re Not Alone (2016) won Honorable Mention at RYSE’s second annual Truth be Told: Justice Through my Eyes Film Festival

Jakia was inspired to create this particular piece of artwork to show her purpose in life. She found out that art creation process is not easy but it’s worth it in the end. This piece of art tells the story that everyone on this planet has a purpose in life.

Free Your Dream

Isaiah Grant, Age 17

Isaiah Grant, 17, strives to overcome racism and defy stereotypes. He was introduced to the arts by coming to the RYSE Youth Center, and has been influences bymentors like Vero and Agana who introduced him to new artistic medium and styles. Isaiah describes his artistic style as constantly learning and improving his work by appreciating the imperfections and process. What makes him unique as an artist is how he combines his spoken word poetry into his art and it impacts people by connecting his community. Isaiah goes with the flow and follows his own creative inspirations. He sees himself as a film producer in film festivals to tell your stories to a larger audience through media production.

What inspired Isaiah to create the Free Your Dream art piece was to tell his story to the audience even when he is not present. He learned how important is is to Free Your Dreams through creating art. Isaiah wants to address social issues in this art piece to break stereotypes about people of color. Isaiah wants people that see his art piece and feel empowered, inspired, and like they are a whole new person.

I Can’t Draw

Sterling Gilder, Age: 18

Sterling describes her life as truly blessed. Despite dark memories and nightmares, she is finding happiness. Her interest in music was inspired by her parents: her mother enjoyed musicals and her father listened to Sade and NWA. Sterling is inspired by rap and R&B, especially the Bay Area’s hyphy movement, but she also dabbles in jazz and alternative. Sterling began performing spoken word towards the end of high school, competing in Youth Speak’s annual Teen Poetry Slam. She plans to release her own music and help artist manage their brands, and collaborate with other artists.

Sterling was inspired to create this piece while participating in the Graffiti Mural Art Workshop at RYSE Youth Center. She wrote some of her favorite songs in small letters on the canvas.

Shania’s World

Shania Williams, Age 17

Having MS has been a challenge that Shania overcame by drawing, writing and dancing, and keeping a positive mindset. Her mother introduced her to the arts by pointing out all the positive aspects about Frida Kahlo, Picasso, and other fine artists. Her artistic style is all about passion. Shania is a unique artist because she brings authenticity and her full self. She will be attending a four-year university and getting her bachelors in Marine Biology and astronomy.

Shania was feeling her poetic voice over her artwork and self-portrait. When you read it sparks an emotion of making you feel good inside.

 Richmond Renaissance

RYSE’s third annual youth-led theatrical production, Richmond Renaissance, took the stage at the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater on May 6 and 7. The play is set in AnnaBelle’s, a Black-owned juke joint in 1940s North Richmond. The play, written by DeAndre Evans,  explores issues of racism, post-traumatic stress, domestic violence, colorism, and self-love. Richmond Renaissance celebrates overcoming past trauma, and inspires hope, pride, and purpose for the future, particularly for the city’s young residents. The production also engaged youth in mediums besides acting, including: video production, stagecraft and lighting, photography and other visual arts mediums.

Artist Bio

Daioge Martin, Age 17

Daioge Martin shatters the barriers and stereotypes of lower income Black males as more than just incarcerated numbers and death toll statistics. Daioge found his creativity by adding multiple colors to an image or shape, making it an emotional feeling of what he wants to express inside based on his current emotions. Painting was a medium he was introduced to and found that while painting he finds himself at ease. Daioge finds his own meaning and interpretations of simple different shapes such as one circle. His inspiration was his uncle, who despite his disabilities, created artwork for him. He plans to become a barber to fund his way through college to study social work and business.

Daioge learned to turn photographic images into his own unique interpretations and styles. The portraits portray the hidden meaning of the stories within the character connecting our past present and future stories.

Golden Mind & Pride & Purpose

Marisol Lara, Age 17

Marisol Lara is a queer Xicana intersectional feminist, artist, poet and photographer from Richmond, California. She is planning to attend California College of the Arts or community college and then transfer. Marisol likes to experiment and practice with different mediums. She does not like to stick with one specific kind of medium because as an artist, she believes that she is always adapting, growing and changing like a butterfly. Marisol wants to continue to participate in art shows and exhibitions and she hopes to eventually have her own art shows and exhibitions one day in the future. She also wants to travel all over the world while creating murals on her own or with the youth in different places and hopefully teach them. Marisol wants to influence, inspire and impact people of color in a positive same way like Frida Kahlo did for her. She loves herself and her flaws. Marisol is not afraid to express herself and embrace her indigenous roots. She wants her people to know that they’re capable of anything that they desire to be as long as they set their mind to it.

Pride & Purpose

Marisol wanted to show that black women during World War II were hardworking riveters, not just white women. Women of color do not receive enough credit for their participation.

Golden Mind

Marisol created her second stencil image using a portrait of Deandre Evans who wrote the script and starred in two main roles of Richmond Renaissance. She chose the colors gold because he has a golden mind full of inspiration, she painted the poppy flowers to connect the roots that connect us to California.

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This exhibit ran from May 18 –September 28, 2017

Exhibit Opening


Exhibit Closing


Favianna Rodriguez

The second installation in The Art of Storytelling series features the work of Oakland-based artist and cultural organizer, Favianna Rodriguez. Her art and collaborative projects deal with migration, global politics, economic injustice, patriarchy, and interdependence. These vibrant and powerful pieces help create a dialogue about gender, race, identity, and immigration.

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Favianna Rodriguez: The Artist Must FightThe Artist Must Fight

Dimension: 24 x 18 inches
Medium: Limited Edition Screenprint Year: 2009

This piece was inspired by African-American singer, actor, and scholar, Paul Robeson, who wrote, “The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery.” I designed this print in the style of Cuban OSPAAL resistance posters from the 60’s and 70’s.

Favianna Rodriguez: Three Women (Yellow)Three Women (Yellow)

Dimension: 16.7 x 11.5 inches
Medium: Digital Print
Year: 2014

I named this piece in honor of Nina Simone’s song, “Four Women.” One of my favorite compositions is to show three individuals, either in profile or facing the viewer. The three characters in this piece embody dignity, fearlessness, and sexiness.


Favianna Rodriguez: Fight RacismFight Racism

Dimension: 24 x 18 inches
Medium: Digital Fine Art Print
Year: 2009

This piece commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, celebrated on March 21. On that date in 1960, more than 60 black demonstrators were killed and about 180 wounded by South African police in South Africa.


Favianna Rodriguez: TransitionTransition

Dimension: 30 x 20 inches
Medium: Digital Fine Art Print
Year: 2010

This piece centers around the themes of change, transition and goal-setting. The central protagonist is a young woman who is imagining the many possibilities which her future offers her. Her hands are open in a manner that alludes to a yoga pose in which the person is opening themselves up to the universe, as an act of meditation. The open hands also symbolize the many practices that one can do with their hands, including music, art, dance, writing, exercise, typing, building, and reading. In the composition, the central figure is grounded and is imagining herself as a writer and as a singer. Behind her is a circle that represents the planet.


Favianna Rodriguez: Occupy SisterhoodOccupy Sisterhood

Dimension: 18 x 12 inches
Medium: Digital Art Print
Year: 2012

I developed this piece as a response to the attacks on women’s reproductive freedom and our right to abortion. Inspired by the leadership of women and queer folks in Occupy, this piece is also a critique of the patriarchy that is alive and well in all branches of our government.


Favianna Rodriguez: The Worldwide Movement To End RacismThe Worldwide Movement To End Racism

Dimension: 24 x 18 inches
Medium: Digital Print
Year: 2009

Racism and white supremacy are prevailing forces in our society and continue to cause inequality, suffering, and institutionalized violence in communities of color. I developed this poster for the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, March 21st. The characters in the piece are singing and working collectively to combat racism.


Favianna Rodriguez: Be StrongBe Strong

Dimension: 12 x 18 inches
Medium: Limited Edition Screenprint
Year: 2009

This piece is about women of color being strong leaders in their community. The shape of the face was hand cut from black construction paper as an experiment. The print is named after one of my favorite Duran Duran songs, “Rio”.


Favianna Rodriguez: Immigration Reform is Central to Women's EqualityImmigration Reform is Central to Women’s Equality

Dimension: 5.25 x 12 inches
Medium: Digital Art Print
Year: 2013

Most migrants are women and children, and this print is a call out to feminists to embrace migration as a women’s issue.


Favianna Rodriguez: Freedom. Justice. Voice. Power.Freedom. Justice. Voice. Power.

Dimension: 17.5 x 12 inches
Medium: Digital Print Reproduction
Year: 2015

Freedom. Justice. Voice. Power…the components of liberation. This piece depicts three empowered people collaborating to transform the world. They move together, because they are more mighty when they are united. They are angry, yet they leverage their emotions to transform their lives. They are thriving despite all the hardships in their path. And they are beautiful, their light is radiant and the complexity of their humanity is limitless. They are fierce, and little by little, they are going to heal our world, with the power of the feminine.

Favianna Rodriguez: Migration is BeautifulMigration is Beautiful

Dimension: 24 x 18 inches
Medium: Offset Poster
Year: 2013

The monarch butterfly has come to represent the beauty of migration. The butterfly symbolizes the right that living beings have to freely move. Like the monarch butterfly, human beings cross borders in search of safer habitats. Like the monarch butterfly, human beings cross borders in order to survive. This sticker is my artistic adaptation of the butterfly. Each wing shows a human profile. The phrase, “Migration is Beautiful,” celebrates the resiliency, courage, and determination of migrants who come in search of their dreams.


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This exhibit ran from February 16 –April 13, 2017

Exhibit Opening


Exhibit Closing


Quilts of Oakland

Our first exhibit featured quilts with an Oakland-themed narrative by members of the African American Quilt Guild of Oakland. From the Black Panthers to the fire of the Oakland/Berkeley Hills, these beautiful and detailed quilts help us to understand and visualize what makes up the unique perspective of Oakland.

The Quilts of Oakland exhibit was open from August 25 –December 28, 2016

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AAQGO: Oak Town Blues - Niambi KeeOak Town Blues – Niambi Kee

41 x 26 Inches

Oak Town Blues represents the many cultures, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic groups that call Oakland “Home,” as does its distinctive and recognizable skyline.

AAQGO: Power to the Peaple - Rosita ThomasPower to the People – Rosita Thomas

40 x 45 Inches

The Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland 50 years ago. This quilt is a tribute to some important, but less well known facts about the Black Panther Party, their community survival programs and 10 Point Platform.

AAQGO: Firestorm - Marion ColemanFirestorm – Marion Coleman

37 x 42 Inches

Firestorm interprets the fire that occurred in the Oakland/Berkeley, CA hills in 1991.


AAQGO: Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame - Ora ClayBlack Filmmakers Hall of Fame – Ora Clay

35 x 43 Inches

The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Inc. (BFHFI) and its co-founder, Mary Perry Smith were the inspiration for this quilt. The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Inc. was a program of the Cultural and Ethnic Affairs Guild of the Oakland Museum of California. The BFHFI held a star studded Oscar Micheaux awards Celebration each February at Oakland’s Paramount Theater from 1973 until 2006.


AAQGO: Oakland There - Sews & Sews Mini GroupOakland There – Sew and Sews Mini Group

33.5 x 71.5 Inches
(Patricia Bailey, Blanche Brown, Marsha Carter, Marilyn Handis, Debbie Mason, Norma Mason, Carolyn Pope, Dolores Vitero Presley, Ann Seals Robinson, Julia Vitero)

“There is no There There,” is the famous misquote of famous author Gertrude Stein (1874- 1946) referring to Oakland, CA.

Nearly 45 years after Ms. Stein lived in Oakland she returned to find that Oakland had urbanized and changed from the pastoral place she remembered.  Her house was no longer there, her school was no longer there, her park was no longer there and her synagogue was no longer there. So for her, there was no longer a there there. The quote was merely an expression of painful nostalgia and not a condemnation of Oakland.

The 10 blocks quilt represent Lake Merritt Pavilion, Fairyland Gates, Oakland Tribune Building, Grand Lake Theater, Port of Oakland, Chinatown, view from the Oakland Hills, Woodminister Park, Lake Merritt Walking Path and the Golden State Warriors.


AAQGO: Un Barrio de Oakland - Ernestine TrilUn Barrio – Ernestine Tril

37 x 37.5 Inches
This piece is inspired by the vibrant life and activity in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, including the business, community services, churches, food and diversity of people.

AAQGO: Trail Blazers - Marion ColemanTrail Blazers – Marion Coleman

37.5 x 52 Inches
This quilt was inspired by the Oakland Black Association parade that is held every October in West Oakland.


AAQGO: West Oakland Blues and Jazz - Norma MasonWest Oakland Blues and Jazz – Norma Mason

35 x 36 Inches
This quilt celebrates the blues and jazz tradition in West Oakland.  The music brought back the sounds, tastes and smells of “back home” in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.


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Exhibit Opening


Exhibit Closing


To learn more about the African American Quilt Guild of Oakland, please click HERE.