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Champions For Humanity.
Champions For Humanity.

Champions For Humanity: Mount Rushmore of California

Field review by the editors.

Oakland, California

Mount Rushmore isn't America's only monumental conglomeration of inspirational heads. Consider the Left Coast alternative, a massive sculptural work titled Remember Them: Champions For Humanity.

Champions For Humanity: pile of heads instilling pride.
Champions For Humanity: pile of heads instilling pride.

Unveiled in stages from 2010 to 2013 in Oakland's Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park, it is the largest bronze monument west of the Mississippi. Champions For Humanity weighs 30 tons and features the heads of 25 people -- some giant, some life-size -- intertwined on a spiraling axis. These are meant to evoke the DNA helix (common to us all).

Sculptor Mario Chiodo was previously known for his statues in Las Vegas and the Oakland Zoo. The events of 9/11 inspired him to build a massive artwork -- 25 feet tall and almost 60 feet wide -- praising people of peace.

Chiodo carefully selected the 25 Champions to include as many religions and nationalities as possible. They are predominantly figures who changed history with their deeds as humanitarians rather than as politicians. The people chosen are often pioneering activists in human rights, now sometimes called Social Justice Warriors. California SJWs are also recognized, standing in lines, hands interlocked with the person on either side, MLK Jr march-style. Large book spines appear as jumbled but inspiring pillars at the base of the sculptures.

Line of shared purpose: California SJWs.
Line of shared purpose: California SJWs.

There's no place on this Mount Rushmore for slaveowners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, or imperialists Teddy Roosevelt or William McKinley (though FDR and Lincoln score perches for their good works). Oddly, war hawk Winston Churchill merits inclusion -- turns out it's for his tenacious fight against Nazi fascism in World War II.

Visitors to the sculpture can expect to see many historical figures that would not have been immortalized in bronze a generation ago. There's Harvey Milk and Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez, Oskar Schindler and Mahatma Gandhi.

Faces perhaps less familiar to the typical American include: Thich Nhat Hanh (buddhist monk human rights activist), Rigoberta Munchu Tum (Latin America human rights activist), Shirin Ebadi (Middle East human rights activist), and the anonymous tank obstructor from Tiananmen Square.

Touchable faces and braille quotations.
Touchable faces and braille quotations.

Hellen Keller, eyes closed, runs her fingers over the ridges and textures of the monument. In a further spirit of inclusion and accessibility, the monument provides special "visually impaired" exhibit walls along the sidewalk, featuring sculpted faces of the 25 champions conveniently low to touch, accompanied by humanitarian quotations in braille.

Plaques bolted around the periphery acknowledge many corporate and civic sponsors. Funding for the entire monument was a reported $9 million.

If you're seeking a somewhat silly association, the agglomeration of heads on the main pieces faintly echoes alien absorption run amok in an '80s sci-fi flick. But this movie monstrosity would be a cluster-lump of the very best of humankind, and would undoubtedly triumph as an instrument of peace, and all would exit the theater with smiles.

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Champions For Humanity: Mount Rushmore of California

Rashida Muhammad St., Oakland, CA
Downtown, on the northeast corner of 19th and Rashida Muhammad Sts. Three blocks west of I-980. Exit at 27th St.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Pardee Home Museum - Eccentric CollectionPardee Home Museum - Eccentric Collection, Oakland, CA - < 1 mi.
USS Maine Torpedo PortUSS Maine Torpedo Port, Oakland, CA - < 1 mi.
Children's FairylandChildren's Fairyland, Oakland, CA - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Lost Dairy Mural, Burlingame, CA - 16 mi.

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