(Orange, CA) - Santiago Canyon College (SCC) will host a sculpture installation and naming ceremony for the Lorenzo A. Ramirez Library on the campus, Thursday, February 11, 2016. The ceremony begins at 2 p.m. in Strenger Plaza, in front of the library.
Lorenzo A. Ramirez challenged the segregation of schools and was a plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit known as Mendez, et al, v. Westminster School District of Orange County, et al that led to the end of “Mexican schools.” The Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees unanimously named the SCC library, the Lorenzo A. Ramirez Library, in July 2014 to honor Ramirez’s contributions to the education of schoolchildren in California and nationwide.
Ramirez was one of five Mexican-American families who challenged school segregation of Mexican-American children. The families claimed that their children, along with 5,000 other children were being forced to attend separate schools in Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and El Modena school districts in Orange County. In 1947, this historic case made it all the way to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit where it was decided that the segregation of Mexican and Mexican-American students into separate “Mexican schools” was unconstitutional. This was the first federal court case to hold that separate schools for children of color were not equal.
Ramirez had attended Roosevelt School in El Modena, but only completed the eighth grade. At that time, he married Josefina and moved to Whittier where he worked as a foreman on a ranch. In Whittier he had no problem enrolling his three sons in the primarily white elementary school. When the family moved back to El Modena in 1944, they were told that the children could not attend Roosevelt but that they could attend the “Mexican” school next door. In the court testimony, Ramirez said, “We live in a country where everyone is equal.”
The sculpture of Ramirez, by Southern California artist Juan Rosillo was donated to the college by Toni and Ray Mendoza, who were acquainted with Ramirez through Labor Local Union 652 where Ray was the first Hispanic president. In time, they learned that Ramirez was involved in the Mendez, et al. v. Westminster School District of Orange County, et al school segregation case. When the Mendozas learned the new name of the library, they wanted to be able to do something that would give Ramirez additional recognition for what he did for Mexican and Mexican-American children years ago; they decided to donate a sculpture of Ramirez for the campus. The Mendozas consulted with Ramirez’s daughter prior to proceeding with the plan to commission the sculpture.
Rosillo, the sculpture’s artist, has been in the Southern California art community for three decades producing sculptures, drawings, paintings, and screen prints, which is how he was found for this sculpture. Born in Colombia to an Italian mother, Rosillo started participating in art shows when he was a child. He continued his artistic endeavors when he moved to Southern California in 1983. These three cultures – Italian, Colombian, and American - have influenced Rosillo’s art. His first commissioned art was in 1973 for his native city, Neiva, Colombia. Since then, Rosillo has been commissioned to create a number of art pieces and has been published in several books. For more information about Rosillo’s art, visit, http://www.rosillo.com.
What Ramirez did reminds Rosillo that it is important to be involved in the community. Rosillo said that Ramirez was an amazing figure who is iconic for everyone. The history and the humble nature of Ramirez is what drove Rosillo to take on the project. “Ramirez was an example of how a person can stand up with a strong principle,” said Rosillo.
The ceremony will feature remarks by Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees President Claudia C. Alvarez and Trustee Arianna P. Barrios, SCC President John Weispfenning, SCC librarian Leah Freidenrich, library technician Justin Banderas, SCC Associated Student Government Associate Justice Daniel Rebolledo, Lorenzo Ramirez Committee member Sammy Rodriguez, as well as Phyllis Ramirez, the daughter of Ramirez.
About Santiago Canyon College
Santiago Canyon College (SCC) serves about 14,000 students each semester. The college prepares students for transfer to four-year institutions and careers, and provides courses for personal and professional development, as well as customized training for business and industry. The college is recognized for its adult education program which keeps the working adult—and senior—in mind by offering flexible schedules, and community locations. Serving the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Tustin, and Villa Park, SCC is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District. Visit http://www.sccollege.edu to learn more.
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