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Mural Rededication Project



Mural may get second life

By LANZ CHRISTIAN BAņES/Times-Herald staff writer

When Robert Vega attends his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, the mural is there, quietly giving him strength.

Fading, covered in graffiti and often ignored by those who pass it by, Vega nonetheless sees the mural every day on the side of the building that hosts his meetings.

"I think that mural right there represents a clean, sober kid ... and that there's another way to life than dealing drugs ... and packing guns," said Vega, who has been in recovery for about two months.

Now, thanks to an effort by local youth advocacy groups, the mural has a second chance at life. Team Tennessee and Youth & Family Services are working together to restore the 20-year-old mural on 942 Tennessee St.

The groups are going to rededicate the mural in a ceremony on Oct. 25, right in the middle of the annual Red Ribbon Week from Oct. 23-31, said Maria Guevara of Team Tennessee.

Red Ribbon Week is an annual, national event that encourages students to remain substance free.

"It's like we're reclaiming our city back," Guevara said. "We want it back, because the future is bleak if we don't get it back."

The mural was originally dedicated to the memory of Nathaniel Green, who had lost his life to drug-related violence in the 1980s.

The restoration will be directed by local artist Derrick O'Keefe.

"We're going to expand on it," O'Keefe said. "We're going to try to keep the original mural in the center ... and expand on the sides using the Red Ribbon theme."

Organizers rehabilitating the mural on Tennessee and Monterey streets are looking for those originally involved in its creation. If you know any of these people, please contact Maria Guevara of Team Tennessee at 655-5381.

Darren Austria
Emil Bagalso
Micah Baker
Daniel Carver
Rob Domingo
Jason Elliot
Ryan Elliot
William Ferrer
Joe "Fresh Prince"
Derrik Kerr
Patrick LaRose
Lisa Messina
Tasha Nesbitt
Steve Phillips
Todd Plutchok
Chanda Smith
Eric Vlnar
Jerry Wilson
Director: Jim Enemar
Assistant: G. Lambert

The mural carries a sports theme, encouraging children and teenagers to get involved in productive activities rather than drugs and gangs.

O'Keefe will paint about 90 percent of the mural, with local students filling in the rest, Guevara said. The organizers are currently looking for the students who helped paint the mural in 1988.

The restored mural will include a special coating that will make it easier to wash graffiti off, Guevara said.

The dedication ceremony will involve the closure of Monterey and Byron streets and the erection of a stage in front of the mural, said Donna Lopez-Martin, adolescent program manager for substance abuse services at Youth & Family Services.

The Youth & Family Services facilities are located directly across from the mural.

"I've always dreamed of having a real big event at our agency for teenagers, and I know that this will bring them in," Lopez-Martin said.

After the rededication ceremony, there will be a celebration at the Youth & Family Services building, including announcing the winners of a poster, essay and poetry contest. The theme of the contest is "In it to win - be drug free."

Contest entries can be dropped off in person at 408 Tennessee St. to Lopez-Grantham.

The organizers are hoping to get funds for paints and supplies from the Code Enforcement Division, Guevara said.

The Code Enforcement Division received a $20,000 grant from State Farm Insurance for graffiti removal and public art, said Nimat Shakoor-Grantham, code enforcement manager.

For information about the restoration, including how to get involved, contact Guevara at 655-5381 or Lopez-Grantham at 319-5450.

• Contact Lanz Christian Baņes at or 553-6833.

Red Ribbon Week brings anti-drug message to Vallejo

Volunteers repaint old mural in honor of annual event
By LANZ CHRISTIAN BAņES/Times-Herald staff writer


Jimmy Myles, 15, a Vallejo High School student, repaints a portion of the mural. (Lanz Christian Ba es/Times-Herald)
Volunteers began repainting the derelict anti-drug mural at Tennessee and Monterey streets on Friday.

The 20-year-old mural, which depicts various sports-related images, is being restored in honor of Red Ribbon Week by Team Tennessee and Youth and Family Services.

The mural was dedicated in 1988 to the memory of Nathaniel Greene, who died of drug-related violence in the 1980s. On the wall are the names of the people originally involved with the mural's creation, who the organizations have been trying to reach.

So far, five have contacted them, said Maria Guevara of Team Tennessee.

One, Ryan Elliot, 32, now living in San Jose, said he was disappointed by the disrepair the mural had fallen into.

"It eliminated some of the positive messages we were trying to send out to the community," said Elliot, whose mother was the primary motivating force behind the mural's creation.

Volunteers begin the restoration of an anti-drug mural Friday on the corner of Tennessee and Moneterey streets. The mural will be unveiled Oct. 25 in honor of Red Ribbon Week. (Lanz Christian Baņes/Times-Herald)

Elliot said he was pleased and pleasantly surprised that the mural was being restored.

"It's important to have positive messages," he said.

Elliot still has family living in Vallejo.

Guevara discovered one of those on the list, Daniel Carver, was killed last year, though she would still like his family to come forward and be recognized, she said.

Original Muralists

Those restoring the mural would like to honor those involved in its original creation. Five have come forward and one has been confirmed dead. If you know any of these people, please contact Maria Guevara at 655-5381 or at

Darren Austria
Emil Bagalso
Micah Baker
Rob Domingo
William Ferrer
Joe 'Fresh Prince'
Derrik Kerr
Patrick LaRose
Steve Phillips
Todd Plutchok
Chanda Smith
Jerry Wilson

Jim Enemar

G. Lambert

The mural will be rededicated Oct. 25. Volunteers are doing the brunt of the repainting before then, but the community is invited to finish the mural with the organizations during the Oct. 25 ceremony, Guevara said.

The groups are particularly targeting teenagers, said Donna Lopez-Martin of Youth and Family Services.

There will be a series of events that will lead up to the rededication. About 80 members of the Springstowne Middle School wrestling team will tie red ribbons on every other tree that lines the length of Tennessee Street, Guevara said.

Volunteers will also spell "Drug Free Zone" with red cups on fences on Tennessee Street, Lopez-Martin said.

During the ceremony, the public will hear various speakers, including reformed drug addict Mario Vasquez. Vallejo resident Justus Angan, 23, will perform his spoken word poetry.

"I know we can't get 100 percent of the youth not oding drugs, but hopefully we get ... even just one person," Angan said.

Youth and Family Services is also holding a poetry, poster and essay contest revolving around the theme "In It to Win It - Be Drug Free," Lopez-Martin said. The winners will be announced after the Oct. 25 ceremony.

The community is welcoming to come to Youth and Family Services on Mondays, 3:30 to 5 p.m., to work on their entries and use the organization's supplies, Lopez-Martin said. Entries should be turned it to Lopez-Martin at Youth and Family Services, 408 Tennessee St.

For more information about the restoration, contact Guevara at 655-5381 or Lopez-Martin at 319-5450. The entire community is invited to participate in all parts of the event.

• E-mail Lanz Christian Baņes at or call 553-6833.

Mural set for rededication

By LANZ CHRISTIAN BAES/Times-Herald staff writer

Chris Riley/Times-Herald A man walks in front of the newly-repainted mural on the corner of Monterey and Tennessee Streets in Vallejo.
Volunteers have nearly completed restoring the anti-drug mural on Tennessee and Monterey streets and have decided to dedicate the mural to the late Daniel Carver, organizers said.

"My brother was a lifelong Vallejo resident and worked on the original mural," said Janice Allen, Carver's sister. "I think he would love that, and he would be really, really honored."

Carver helped paint the mural in 1988, which was originally dedicated to Nathaniel Green, an acquaintance of Carver who died of drug-related violence in the 1980s.

Carver himself was shot and killed in August 2007. The slaying remains unsolved.

Now, the two oldest of Carver's four children are helping to restore the mural their father helped create.

"It's really, really tragic, but it's really, really awesome at the same time," said Allen, who remembers the parts her brother painted and directs his children to them.

The family is thankful the organizers thought to include them in the process, Allen said.

"We miss him. We miss him so much," said Allen, whose family holds a vigil twice a year in Carver's memory.

The mural on Tennessee and Monterey streets was the first of six sponsored by the Red Ribbon Mural Committee, said Francesca Demgen, a wetland biologist who was the committee's chairwoman during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The mural is being restored by Team Tennessee and Youth and Family Services in honor of Red Ribbon Week, a national anti-drug event. The mural will be rededicated Oct. 25.

"I think it's a statement by the community and for the community, about caring about youth," Demgen said.

There will be a series of events leading up to the rededication ceremony. On Wednesday, more than 100 kids from Youth and Family Services and the Springstowne Middle School wrestling team will tie red ribbons on every other tree lining Tennessee Street, said Donna Lopez-Martin of Youth and Family services.

They will also be joined by the Salvation Army.

At a glance

Saturday's rededication ceremony will feature various speakers, and the winners of a poetry, essay and poster contest will be announced and awarded prizes.

Entries should be turned in to Lopez-Martin at Youth and Family Services, 408 Tennessee St., no later than 5 p.m. today.

For more information, contact Maria Guevara of Team Tennessee at 655-5381 or Donna Lopez-Martin at 319-5450. • E-mail Lanz Christian Baes at or call 553-6833.

Mom shares memories of slain son honored by mural

By LANZ CHRISTIAN BAņES/Times-Herald staff writer

Annie Green fondly recalls the days before her son Nathaniel's 16th birthday.

After he asked her what she wanted for her birthday - just a few weeks later than his - she laughed and decided to amuse herself.

"You know I like diamonds. I like rubies. And those things, you can't get me," Green said.

But Nathaniel - known as Nate - did deliver the precious stones.

A few weeks later, they happened to be the subject of the pastor's sermon as Green wept over her dead son. "My baby got me my diamonds and rubies," she said.

Nate was hardworking and ambitious, his mother said. His ultimate goal was to finish at Hogan High School, go to college and play basketball. Just a few days before his birthday, he committed himself to God, Green said.

"Nate was a loving person. He was unique," Green said. "From the day he was born, he always kept a smile on his face. He loved people, he loved life and there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for anyone."

But that all ended one night as Nate walked the few blocks home from work. At about 11 p.m. on July 5, 1988 - his 16th birthday - four youths shot him in the back and robbed him on Rounds Street.

His parents were alerted by frantic knocking on the door of their house, just a few blocks away, by neighbors in the Country Club Crest community.

"I'll never forget. That was the worst feeling I ever, ever could feel," Green said.

For a while, Green remained bitter at the four youths from Richmond who took her son away. But as the years passed and she fled Vallejo and the memories it contained, her bitterness began to melt away.

"I really feel sorry for these kids. They didn't even live in the neighborhood. I don't want kids growing up like that," she said.

Green said she was touched that the Red Ribbon Committee would choose to have the mural on Tennessee and Monterey streets dedicated to her son, and is thankful that Team Tennessee and Youth and Family are restoring it 20 years later.

Green and her husband, who now live in Vacaville, would occassionally drive by the mural and reminisce about their son.

"The first time around when they (dedicated the murla), it was very moving to see that someone really, really cares to do something in his honor," she said. "To go back after all of the tagging on the wall, and to go back and rededicate it and do it over again is just as moving as the first time around."


Vallejoans rededicate mural

By LANZ CHRISTIAN BAņES/Times-Herald staff writer

Annie Green, left, and her family rededicate the mural at Monterey and Tennessee streets to her son, Nathaniel Green, and Daniel Carver on Saturday in Vallejo. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
There were few places left to sit - and many were left standing - during Saturday's rededication ceremony for the anti-drug mural on Tennessee and Monterey streets.

About 100 people gathered for the Red Ribbon Week event, including family members of Nathaniel Green and Daniel Carver, who were both shot and killed and to whom the mural was dedicated.

"We all know families, students, parents that have been decimated by drugs," said Mary Bull, Vallejo City Unified School District superintendent.

Green was gunned down just blocks from his home on his 16th birthday in 1988, while Carver was slain in 2007. Carver was one of the original painters of the mural; his shooting remains unsolved.

The mural, which has a sports theme, was originally dedicated in 1988 by the Red Ribbon Mural Committee and was the first of six that it eventually sponsored throughout the city.

"We made a commitment - just like all of you have - to be involved, to do something positive for Vallejo and its kids," Francesca Demgen told the audience.

Demgen was chairwoman of the Red Ribbon Mural Committee.

In recent years, the mural has fallen into disrepair.

Maria Guevara of Team Tennessee spearheaded the restoration of the mural in time for Red Ribbon Week, bringing together a variety of organizations including Youth and Family Services, Fighting Back Partnership and the city's Code Enforcement Division.

The rededication ceremony featured a few of the original 1988 muralist who had signed their names on the wall, as well as the teenagers and children who restored it.

"We're glad to see there's another generation willing to step up and be role models," said Ryan Elliot, 32, who worked on the mural when he was 12 and now lives in San Jose.

Youth and Family Services also presented the winners of a poster, essay and poetry contest whose theme was "In It to Win It."

Joseph Romer, 18, a former addict, won the poetry contest and read his poem to the crowd.

"Thank you father for saving me" was the last line of the poem.

Other guests included Councilwoman Stephanie Gomes, who judged the poster contest, and members of the Guardian Angels.

The ceremony was immediately followed by a youth rally at Youth and Family Services.

Red Ribbon Week is a national event that encourages youth to remain drug free and lasts through the end of the month.

Muralist works to give back to community

By LANZ CHRISTIAN BAņES/Times-Herald staff writer

Joseph Romer, 18, considers himself lucky.

When his HIV-positive mother gave birth to him, Romer was healthy, avoiding infection by the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.

But more than that, Romer has also survived years of neglect, drug and alcohol addiction, and a gangbanger's lifestyle.

"Life is rough, but the roughness and your edge can make it smooth," he said as he sat in front of the mural on Tennessee and Monterey streets that he helped restore.

Originally from Castro Valley, Romer's father, who contracted HIV from his mother, spiraled into substance abuse, leaving him home alone for much of his life. His mother succumbed to AIDS when he was 3.

When the family, including an older sister, was evicted from their home, they came to live with Romer's grandmother in Vallejo. It was here that Romer began to experiment with drugs and alcohol, eventually joining a gang.

As Romer's lifestyle on the streets degenerated - at one point, he was homeless - he found himself going to extremes, even stealing from his father and grandmother.

He tried living for a while with his older sister, now estranged, but she also fell sway to the power of drug addiction. Though she supported him financially, Romer found that it was not enough.

"I wanted someone I can talk to - my sister," he lamented.

Romer's life continued to deteriorate until July, when he was arrested for robbing a Safeway grocery store and had a stint in juvenile hall. It was a life changing event.

"Take a pause, look at what's around you, then imagine yourself behind bars wearing someone else's underwear," Romer said.

Since then, Romer has kept himself clean - as has his father - and has worked to give back to his community, such as the mural restoration project.

"For all my mistakes, I feel I owe the world something - for everything I've done and taken away from it," he said.

Romer remains close to his father, who he said helped him turn his life around.

"We're thick as thieves," said Romer, who fears the day his father will succumb to AIDS.

Still, Romer is always smiling, preferring to see the good in life rather than focusing on his past and what he once was.

"I'm wearing my own underwear now," he said.

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