Red Ribbon Week brings anti-drug message to Vallejo
Volunteers repaint old mural in honor of annual event
Article Launched: 10/11/2008 08:07:55 AM PDT
Volunteers began repainting the derelict anti-drug mural at Tennessee
and Monterey streets on Friday.
Jimmy Myles, 15, a Vallejo High School student, repaints
a portion of the mural. (Lanz Christian Ba es/Times-Herald)
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
"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.
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 email@example.com.
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,"
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 553-6833.
Mural set for rededication
Article Launched: 10/20/2008 11:12:33 AM PDT
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.
Chris Riley/Times-Herald A man walks in front of the newly-repainted mural
on the corner of Monterey and Tennessee Streets in Vallejo.
"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 email@example.com or call 553-6833.
Mom shares memories of slain son honored by mural
Article Launched: 10/23/2008 07:59:36 AM PDT
Annie Green fondly recalls the days before her son Nathaniel's 16th
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
"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
Article Launched: 10/26/2008 08:11:08 AM PDT
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.
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)
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
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
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
Muralist works to give back to community
Article Launched: 10/26/2008 08:11:06 AM PDT
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
"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,"
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,"
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.
~*~ Making Vallejo better ~*~
~*~ One block at a time ~*~