Posted on 04/16/2021

Recommendations include a memorial to the victims of the 1871 Anti-Chinese Massacre, an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Policy, and developing a framework for a memorial to the victims of COVID-19

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced the findings of the Mayor’s Office Civic Memory Working Group’s final report, featuring 18 key recommendations for ways that Los Angeles can more accurately and appropriately commemorate triumphant and tragic moments in the City’s history.

“Los Angeles is a place where everyone’s story is welcome and everybody belongs, yet that spirit is too often lost in the way we pay tribute to our history, confront the pain of our predecessors, and learn from our darkest moments,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Today’s report is a call to action — a guide for how our city can commemorate and memorialize formative moments that have gone unrecognized, reshape our civic identity, and view our past as a window into the future.” 

Among the report’s recommendations is a commitment to build a memorial to the victims of the 1871 Anti-Chinese Massacre, an event that will mark its 150th anniversary this October. Other steps include an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Policy for the Mayor’s Office and the City; creating a City Historian position; and bringing together a task force to study the establishment of a Museum of the City of Los Angeles. The suggestions of the Working Group have already helped inform early discussions within City Hall about the most equitable approach to developing a memorial or memorials to victims of COVID-19.

The Working Group, first welcomed by Mayor Garcetti to City Hall in November of 2019, comprises more than 40 leading historians, architects, artists, indigenous leaders, city officials, scholars and cultural leaders. Its report, titled Past Due: Report and Recommendations of the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office Civic Memory Working Group, was produced as a 166-page print volume and an accompanying website at www.civicmemory.la.

“Proposals to create, remove, or rename monuments or buildings, of the kind we are now seeing across the country, have a greater chance of community support if they are preceded by broad-based discussions about memorialization and commemoration,” said Christopher Hawthorne, who coordinated the Working Group’s efforts as the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles. “Our Working Group has been guided by the idea that L.A. has not yet engaged in that conversation to the degree it needs to, especially when it comes to initiatives launched from City Hall.”

The report focuses on equitable strategies for developing new policies, monuments, and other markers of civic memory in lieu of completed designs and blueprints. For example, in considering an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Policy, the Working Group has worked closely with indigenous leaders, as well as Alexandra Valdes, executive director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, and Kristin Sakoda, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, to build support for such a policy to be adopted by the City and included as part of the County’s Cultural Policy.

“The recognition of local tribes, their histories, and their contemporary realities is long overdue,” Alexandra Valdes said. “The Commission looks forward to supporting the City and County's land acknowledgement efforts and is hopeful that the increased awareness of local tribal communities will result in increased resources, support and investment, and land return.”

The report, in both its print and online forms, was produced by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West with support from the Getty Foundation. It was designed by the Los Angeles design firm Polymode. The report features the first public use of the typeface Maria of Los Angeles (MOLA), by Roberto Rodriguez, which was inspired in part by the ubiquitous murals of Our Lady of Guadalupe across the city.

“We are pleased to support the Institute on California and the West as it extends the Working Group’s conversation about civic memory throughout the broader community,” says Joan Weinstein, director of the Getty Foundation. “Getty has long worked with the city to identify and examine our local heritage, most recently through the Getty Conservation Institute’s announcement of the Los Angeles African American Historic Places Project. This report is an apt companion to this ongoing work.”

“Contributing to the Civic Memory Working Group has been exhilarating and challenging, and we all see the report and its recommendations as an invitation to all Angelenos to contribute to the discussion,” said William Deverell, director of the ICW, Professor of History at USC and a member of the Civic Memory Working Group. “The past, and what we make of it, can help guide us all to a more equitable future.”

To view a video of the launch of the report, please click here