Mendez Park and Freedom Trail: A Tribute to Social Equity
A new Mendez Tribute Monument Park and Mendez Freedom Trail in Westminster will honor Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez. In 1947, the two led an educational civil rights battle that changed California forever. Their landmark desegregation case set a legal precedent for the famous Brown v. Board of Education case, paved the way to meaningful integration and public school reform, and set the stage for the American civil rights movement.
Cindy Mendoza, MIG Director of Parks and Recreation, recently interviewed their daughter, Sylvia Mendez, for an article in the Spring 2020 California Parks & Recreation Magazine. As a schoolchild, Sylvia was the catalyst for her parents’ efforts. She shared her thoughts on the importance of racial equity in access to education, parks and play spaces.
The article notes: “In these unprecedented times where parks and recreation are recognized as vital to communities and critical to our health, it is important to remember what we value….While the pursuit of equality does not always come easily…the Mendez Tribute Monument Park and Freedom Trail (as well as Sylvia's story) remind us that we all deserve great schools, great parks and playgrounds, and great public spaces that are inclusive and accessible to all.”
The MIG-designed site will feature sculptures and art pieces created by artist Ignacio Gomez, a park plaza with seating, and an interactive station with interpretive panels and augmented reality features to share the Mendez story with visitors. The park design effort coincided with the Spring 2020 adoption of Westminster’s first Parks & Recreation Facilities Master Plan, which identified strategies for improving access to recreation, parks and greenspace for underserved residents.
President Barack Obama awarded Sylvia Mendez the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in February 2011.