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Case Study

The Unity Council

Latino activists from several organizations joined forces in 1964 to form The Unity Council with the purpose of having a stronger, collective voice for their unrepresented community in Oakland, California. In 2013, newly appointed CEO, Chris Iglesias, approached The Grove to develop a visual timeline of The Unity Council's 50-year history. Information was gathered from written history and through facilitated storytelling sessions with The Unity Council's founders, board members, leaders, and staff. Major milestones, key people, and themes came out in these sessions. The overall comprehensiveness of the services that The Unity Council has provided over the years—in leadership development, education and employment, economic development, and so on—was depicted as a braid of hair, and in so doing, recognized the women that have led The Unity Council.

To develop art for the mural, The Grove collaborated with members of the Oakland community—muralist Ray Patlan, his student Morgan Valdivieso, and an Americorps member, Ricardo “Panda” Fuentes—to brainstorm ideas, draw concepts and eventually paint the final artwork. Ray Patlan's imagery suggestions helped bring the story to life; for example, a hummingbird to represent founder Arabella Martinez, and the quetzal, a bird notable in Mayan history, to represent the organizational surge that has taken place in recent years. Throughout its trail-blazing 50 years The Unity Council has grown from a volunteer organization to a model organization of community-development work. It currently serves approximately 12,000 people per year.

“The Unity Council History Mural project has allowed me to reunite those who have built The Unity Council over the past 50 years. It has allowed me to listen and learn how needs in the community were addressed and then met and how our programs have evolved over the years. The History Mural has been very well received by our board and members in the community, as well as by our elected officials including Mayor Quan, Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Assemblymember Rob Bonta. It is a great way to kick off our 50th Anniversary in 2014.”

Chris Iglesias
CEO, The Unity Council

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