Nora Roman on Bernal Mural’s Meaning –“People’s History”

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07/20/2012 by Library Users Association

                   San Francisco, July 20, 2012 – Nora Roman is a long-time Bernal resident, and is listed on an exterior wall of the Bernal Heights Branch Library as one of some twenty people who helped paint the mural in 1980-1982.  The mural currently remains on the building’s three sides thirty years later, but is threatened by a plan to remove it and replace it with a new mural.

The removal is to begin October 1, 2012, despite numerous groups and individuals opposed, including singer Holly Near and Library Users Association.

Here is what Ms. Roman wrote about the significance of the mural and why it should be preserved.  This was part of an email exchange discussing the mural’s fate some two years ago:

“I want to add to the perspective that it is not just latino history they would paint out.  It is African American, Native American and Left history of a rainbow coalition of folks with different ideas than the mainstream culture celebrating people’s struggles and social justice very explicitly (re-read the words on the building)–this is part of the history of “red hill” and cannot be lost for that reason also. 


It is not just racist to prefer blank walls–it demonstrates a total ignorance of community values and expressions of those values. Bernal Heights doesn’t stand for architectural history. It stands for and still is a people’s history.”

While Library Users Association does not believe that everyone who wants to paint out the mural is racist – or even that anyone in the conversation is or has been – it is clear that there have been some very intemperate remarks by those wanting to get rid of the existing mural during discussions that have occurred.

Here is an example from entries in a current blog that focuses on the Bernal neighborhood.  (Note the blog includes some not-entirely-accurate information.  For example, the blog posted a press release on July 10, 2012, saying it came from the artist’s estate.  In fact, the press release was from Library Users Association, and included all of Library Users Association identifying information – which the blog omitted – including how to get in touch for those who want to help with restoring, rather than destroying, the mural.)

Excerpts from Bernalwood Blog – 7-10-12 Story titled,

“Controversial Bernal Library Mural Cloaked in New Controversy”

(url is at:

Mathew Daniels says: July 11, 2012 at 17:09

This blog is a disgrace. You contort yourself to no end to save a crappy Coca Cola ad in front of a public school, but you have no problem destroying a mural that is of great significance to many Latin Americans. Bernalwoo: Working for a Bernal Heights where Coca Cola is welcome, but Latin Americans are not. You should be ashamed of yourself Mr. Lappin. [Note Todd Lapin is shown as the author of the piece.]




scott says: July 11, 2012 at 21:51

as you should be ashamed of yourself to want to keep our beautiful library defaced with this graffitti. why not take some african american graffitti and call it art, put it in Moma? no one likes either examples of that scribbling except the classed that support their breathern.


SAB says: July 12, 2012 at 13:45

Scott, Thanks for the strange trip back to 1950s Alabama. And congratulations on making what is perhaps the most outright racist comment ever on Bernalwood. I am tempted to ask you what exactly is African American graffiti–Moma would be just delighted to own a few Basquiats–or how you feel about all that wretched “jungle music” but really, I shudder at the answer you are likely to give. WTF?

Mathew Daniels says: July 11, 2012 at 18:41

The point is that you mounted an all-out lobbying effort to save the Coca Cola advertisement but have done nothing of the sort for this mural that matters for many of the older residents of the hill. So let me rephrase your philosophy: Coca Cola in Bernal Height? Hell yeah. Latin Americans in Bernal Heights? That’s for another blog.


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