Started 2 petitions
Preserve Victor Arnautoff's mural in George Washington High School
The “Reflection and Action Group” appointed by the San Francisco Unified School District has recommended that all thirteen panels of a mural painted in 1935-6 by Russian émigré artist Victor Arnautoff at George Washington High School be painted out because, in the words of the group's recommendation, "the mural . . . glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, white supremacy… [and]… oppression.” However, given Arnautoff’s political beliefs, and according to a recent 2017 biography by Dr. Robert Cherny, Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art, the purpose of these murals was to present a counter-narrative to typical high school textbooks of the day and to highlight exploitation and oppression of people of color in the United States. In other words, through his art, Arnautoff was practicing a commitment to social justice and he was certainly not glorifying slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, or white supremacy. He was, instead, through his unique depictions of scenes of the life of George Washington, condemning those institutions and ideologies. Arnautoff created the murals to protest both the genocide of Native Americans as well as slavery and oppression of African-Americans at a time when few openly discussed these aspects of American history. High school curricula in the United States, even today, neglect the history of Native Americans and First Peoples. As such, the mural should serve as a critical educational tool and destroying or removing it only serves to promote an inaccurate perspective of the artist and his work. There are several workable options that have been suggested to keep the mural intact and to allow faculty to use it to support their teaching. Erasing this work of art will not serve the interests of the students at George Washington High School and will divide the community.
Preserve the historic name of Russian Fort Elizabeth in Hawaii
Russian Fort Elizabeth was built on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in 1817 by the Russian-American Company as a result of an alliance with High Chief Kaumualiʻi, who was the island's last independent ruler. The fort was later recognized as a National Historic Landmark and became part of the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park. This monument represents one of Russia's many historical imprints on lands that today comprise the United States, but also an important reminder of the trust and people-to-people cooperation which existed between the natives of Kauai and representatives of the Russian-American Company in the early years of the 19th century. Today, the fort's history and symbolism of cross-cultural engagement are being threatened by the efforts of individuals who are pushing to rename the fort to a native Hawaiian title of Paʻulaʻula o Hipo, arguing that it will help attract more visitors and raise interest among Hawaiians. Renaming of the fort will erase the unique and vastly undiscovered history that connects Hawaiian-American and Russian-American communities. Moreover, it will result in a skewed understanding of the fort's origins. To serve the interests of everyone involved in this debate, the most logical and conflict-free solution is to simply add the native name to the already existing historic one without dropping any parts of the original title. Russian-American and Hawaiian-American communities should work together to promote this historic monument, attract new visitors, and expand Russian-Hawaiian cultural exchange well into the 21 century.