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Ed Monroe and Neil Marcus'
The 504 Rehabilitation Act Disability Rights Mural

Photo of Ed Monroe's 504 Rehabilitation Act Disability Rights Mural on display at the Oakland Airport baggage claim.

Ed Monroe's 504 Rehabilitation Act Disability Rights Mural on display at the Oakland Airport baggage claim.

The 504 Rehabilitation Act Disability Rights Mural

 

This mural was conceived by Berkeley artist Ed Monroe and disabled artist Neil Marcus. As they were composing the mural, Neil got in contact with documentary photographer HolLynn D'Lil. Her book about the 1977 504 Demonstration for Disability Rights Becoming Real in 24 Days informed the mural.

The central panel is a scene of the 1977 Section 504 demonstrations for Disability Rights at the offices of the Health, Education, and Welfare in the Federal Building in San Francisco. Lead figures in the mural include:

 

  • Interpreter Lynette Taylor in the center of the picture surrounded by people in wheelchairs.

  • To the right of Lynette in a white headpiece is Hale Zukas, an American disability rights activist, founding member of the Rolling Quads at UCB (a group of activists in wheelchairs that fought for accommodations for UCB students and for the first curb cuts), BART commissioner and advocate, and a founder of the Berkeley CIL.

  • To the left in the foreground is Michael Williams, a wheelchair user and disability rights activist involved in the 504 sit-in. The image is taken from a HolLynn D'Lil photo.

  • To the left of Lynette Taylor is Joan Johnston. Beside her is Franco.

  • Behind and to the left is the well-dressed Brad Lomax, a disability rights activist and member of the Black Panther Party, with a friend.

  • Mary Jane Owen is the fair-haired woman with sunglasses, and a disability activist who was part of the Orientation Center for the Blind and then served as a Board member for Berkeley's CIL.

  • To the right of her is Peter Trier, a member of the UCB Disabled Student Union who worked with Ed Roberts and Hale Zukas on securing residential housing with accommodations and was Board President of Easy Does It.

  • To the right in the background are images of people who were at a vigil at President Jimmy Carter's church, including documentary photographer HolLynn D'Lil and Bruce Curtis, a disability rights activist who uses a wheelchair and worked for the World Institute on Disability for twenty-two years.

  • There are several other people in the scene including Channel 7 newsman Evan White and Berkeley attorney Peter Cappleman.

  • To the left of this panel is disability rights activist and advocate Ed Roberts with some of the "Rolling Quads." Beside Ed is his wife Kathy Roberts, and behind Ed is his mother Zona Roberts and brother Marko.

  • To the right is Don Galloway, who was blinded by an accident as a teenager but refused to let his disability interfere with his education or his activism. He was active in his local junior NAACP chapter and was a junior member of the National Federation for the Blind, and is seen here with his black German Shepherd.

  • Beside him is Phil Draper, founder of the Center for Independent Living and a lifelong advocate for the rights of the disabled.

  • On the left is Herb Willsmore, who worked with Ed Roberts as a member of UCB’s Disabled Students’ Program and helped found the CIL.

  • The tall woman in the yellow vest is Joan Leon, a disability rights activist and ally, and current member of the CIL Board of Directors. The paintings on her wall are by disabled artists.

  • To the left, the panel shows UC Berkeley campus. Artist Patrick Connally works on his painting of Ed Roberts and himself.

  • Kathy Pugh, an advisor for the founding of the National Association of Law Students with Disabilities, and Gary Gray, disability rights activist involved in the 504 sit-in, are accompanied by a female attendant.

  • Marching past the Life Sciences Building is a group of protesters carrying signs saying, "Free Speech", "Civil Rights", and "Stop the War." In the field is a group of student archers. Among them is Mary Ann from the original CIL mural.

  • To the right of the scene of the sit-in at the Federal Building, the picture moves to a large room where renowned civil and disability rights champion, Judy Heumann addresses an array of politicians, administrators, and commissioners. Behind Judy are a number of people including Kitty Crowe, Phil Chavez, Joan Leon, and Tom Hayden.

  • Along the wall under the arches are statues of American statesmen including President Franklin Roosevelt leaning on his cane. In the foreground, the slightly balding man with a mustache is US Department of Health Spokesperson Gene Eidenberg, reprimanded by Heumann for being dismissive during the 504 protest. To the left of Gene Eidenberg is Senator Milton Marks with a "Sign 504" button on his lapel. Behind him is Governor Jerry Brown.

  • On the table are some sheets of paper. The top sheet is the House of Representatives Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The sheet under this is the Declaration of Independence.

  • Behind the politicians is a wall with windows opening onto a street scene. In the middle is a group of marchers coming up the street. Among the marchers is Michael Winter, long-time disability advocate and early leader in the Independent Living Movement.

  • In the foreground sit disability activists Michael Williams and Michael Patchovis with other protesters beside a Department of Public Works van.

  • Beside the van is a city worker in a hard-hat with a clipboard and another worker in a hard-hat with a jackhammer taking out the curb to make it into a ramp.

  • Outside Solomon's Delicatessen is a group of pedestrians and disabled people including 504 protest leader and wheelchair user Cece Weeks.

  • Andy Clardy, firmly clasping the handles of his crutches, stands outside Kelly's Bar. The Public Defender for the State of Kentucky, David Murrell walks down the street with his guide dog, Lily.

 

Compositionally, the mural depicts disabled people in the interior scenes organizing sit-ins and confrontations for equality, emerging into the outside world on either side, becoming full participants and achieving recognition in contemporary society.

Hopefully the mural is a respectful representation of the people depicted and their actions. Apologies to the many who participated that are not included.

About the Artists

Ed Monroe

Photo of Ed Monroe.

Ed Monroe's contributions to the local Berkeley art scene are known through­ out the community.

 

His flair comes through in his paintings, pen and ink drawings, and wood carvings. Ed's favorite inspirations come from local East Bay scenes and the stories dreams are made of... with a love of science fiction, visionary surrealism, mythology, and history.

 

Three of Monroe's original paintings of local scenes are in the Berkeley City Club Collection.

 

Well known murals of his include:

  • the Oceanographic mural on Clairmont Avenue under the freeway,

  • the Egyptian Murals in Grand Lake Theatre / co-designed and painted,

  • and the prehistoric dinosaur backdrops for the Lawrence Hall of Science, and for which he apprenticed Cal Students who earned credit for studying with him.

 

Ed participated in the construction of the Berkeley Potters Wall in Derby Park. In 1975, he organized the Street Artists Committee. He later conceived the first Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair in Berkeley, which he ran for the next 8 years.

Neil Marcus

Neil Marcus in an undated photo.

Neil Marcus (1954-2021) was a writer, poet, artist, dancer, philosopher, actor, teacher and trailblazer in the disability movement. 


Over many years, he collaborated with Ed Monroe on the murals you see here. Neil helped secure funding for the project and provided Ed with the names and photo references of the people featured in the murals. Neil Marcus began his work with the disability community when he moved to Berkeley in the 1980s. For eight years, Neil starred in his autobiographical play "Storm Reading" produced by Access Theater. It premiered in 1988 and featured vignettes based on his observations of the world and interactions with people. The groundbreaking show made visible what most people had been taught to ignore--how a person with a disability navigates everyday life.


Neil’s poetry has been widely quoted. His poem, "Disability Country" is featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's online exhibit, "EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America."
 

Much of his life was dedicated to reclaiming personhood in a society that often deprives people with disabilities of their autonomy and humanity. He authored this oft quoted line, “Disability is not a brave struggle or courage in the face of adversity. Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.”

 

Search for Neil Marcus on youtube.com.

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