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Leaving a Legacy: Marina mural honors local activists and Chinese American contributions

Courtesy: City of Marina

MARINA, Calif. (KION-TV) - A new mural is being worked on in Marina. It will display the Chinese American journey and also honors an activist.

Gerry Low-Sabado was an activist who fought and pushed to shed light on Chinese Americans on the Peninsula. Her husband Randy remembers her fight. Her husband Randy Sabado said she worked tirelessly for over ten years to shed light on the history of Chinese contributions to the Monterey area.

Gerry a mother of two passed away on September 7, 2021, at the age of 71. Now her legacy is about to live on, in a different way.

On June 6, 2023, the Marina City Council voted 4-to-1 to approve a mural that celebrates Asian American history. For Randy, it’s an honor. The one no vote was based on the location of the mural. The council member felt it should be in a more prominent location and not in a back alley of a dispensary.

“It remembers her contributions and not only hers,” said Sabado. “But also all the Chinese that came before. In terms of the folks that worked in the railroads and the Chinese that worked in the fishing industry.”

U.S. Census data shows Marina is made up of 16% Asian Americans, about 2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders, and nearly 14% who identify as mixed race. It’s something Marina Councilmember Kathy Biala is proud of.

“We have an extraordinary percentage of Asian Asians with the AAPI group and also mixed race,” said Biala. “Marina's history comes from Fort Ord the military base.”

In 2022, organizers of the Feast of Lanterns decided to cancel the event permanently after many people spoke out against it. Councilmember Biala was one of those who urged Pacific Grove City leaders to end the event.

“I will tell you that at the Pacific Grove City Council meeting in which the final decision to not permit the Feast of Lanterns, half of the speakers were from Marina,” said Biala.

“Our Asian community, not just Chinese Americans, but all of the Asian community came out.”

At the February 2022 meeting, one public speaker said, “We can’t change what happened in the past, the least we can do is keep that event in the past.”

An event that made some feel uncomfortable came something positive. The idea of the mural was born. Hanif Panni is the artist. Panni said he enjoys taking the viewer through a story all in one picture.

The mural would be located at 3100 Del Monte Boulevard, behind Pacific Roots.

The mural starts with an image of a railroad on the bottom left. The railroad tracks then move up into a picture of a weary railroad worker, which then moves to a Chinese fishing village that burned down in Pacific Grove in 1906. The mural then loops down into Gerry on the bottom right.

Panni said the mural is meant to loop the past to the present.

“Marginalized voices can be expressed through artwork,” said Panif. “I enjoy representing stories and telling stories from perspectives where sometimes those stories don't get the loudest voice historically.”

Sabado hopes that when people look at the mural they see the lasting legacy. A legacy that both Gerry and the Chinese American community left behind

“This proves that if you are persistent, you know change will come. It just takes a while,” said Sabado. “I wish she would have been here. But it's a legacy, I think, for the Asian community and future.”

Last year, the Pacific Grove City Council approved a resolution that apologized to the Chinese community for the treatment of Chinese settlers at the Point Alones Fishing Village. The resolution was read at the 2022 Walk of Remembrance. 

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Ana Torrea

Weekend Anchor/Reporter for KION News Channel 5/46


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