Federal immigration agents swept across Northern California in recent days, snatching up dozens of undocumented immigrants. The nation's top immigration cop has repeatedly attacked sanctuary cities like Sacramento. President Donald Trump recently called California a "disgrace" that would turn into "a crime nest" if he pulled immigration agents from the state.
Meanwhile, in downtown Sacramento, a big, colorful mural is about to be unveiled inside Golden 1 Center. It's the creation of the Royal Chicano Air Force, among the city's most cherished Latino activist art collectives.
The timing of the mural's installation isn't lost on one of the men responsible for its unveiling.
"It's almost a middle finger to the administration," said Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, whose father, former Mayor Joe Serna, Jr., was a member of the RCAF. "And I think it can serve to inspire a new generation of artists who embrace the intersection of expression and activism."
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"Flight," the three-paneled mural by RCAF, will be unveiled Thursday at 4:30 p.m. before the Kings play the Brooklyn Nets in the team's annual Latino Heritage Night. The 27-foot-high mural is on a wall near the arena's northeast entrance, close to Seventh and K streets.
The mural is the work of RCAF co-founders Esteban Villa, Stan Padilla and Juanishi Orosco. The artists worked on the piece with their children and grandchildren. RCAF co-founder Juan Carrillo, the artwork's project manager, said the "artwork is an RCAF legacy piece for our home community reflecting who we are and what we value."
RCAF was founded in 1969 and has remained a stalwart in the city's art scene. The group promotes Latino culture and the work of the late Cesar Chavez. Joe Serna, Jr. - the city's first Latino mayor - was an early member.
The younger Serna's office commissioned the mural, largely with funds Sacramento County secured through a tobacco litigation settlement.
Sacramento Kings Chief Operating Officer Matina Kolokotronis said in a statement that the team is "proud to showcase the values and people that make Sacramento great."
"We’re honored to feature a work by legendary artists who have inspired a community to fight for inclusion and equality, and look forward to continuing to celebrate the city’s diversity through cultural celebrations," she said.
While the unveiling wasn't planned to coincide with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sweeps of recent days or with the president's remarks, "it's still a timely art piece in that it serves to inspire some reflection about who we are as a diverse community," Serna said. Roughly 28 percent of Sacramento residents are Latino, according to the most recent census figures.
"The posturing of the (Trump) administration and the current increase in ICE activity is a pretty clear attempt to show the broader community who belongs and who doesn’t," Serna said. The mural "really celebrates the inclusion of the Latino population in the Sacramento region, its heritage and its legacy."