The Ndebele Wallpainting Project

Did you know that you can read this mural? Each panel on the wall contains symbols that represent different cultures and organizations that contributed to the development of the Hilltop community. To find out more about a particular symbol, place your cursor over the thumbnails to the left and then read the corresponding text that appears here. The mural tells the story of the history of the Hilltop as a point of entry for immigrant and migratory groups from all over the world.

The Evergreen State College-Tacoma was the site of a unique public art partnership during the summer of 2001. Three Ndebele artists from South Africa lived in the Hilltop community for a month--teaching, sharing their influences, demonstrating their techniques, and showing students, staff, faculty, youth, and community members how they can most effectively communicate their own aspirations and values through symbol. To learn more about the project, click here.

The style and technique of the Ndebele artists provided the frame. The dreams and ideas the community holds in common, yet which are symbolically communicated in such varied ways across cultures, fill the frame. Influences from all parts of the Hilltop community were incorporated into the painting of the mural, brought to the artists by student researchers who conducted interviews and studied historic documents, texts, and newspaper files in order to elicit symbols for the wall.

The Ndebele Wallpainting Project is dedicated to inclusivity and to the diverse cultural groups that contributed symbols, reflecting the values we all hold in common.

The DNA Molecule

The symbol on this panel represents the double-helix deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule. The triangle is a representation of the Greek letter Alpha, meaning "beginning" or "first," and the arrows circling the helix symbolize the cycle of life.

From the beginning of life on Earth, all of its myriad forms have had something in common. Whether plant or animal, at the structural level between atom and cell, the form and purpose of all life on our planet is coded by the double-helix DNA molecule. Shown here with the ring of the cycle of life, the double helix also represents the way in which all cultures are bound together upon the Earth. DNA is the building block of all life on Earth, so together these two symbols mark the mural as a place to look at beginnings-at the roots of our culture and our community.

As these symbols on the wall indicate, many different cultures have come to the Hilltop to share their unique character with the rest of the community. All who have come here have shared at the sub-cellular level the mechanism that causes differences in gender, skin color, hair texture, and all the minutiae that differentiate one being from another. Irrespective of religion, ideology, national politics, race, age, ethnicity, class standing, or gender, all of us are more alike than we are different.



The Eagle

"The eagle flies on Friday, Saturday I go out to play." -Stormy Monday, T-Bone Walker

The eagle symbol on this panel comes from the above lyric that in African American slang refers to payday; the eagle flying is getting your paycheck. The eagle also represents The Black Dollar Days Task Force, founded in Seattle in 1988 and expanded to Tacoma in 1991. The aim of the organization is to build community responsibility for economic prosperity.

Martin Luther King, Jr. initiated the concept during the Civil Rights era. King called for "black dollar days," when black people would buy goods and services from black businesses and deposit their savings in black-owned banks. In turn, King expected black entrepreneurs to recycle those dollars into education, recreation, and social programs for the black poor.

It is the desire of the Black Dollar Days Task Force to open channels of access to this nation's wealth for the purpose of community self-determination.

Black businesses have been present on the Hilltop for over a hundred years. In 1867 a group of men from Portland, Oregon-fourteen black and one white-organized a company known as The Workingman's Joint Stock Association. Their objective was to buy land in Tacoma and Seattle in the areas they believed would be developed. The 65-acre tract of land they purchased in Tacoma in 1870 was located in the area now known as the Hilltop. This land became known as "The Nigger Tract" after it's owners and was divided into sections, including the section known today as Garfield Park


Emergency Services

On an unusually hot afternoon in August of 2001, one of patrons of Evergreen -Tacoma who was instrumental in bringing the Ndebele to Tacoma made his daily visit to observe the progress on the wallpainting. However, on this particular day he was overcome by the heat and emergency services were summoned. After tending to his needs, the emergency crew learned about the wallpainting and then asked where they were represented. The artists replied, "Come back next week and you will see." They then cleverly designed the ambulance symbol around the pre-existing fire alarm bell, adding the familiar jagged line seen on heart monitors in honor of the paramedics.

Hospitals at the north and south ends of the Hilltop neighborhood, Tacoma General and St. Joseph, are historic community institutions that serve the people of Tacoma with emergency medical care as well as routine medical services. Tacoma General, originally named Fanny Paddock Memorial Hospital, was founded in 1882 in a former dance hall. In 1889, it relocated to a four-story house on Tacoma Avenue that could house 100 patients. The hospital continued to expand and now occupies six blocks of the Hilltop district.

St. Joseph Hospital was founded in 1891 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and Father Peter Francis Hylebos. In 1899, a new building was opened that was three times the size of the original structure and became well known as the most up to date medical facility on the Pacific Coast. The modern white tower of the current St. Joseph Hospital, with its innovative design, distinctive curves and oval windows, was completed in 1974. The construction of the new hospital represented progress, pride, and new growth on the Hilltop in a highly visible way.



The symbol of the Greek letter omega is widely used because of the multiple meanings it can convey. The Omega, the final letter of the Greek alphabet, represents ending, especially as part of a famous quote from the Bible:

"'I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,' saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." -Revelation 1:8

The alpha and omega on this and the top panel represent the cycle of beginnings and endings that the Hilltop community has endured throughout the years.

As a Greek letter, the symbol commemorates the Greek Orthodox community, which meets at St. Nicholas Church on Yakima Avenue. Every year, St. Nicholas' traditional festival brings people of all nationalities together to experience the food, music, and dance of Greece. The artwork displayed in the Greek Orthodox Church is similar in many ways to the work of the Ndebele artists. In a 1996 article in the Tacoma News Tribune, volunteer Sophronia Tomaras described the iconic artwork found in the church. She characterized the work as "stylized, with no shadows...more representative than realistic. Icons are just Scripture in line and color." In many ways, this description could apply to the stylized geometric abstractions of the Ndebele artwork.


The Star and Crescent

In 1453, the Turks conquered Constantinople and adopted the city's existing flag and symbol-the crescent moon and star. Legend says that the leader of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, dreamed that he saw the crescent moon stretching from one end of the earth to the other. Considering the dream a prophecy, he kept the crescent as the symbol of his dynasty.

Because the Ottoman Empire ruled over the Muslim world for centuries, battling against Christian Europe, the symbol of the Turks became linked in people's minds with the faith of Islam as a whole, leading some sects to adopt the star and crescent as an official symbol. Some interpret the five points on the star as representation of the five pillars of Islam.

The crescent moon and star are internationally recognized as symbols of the faith of Islam and Muslims, although both symbols predate Islam by thousands of years. The symbols are related to the lunar calendar, which plays a significant role in Islam. Beyond their belief in certain doctrine and rituals, Islam practices a natural way of life designed to bring God into the center of one consciousness and thus one life. Islam is now one of the fastest-growing faiths in the United States, especially in the African American and Latin American communities.

The Muslim community and Nation of Islam joined the Hilltop community in 1960s and are recognized as a peacekeeping organization. Their ongoing community outreach has served those of all faiths to build a peaceful, collaborative, productive community in the Hilltop neighborhood.


The Handicapped Access Symbol

The international handicapped access symbol is familiar to us all-we see it on the bus, in elevators, and in parking lots, indicating areas that are accessible to disabled persons.

Many organizations have been working to become more accessible to the 43 million U.S. citizens with disabilities. Organizations that receive government funding have been required to provide accessible programs and services since 1973.

A more recent law, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), extends accessibility requirements to the private sector in an effort to guarantee persons with disabilities employment and access to the economic, social, and cultural mainstreams. The ADA goes well beyond federally funded organizations to include private-sector entities that serve the public, including cultural organizations, retail businesses, movie theaters, and restaurants.

Brightly colored arrows direct the eye to see the shapes of this familiar symbol in a new way. Evergreen-Tacoma's goal is to provide a nurturing environment for the of all of its students, including those who are physically disabled. With this panel, Evergreen acknowledges the contributions that handicapped citizens make to the school and the community and reaffirms its commitment to their needs.

This panel also relates to a common thread in many of the stories told by the Hilltop citizens: the struggle to overcome adversity. Like many minority groups, the disabled still fight daily to have their rights and value to the community acknowledged.


AIDS Ribbon

Have you ever pinned a colored ribbon to your lapel to symbolize your support for a cause? When South African singer and songwriter Paul Jabara distributed the first red ribbon symbolizing support for persons with AIDS, he started a campaign that quickly swept around the world. This panel combines the red ribbon, the symbol of AIDS awareness and education, with a blue arrow pointing upwards, representing the uphill struggle to overcome the disease. The Hilltop community, like many diverse communities, has struggled with the impact of AIDS.

Local communities are organizing their own ways to spread awareness about the epidemic. From Sunday, March 2, to Sunday, March 9, 2002, African American churches across the country organized the Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS as a vehicle for spiritual renewal, healing, and redemption. Special worship and educational programs were offered in order to raise awareness about the effect of the AIDS epidemic on the African American community. Participating churches in the Puget Sound area include Bethlehem Baptist, Shiloh Baptist, Mount Sinai Baptist, Christian Apostolic, Eastside Baptist, Tabernacle of Praise COGIC, Astounding Faith COGIC, and Living His Word Evangelistic Ministries.


The Shamrock

The shamrock symbol represents the Irish presence on the Hilltop. The shamrock was originally chosen as the national emblem of Ireland because of the legend that St. Patrick used the plant to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Shamrocks have been considered good-luck symbols by the Irish since earliest times. Before the Christian era, it was sacred to the Druids because its leaves formed a triad. The shamrock is also connected with the banishment of serpents from Ireland; according to legend, snakes are never seen on land bearing the trefoil, or three-lobed plant. Celebrants still wear shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th of each year.

Irish people have been coming to the United States since the early nineteenth century. Like many of the groups represented on the wall, early Irish immigrants were fleeing religious and political persecution in their native land-in their case, by Protestant rulers. Additionally, in 1845, the great potato rot brought mass starvation and emigration.

The Irish originally came to Tacoma in the 1870s through the 1890s as railroad workers on the Northern Pacific line. Irish laborers were the mainstay of the construction gangs that did this grueling work. By the early 1900s, the Irish had established churches and social organizations on the Hilltop that continue to serve the community today.


Slavonian Shipbuilders

The boat on this panel is an excerpt from a Slavic shield. The original shield of red, white and blue symbolized the coming together of the Croatian, Dalmation and Slovenian people as one country of Yugoslavia. These three Slavic groups continued to band together and support one another upon their arrival in the United States. The boat symbol represents the livelihood of the Slavic people as fishermen and ship builders. These primitive fishing boats gave way to better-equipped ships as the Slavic people began to develop their building skills and a flourishing boat-building industry, which helped make Tacoma the port city it is today.

The first wave of Slovenians settlers began to arrive in Tacoma in the 1880s, settling in the Old Town area of Tacoma. Most of these settlers were young men seeking to make their fortune in the New World. These young men pioneered the fishing and boat-building industries in Tacoma, and fishing quickly became the livelihood and sustenance of the Slovenian people who settled here. Their contributions revolutionized the fishing industry; many of their techniques and designs continue to be used today. As they became established, they began to build houses in the hills above Old Town.

The Slovenian American Benevolent Society was formed in the 1890s for social and political purposes. Recent immigrants came to the society for community support to help them adjust to their new homeland. In 1906, the community built a large two-story hall in Old Town that stands today. The hall has been the site of many social events for over 100 years, including the popular Tti Kraija (Three Kings) Ball, a major social event held in January. The founders also built a stage in the hall, and their early theatrical productions eventually evolved into the Tacoma Little Theater, which still produces plays.


The Cambodian Dance Crown

The image on this panel represents the dance crowns, or mokot, traditionally worn by Cambodian dancers. Cambodian temples are often topped with a spire similar to this one. Cambodian classical dance plays an important part in Cambodian culture, and world attention focused on Cambodian dance early in the 20th century as one of the few court dance traditions remaining from antiquity.

Distinguished by its graceful, elegant gestures, or kbach, and elaborate costumes, this beautiful dance form has come to embody the historical traditions and values of Khmer throughout the world. Dancers were traditionally trained from the age of six for a repertoire that included romances, myths, pure dance pieces, and regional epics such as the story of Sita and Rama.

During the 1970s, when the Khmer Rouge began their reign of terror, all artistic activity in the country ceased. Many of the dance masters, musicians, and other artisans were executed in an attempt to purge the country of remnants of the old society. The dance was kept alive in refugee camps in Thailand by surviving members of the Royal Ballet, who taught a new generation of dancers. Cambodian classical dance is practiced today, far from home, by Cambodian Americans in Tacoma and by the Cambodian Dance Team.


The Lotus

The lotus is one of the most important symbols of spirituality in many Eastern cultures and is used to represent many aspects of Buddhist philosophy. The opening of the lotus is often used as a metaphor for the gradual unfolding of a person's inner divine potential. Because the lotus has buds, blossoms, and seed pods simultaneously on the same plant, it also represents the past, present, and future. The lotus is also a symbol of equality.

For Tacoma's Japanese community, many symbolic meanings of the Lotus hold true. Japanese settlers came to Tacoma as early as the 1880s, opening businesses and developing a thriving Japantown by the 1920s. Japanese farmers settled much of the Puyallup Valley, farming the rich land so successfully that they produced one-third of the county's vegetable and fruit crops.

An influential Japanese community leader, the Reverend Jokatsu Yukawa, won an early battle for the civil rights of Tacoma citizens. In September of 1932, he persuaded the owners of Tacoma's Roxy Theater to allow Japanese American and African American moviegoers to choose seats anywhere in the theater instead of restricting them to the seats in the balcony. Other Tacoma theaters followed the Roxy's lead and were some of the first in the country to become desegregated. Yukawa's son, the Reverend Kosho Yukawa, now presides over the same Tacoma Buddhist Temple his father founded.


The Handshake

One of the most peaceful and trusting gestures we have today is the firm clasp of hands between two people. The handshake has symbolized friendship, agreement, and partnership for centuries. Here, the clasping hands refer to a symbol used by Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights movement to indicate his belief that all people must join the fight against racism and inequality in America. The origin of the handshake goes back to primitive times, when people showed that they did not have any weapons by offering an empty hand in greeting. This indicated a recognition that more safety, more food, and better shelter resulted from community living. Since then, every culture, however simple or sophisticated, has had some means of indicating a desire for peace by a show of hands.

The greeting of the European settlers and the North American Indians consisted of the flat palm raised with fingers pointed to the sky, showing the absence of concealed weapons, followed by a clasping of the hands.

The handshake also represents the diverse ethnic and social organizations of the Hilltop coming together to form one community. From the beginning, the Hilltop has been a multi-racial neighborhood united by class rather than divided by race. Numerous community groups and development agencies come together to improve conditions in the neighborhood through activities such as working to create better housing opportunities and a safer environment.



For many years people in the Hilltop have struggled with gang influence in their neighborhood. The figure in this panel is a gang member wearing a bandanna to signify gang affiliation. This individual is turned toward the rising sun, symbolizing the dawning of a new day, but for many gang members there is still a long uphill road ahead.

Many dedicated community members are providing choices for community youth. The People's Community Center and Al Davies Boys and Girls Club, among others, are allowing Hilltop youth a chance to turn negative energy into positive solutions. One community group is paving the way in this struggle. When community activist and leader Larry Norman decided to re-establish a Boy Scout troop on the Hilltop, the boys decided to take 23 as their troop number. It was a way to reclaim the number, made infamous by the 23rd Street Crips street gang, as a positive symbol. It was also a way to acknowledge the 23 funerals for young people killed by gang violence between 1990 and 2000. Community businesses have offered generous support for the troop, from sewing uniforms to donating supplies. Troop 23 is building a four-mile urban trail through Tacoma from the Hilltop to the regional Boy Scout headquarters.

"The trail is a connection between this organization and the community," Norman says. "We want to give young people a way out to new adventures, and the community a way into their lives."


The Martin Luther King Housing Development Association

As Tacoma's downtown commercial and industrial center boomed in the 1870s and 1880s, new residents and workers sought housing nearby. The Hilltop has historically offered affordable homes and land to Tacoma's working class residents. As the neighborhood has grown and changed, and different settlers have moved in and out, houses and buildings have been built and rebuilt. Styles have changed, and modern materials have replaced older forms of construction.

The three houses on this panel, standing side by side, represent the important work of the Martin Luther King Housing Development Association (HDA). The HDA has worked to do much-needed repairs and modernizing on many of the historic homes in the Hilltop and has started construction on a number of new projects, including condominiums and row houses. Through HDA home-ownership programs, affordable housing is still a reality for the working-class families of the Hilltop.

The flowers surrounding the houses in the mural represent the legacy of Alberta Canada, the Hilltop activist who helped found the HDA. She was known for planting flowers for the future residents of HDA-developed properties. The HDA originally started work with five sites, and now work on nearly 500. By helping to build affordable modern housing and doing important upkeep on existing structures, the HDA continues to help Hilltop families enjoy their homes and feel proud of their neighborhood.


Medicine Wheel

"The black one is for the west where the thunder beings live to send us rain; the white one for the north, whence comes the great white cleansing wind; the red one for the east, whence springs the light and where the morning star lives to give men wisdom; the yellow for the south, whence comes the summer and the power to grow. But these four spirits are only one Spirit after all…also it is for the thoughts of men that should rise high as eagles do." -Black Elk (1863-1950), Oglala Sioux holy man

The first residents of the land that is now Tacoma are represented by a Native American medicine wheel. The medicine wheel, a circle divided into quarters, is a traditional symbol that has come to represent all Native Americans. Like the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptians and the artwork of the Ndebele, the symbols of Native Americans rely on universal geometric shapes to convey deeper ideas.
An undivided circle can symbolize the Great Spirit, the world, the year, and time itself. A circle filled with red represents the sun; with blue, the sky. The divided circle likewise has many meanings. The four quarters can represent:

The circle of life (birth, growth, death, and regeneration) ·
The four races of man (yellow, red, black, and white) ·
The four hills (stages) of man (child, adolescent, adult, and elder) ·
The four grandfathers/grandmothers (beginning, going along, getting settled, and going home) ·
The four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, and winter) ·
The four elements (water, wind, earth, and fire) ·
The four directions/winds (east, south, west, and north) ·
The four aspects of our nature (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual)


W.W. Seymour Conservatory

The symbol on this panel represents the glass-domed W.W. Seymour Conservatory in Wright Park, an important part of the city since 1886. The 27.2 acres of land along 6th Avenue between G and I Streets was donated by Charles B. Wright, president of the Tacoma Land Company and one of the most influential early citizens of Tacoma. The original advocates wanted to create a lasting community resource, and enlisted prominent landscape design architect E. O. Schwageral to design the park in 1890.

Funds to build the glass-domed W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory were donated in 1907 by the prominent politician of the same name. Seymour was also a very successful businessman who owned the Tacoma Gas Company. A tireless booster of Tacoma's early development, his idealism found expression in beautifying the city. Seymour became interested in Wright Park after talking with head gardener Ebenezer Roberts, who convinced Seymour that Wright Park needed a conservatory to show the public rare and unusual plants. Seymour partnered with Roberts, landscape gardener of Wright and Point Defiance Parks, to choose the plants that would fill the conservatory. They worked together to design and install the first plantings, many of which are still on view.

The park today is host to Ethnic Fest, Music in the Park, and many other important community festivals. The park also includes a Senior Center and recreational activities, including lawn bowling, play equipment, and basketball courts. Wright Park and the Seymour Conservatory are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Mount Rainier

"Of all the fire mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest." -John Muir
Look up and to your right on a clear day, you will see the peak of Mount Rainier towering over the landscape. Originally named Tahoma by the Native American tribes of the region, its first name translates as "the mother of all waters." This name reflects indigenous peoples' recognition that the source of fresh water in the Puget Sound area was the surrounding mountains.

Mount Rainier is so distinctive that locals can refer to "the mountain" without any danger of confusion. Today, approximately two million people visit Mount Rainier National Park every year for the unsurpassed beauty of the park's trails and views, where tumbling waterfalls, clear streams, ancient trees, brightly colored fields of spring wildflowers, and gigantic glaciers are all within a day's hike.

While hiking the forests of Mount Rainier, a visitor can imagine how the breathtaking natural landscape shaped the intimate relationship Native Americans had with the land, and their belief in giving back to nature to preserve the wealth of resources it offered to sustain their lives.

On either side of Mount Rainier, bold red arrows represent the energy that Native Americans believe flows from nature and the natural world to the individual in a reciprocal relationship.


Central School Bell

In 1883, Central School was the first public school built in the Hilltop. One of the most profound landmarks on Tacoma's skyline, Central School had a 90-foot bell tower that could be seen and heard from all over the city. As a symbol, the bell represents Tacoma's growth from a village to a city, and from a one-schoolhouse town to a leader in educational policy.

When Tacoma's Central School opened in 1883, it was brand new and well equipped to serve the students of the Hilltop. Because of immigration and the growth of Tacoma as a city, in 1913 a new Central School structure was built at Tacoma Avenue and South 8th Street that would accommodate more students.

Later used as a military hospital and as a hoboes' shelter, the building was eventually demolished. The bell was moved to the location of the new Central School.

The decision to close Central School to students in 1968 was the result of the Tacoma Public School District's voluntary end to de facto segregation. After months of increased pressure from the NAACP and other civil rights groups, the school board voted in 1966 to close McCarver, Stanley, and Central Schools all predominantly African American schools. Students were instead allowed to enroll in any school in the district and were provided with free transportation. By voluntarily desegregating, Tacoma's schools avoided the violent confrontations experienced by many districts that were faced with court desegregation orders.


Virginia Taylor and the Northwest Dispatch

These five panels commemorate the life of Hilltop icon Virginia Taylor. A tireless community activist and advocate, Virginia proved that one person can make a profound difference to a community. She was a politician, publisher, businesswoman, activist, social worker, surrogate mom, and more for the citizens of the Hilltop.

She was perhaps most proud of her work as the publisher of the Northwest Dispatch newspaper. Taylor and her longtime friend and fellow activist Jean Watley started the Dispatch in 1982 with only $700. The weekly paper covers the good news for the Hilltop black community, news from what Taylor referred to as the "hope side," which defends minority, women's, and gay rights.

Taylor was instrumental in making Evergreen-Tacoma a reality. She wanted Evergreen to be a "beacon on the hill," and worked tirelessly to bring the branch campus to Tacoma. Although Virginia Taylor died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 62, she did see the campus in its new location. Her contributions have ensured that she will always be a strong presence in the community.

The students and faculty of Evergreen, many of whom remember Taylor with respect and affection, designed this series of five panels. The beacon at the top represents Taylor and her vision for Evergreen. The black and white lines in the third panel evoke lines of text, symbolizing her contributions through the Northwest Dispatch. The final two panels are geometric representations of her initials, V and T.


From Slave Ship to Scholarship

This column of three symbols, which is to be read from the bottom up, represents the idea that through education and struggle, oppressed people can move from physical and mental slavery to knowledge and freedom.

The lower symbol, the slave ship, represents the physical and mental slavery the African American community has overcome. Evergreen seeks to provide opportunities for students to meet challenges and liberate themselves from oppressive situations and systems of belief. The symbol on this panel was inspired by the cross-section diagrams found in many historical documents showing the layout and size of ships that transported Africans to America to be sold as slaves.

The raised, clenched fist is an immediately recognizable emblem of the social struggles of the 1960s, especially the Black Power movement. The artists chose the fist as a symbol of the involvement of the Hilltop community in the Civil Rights movement. The fist is recognized as not just an American symbol, but has also been used in Serbia, Portugal, and Northern Ireland, proving that the struggle for human rights transcends racial and national boundaries.
A traditional symbol of academia, the book symbolizes Evergreen, a place of scholarship. The book is shown open, representing the opportunities open to all at Evergreen, and the power and inspiration found within the pages of a book.


The Lintel or Sankofa Bird

On either end of this panel, a white Sankofa bird stands with its head turned to the rear. In the Akan language of Ghana, Sankofa means "one must return to the past in order to move forward." As many of the students who worked on this mural discovered, the diverse members of the Hilltop community have made great strides forward while often returning to their cultural roots as their spiritual home.

The green triangle in the center represents an evergreen tree, the namesake of The Evergreen State College. The triangle can also be seen as a wide road vanishing into the distance. This represents the path of education that Evergreen students set out upon when they "enter to learn," and the road down which graduates "depart to serve."

Between the Sankofa birds and the evergreen are two ankh symbols (see panel 33). The ankhs' position over the doors of The Evergreen State College-Tacoma marks this building as a place of learning. In ancient Egypt, the House of Life, designated by an ankh, held the temple, library and university complexes containing the collected wisdom of scholars, priests, and laymen. Egyptians founded the first universities, and were the first to study the liberal arts, which they called the "liberating arts."

Together, the Sankofa bird, evergreen tree and ankh represent Evergreen's strong ties to the history of the Hilltop community, and the way in which those ties enable the institution to move forward with its mission.


The Phoenix

The symbol on this panel represents the phoenix and the Vietnamese community. The phoenix is one of four animals (phoenix, dragon, unicorn, and tortoise) on the traditional Vietnamese coat of arms. In Vietnamese tradition, the phoenix is considered the paragon of virtue and was used by empresses as their principal emblem, while emperors used the dragon.

The phoenix is the mythical bird that burnt its own nest, only to rise from the ashes days later. The phoenix hides itself in times of trouble and appears only in calm and prosperous times, so it is regarded as a sign of peace and concord. It is the master of rebirth that understands the secrets of survival. The phoenix also makes itself known to those who need to make new beginnings.

Vietnamese folklore describes the phoenix as having the neck of a snake, the breast of a swallow, the back of a tortoise, and the tail of a fish. It is able to stand on the waves of the sea and fly for extraordinary distances. The phoenix's song includes all the five notes of the pentatonic musical scale and its feathers include the five fundamental colors-black, white, red, green, and yellow.

The phoenix has become a symbol of the rebirth of Vietnamese culture out of the ashes of the Vietnam War. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, many Vietnamese Americans have come to Tacoma to begin a new life and overcome the hardships of their past.


The Flag of the African National Congress

In the center of this panel hangs the yellow, green, and black flag of the African National Congress (ANC), the majority party in post-Apartheid South Africa. The ANC is a national liberation movement that was formed in 1912 to unite the South African people in the struggle for fundamental political, social, and economic change.

Created as a democratic organization, the ANC offers membership to any South African over eighteen who supports its policies and programs. Leaders are accountable to the members, who determine the policies of the organization. The ANC has organized mass resistance to racism and oppression and has mobilized the international community to increase awareness of the situation in South Africa. After years of working against apartheid and oppression, the ANC won a decisive victory in the 1994 elections and negotiated a new democratic constitution for South Africa.

Each color on the flag has a specific meaning. The black stripe symbolizes the people of South Africa, whom for generations have fought for freedom. The green represents the land, which sustained the people of South Africa for centuries before they were removed by the colonial and apartheid government. The gold represents the natural wealth of South Africa, which belongs to all its people, but which has been used to benefit only a small racial minority. The ANC's struggle for basic human rights shares many parallels with the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. and similar movements all over the world.


The Menorah

Tacoma's Jewish community chose the seven-branched menorah as their symbol because of its long history within their faith. According to the Book of Exodus, Moses crafted the first menorah to symbolize the light of God's divine presence. Its design features elements of the almond tree, possibly as a reminder of the rod of Aaron, which miraculously bore leaves, flowers and almonds overnight (Numbers 17:8).
The menorah has now come to symbolize the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival

of Lights. The word Hanukkah means "rededication," and the holiday celebrates a miracle. After Judah and his followers drove the Syrians out of Israel, Judah filled the temple's lamp with barely enough oil to keep the lamp lit for a single day. Miraculously, the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day, but for eight days, until oil was brought to refill the lamps.

The menorah, now made with nine candles, symbolizes the miracle in the temple and marks the eight days of Hanukkah. It also celebrates the light of freedom won by the Jewish people. The menorah on the mural incorporates all of these meanings, as well as representing the light that the Jewish community has brought to the Hilltop. As a minority group that has historically struggled to overcome oppression, prejudice and displacement, the Jewish community shares a history of struggle and triumph with the African American, Native American, Asian American, and Ndebele cultures.


The Ankh

The ankh is a powerful and well-known symbol of life, first created by ancient Egyptians. You can find thousands of representations of ankh in the writing, pictures, and artifacts from archaeological records in libraries and museums, as well as in its use as a popular symbol today. The ankh's inclusion in the mural represents the many contributions that Egyptians have made to Western culture. It also embodies the ongoing life of the Hilltop's cultures as they progress through generations of change and growth.

This ancient emblem has accumulated many layers of symbolism over the centuries. In hieroglyphics, the picture script of the ancient Egyptian priesthood, the ankh symbolizes life, both the verb "to live" and the power to give life. Hieroglyphics often portray Egyptian gods carrying an ankh as a symbol of their immortality and their life giving power. Egyptian mythology says that the gods could bring the dead back to life by holding an ankh to a person's nose. This symbol was also used in hieroglyphics to distinguish kings and gods from ordinary mortals, appearing on a scepter carried in the right hand.

The physical form of the ankh illustrates some of its meanings. The ankh's shape resembles a key; the ankh is considered the key to eternal life after death. The symbol's form also represents the joining of masculine and feminine forces to create life. The loop represents the feminine aspects, while the elongated staff represents the masculine. The crossbars represent the ancestors and the unborn; completing the circle of life.


The One-Room Schoolhouse

As in most Western towns, the first educational institution in Tacoma was a one-room schoolhouse. The Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus similarly began in a single room, around the kitchen table of Maxine Mimms, one of Evergreen-Tacoma's founders. Dr. Mimms and other faculty from the Olympia Campus of Evergreen began teaching night classes at the request of a group of African American residents from the neighborhood.

The central image on this panel represents the one-room schoolhouse origins of Evergreen-Tacoma, symbolizing the roots of community-based education on the Hilltop.

The bold arrows represent the transition of Tacoma from a frontier town to "America's most wired city" through the active implementation of technological advances. They also are a visual representation of Evergreen's motto, "Enter to learn, depart to serve." The direction of the arrows into and out of the schoolhouse shows the positive energy that flows from Evergreen into the community, and the inspiration that flows from the community into Evergreen.

A broad arch that spans the schoolhouse connects the arrows. The arch represents Evergreen's innovative Bridge Program, a partnership with Tacoma Community College that provides a transition to upper-division studies. In the lower left-hand corner, the South African artists Steven Mmako, Zodwa Mahlangu, and Nyathela Nghodela, who led the team that designed and painted the mural, have signed their names.


The Triangle

The triangle is included as a symbol of the strong Christian presence in the Hilltop community. One of the oldest symbols of Christianity, the trinity is represented by the equilateral triangle. All sides and angles are equal, and the three lines form one shape. Like the shamrock, the triangle is a visual aid that supports the Christian idea that the three distinct aspects of God-the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost-are co-equal, and make up one unified divine essence.

The many churches on the Hilltop are more than houses of worship. They also act as gathering places, social service organizations, and community centers. Programs such as the Hospitality Kitchen at Saint Leo Church, the largest free hot meal program in Washington State, rely on the support of the congregation to provide the 20,000 meals served per month, as well as the resource information on health, housing, and employment. Many of the influential volunteers on the Hill have been inspired by their faith, such as Mary Jo Blenkush, the founder of the Hospitality Kitchen and Nativity House. These active volunteers are carrying on a long tradition in the religious community of working to solve social problems.


Shiloh Baptist Church

This panel represents the distinctive tower and spire of the historic Shiloh Baptist Church on I Street. Like many of the churches in the dynamic and ever-changing Hilltop community, several different denominations and congregations have occupied Shiloh over the course of its history.

The original church is one of the oldest buildings on I Street. Built as the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1891, it became The First Norwegian Lutheran Church, the Messiah Lutheran Church (1938), the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (1959), and finally the Shiloh Baptist Church (1965). Many of these changes resulted from the merger of smaller congregations into a new, larger home elsewhere.

As the first African American church on the hill, Shiloh Baptist has been a major socializing force and community center. Shiloh's first pastor, Dr. Earnest Stonewall Brazil, first opened the church on Easter Sunday, April 10, 1955, and served until the last Sunday of 1999. The recently constructed addition features African-inspired architecture, in contrast to the original church with its tall spire and gothic windows. Today the Shiloh Baptist Church is a dynamic organization, with community events and meetings filling the building with an energetic congregation daily.

Although Shiloh's distinctive spire was chosen as the symbol for this panel, the design is intended to also represent the many other active Baptist churches on the Hilltop, including Bethlehem Baptist and Bethesda Baptist.


The Latino Symbol

This symbol is the seal of the Taino Tribal Nation, the original people of Puerto Rico. This symbol was etched into rock around 900 B.C. and represents one outer Sun circle, one inner Moon circle, the three stem points of the ceremonial pipe, and the three cardinal points of the sacred mountain of Cauta, from which it is said that all humankind originated. Sun symbols similar to this appear on indigenous artifacts from Mexico through the countries of South America.

Latinos are one of the largest ethnic communities in Washington State, and are among the oldest and newest migrants to this area. Spanish mariners began exploring and mapping the Northwest Coast in the 1500s, and these early explorations spawned a network of Spanish speaking people along the Pacific Coast that were used as stepping stones by later migrants.

The second wave of Mexican migration came through the building of the railroads from Mexico City to British Columbia between the 1870s and 1920s. The braceros-literally, men who worked with their arms (brazos) with the strength of steel (aceros)-did the hardest work of shattering rock, building bridges and laying down track. A third wave of migration replaced American workers-turned-soldiers during World War II. Yakima Valley farms were literally saved from ruin by the braceros.

During the 1960s, many workers came to Western Washington's urban centers in pursuit of a better life unrelated to agriculture. Other migrants came through the military, from the South, and from cities in the Eastern U.S. in search of socio-economic mobility. Thousands of Latin American and Cuban refugees came in the 1960s-1980s to escape political repression at home.


Sons of Norway

The sun symbol on this panel is excerpted from the Sons of Norway emblem. Among the first residents of the Hilltop, Norwegians immigrated to Tacoma for the plentiful jobs in the lumber and fishing industries and for the low housing costs. Ethnic social clubs have typically been a first stop for new immigrants looking for work and a place to stay, as well as a place to meet new friends, and the Norwegian community in Tacoma formally organized the Sons of Norway in August of 1904.

One of the primary goals of the organization is to collect funds to be used for charitable, scientific, literacy, and educational endeavors. Members share their heritage and culture and organize around political interests, including a long history of labor activism. The members met in a series of rented halls for 19 years, and in 1923 the Normanna Hall was built at 1106 South 15th Street. Normanna Hall documents the history of social organizations on the Hilltop, as well as the ethnic heritage of the community's Norwegian-American residents.

The large meeting rooms of the new building provided space for celebrations, church services, and community events. While primarily associated with the Sons of Norway, the clubhouse served larger community needs as well. The Sons and Daughters of Italy, the International Brotherhood of Pulp and Paper Workers, and the Gasoline Dealers Association have all met at Normanna Hall over the years.


Forever Green and the Tacoma Dome

The Hilltop community has always worked hard and played hard. The symbols on this panel represent the Forever Green Council, a coalition of community supporters for parks and recreation, and the familiar profile of the Tacoma Dome. Both represent the ways in which Tacoma citizens spend their leisure time. Immigrants who came to Tacoma in the early years of the century found more than just an industrial port city. They also found a city that was committed to creating spaces for fun and recreation.

C.P. Ferry was an early advocate of community parks and playgrounds. In 1883, he donated the first parcel of land to the city to be developed as a park when he platted the Ferry Addition to the City. Ferry Park, at 17th and Cushman Streets, serves a high density neighborhood with a landscaped setting and play facilities. In early 1907, city authorities created the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma to manage parks within the district. Metro Parks still operates as a municipal corporation independent from the City of Tacoma, the only park district of its type in the state of Washington.

The Forever Green Council recognizes the need for a coordinated system for parks and recreation, including all of the providers and users, to create a network of high-quality, comprehensive services and resources for the parks and recreation system. The arrows radiating out from the center of this symbol represent the different entities involved in creating and maintaining a vital parks system into the next century.

The Tacoma Dome was erected on six acres of land in 1983 and is the largest wooden dome structure in the world. It is home to several professional sports teams and hosts a wide variety of major concerts, trade shows and family events for the community.


Red Cross

The Red Cross symbolizes the medical community of the Hilltop that has been so instrumental to its development. The idea of the Red Cross was born in 1859, when a Swiss man named Henry Dunant came upon the scene of a bloody battle in Italy where 40,000 men lay dead or dying on the battlefield and were lacking medical attention.

Dunant organized local people to bind the soldiers' wounds and to feed and comfort them. He called for the creation of national relief societies to assist those wounded in war. The Red Cross was set up in 1863 and in 1864, twelve governments adopted the first Geneva Convention, defining medical services as "neutral" on the battlefield.

World War I showed there was a need for close cooperation between national Red Cross Societies that had attracted millions of volunteers. There were five founding member Societies of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the United States. There are now 178 recognized National Societies-one in almost every country in the world.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is the world's largest humanitarian organization, providing assistance without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. The Federation's mission is to mobilize the power of humanity to improve the lives of vulnerable people-those who are at greatest risk from situations that threaten their survival, or their capacity to live with an acceptable level of social and economic security and human dignity. Often, these are victims of natural disasters, poverty brought about by socio-economic crises, refugees, and victims of health emergencies. Like the Red Cross and the Hilltop medical community, the people who came together to create this wallpainting understand the power of community.


The Railroad

This panel is dedicated to the Chinese workers who built the railroads. Black lines representing railroad tracks run across the bottom of the frame and a white triangle representing the mountains the workers had to cross rises above the tracks. A hammer is poised above them both, symbolizing the laborers of the railroad.

In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln chartered the Northern Pacific Railroad to complete a line between the Midwest and Puget Sound. By June 1872, construction was in full swing with a full crew of 800 men and two locomotives. The construction crews worked at difficult, repetitive labor from sunrise to sunset, six days a week. The only tools available to them were mules, two-wheeled dump carts, wheelbarrows, axes, ropes, blasting powder, and nitroglycerin. Work continued through the winters, which in the mountains were rough and cold, with frequent snow, blizzards, and avalanches. Sometimes, entire camps were carried away and the bodies of the men not found until the following spring.

The railroad played an important role in the development of Tacoma from a small town to a city of industry. In 1873, Tacoma was chosen as the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Thousands of workers of all races and religions followed the work crews of the railroad west and settled in Tacoma. As the West Coast terminus, Tacoma experienced a boom in industry and growth.


The Pacific Islander Symbol

This symbol represents the people of the Pacific Islands. The two central figures are engaged in a ceremonial dance, holding paddles above their heads supporting a canoe. The arrows running across the top of the panel represent the tips of traditional fishing spears. Interestingly, Hawaiians used drift logs from the Pacific Northwest to make canoes, and these huge logs were thought to be gifts from the gods.

Early migrants from Hawaii called themselves Kanakas, the word for "person" or "human being". Kanakas left their homelands in primitive sailing vessels during the 17th century, exploring the waters of the Pacific Ocean in search of new food sources, trading opportunities and land.

Other Kanakas migrated on English trade ships in the 18th century and became an indispensable source of labor for the early development of Washington's economy in the fur trade, mining, railroads, agriculture, lumbering, canneries, fishing, small businesses and domestic services. Their outstanding skills as watermen, both as swimmers and sailors, guided early European trade and exploration, saving many lives in the process. Kanakas and Native Americans also worked the fields and ran the cattle and sheep ranch at Fort Nisqually, established near Tacoma in 1833.

Despite their contributions, racist discrimination denied them the right of American citizenship and land ownership. Kanakas worked alongside Native Americans from the region, eventually intermarrying and joining local tribal communities as farmers, shepherds, and fishermen. The nearby Puyallup Valley still bears evidence of their presence, where you can see roads with Hawaiian names today.