This month (September) marks the 15th Annual California Memorial Project Remembrance Day. Similar to the annual National POW/MIA Remembrance Day that we host each year, this event provides people with an opportunity to honor and acknowledge a special segment of our larger community.
The California remembrance is in memory of individuals with mental health and developmental disabilities who died at State Hospitals and Developmental Centers and were buried without recognition. Ceremony sites throughout the state were selected, including Sonoma County’s Russian River Cemetery in Ukiah.
According to the California Memorial Project’s website, more than 45,000 people with psychiatric or developmental disabilities died while living at a California state hospital or developmental center between the 1880’s and 1960’s. Many were buried anonymously in unmarked or mass graves and did not receive recognition and respect.
This project, created in 2002, started as a collaboration of 3 consumer-led advocacy organizations – the Peer Self-Advocacy (PSA) Program of Disability Rights California, the California Network of Mental Health Clients (CNMHC) and People First of California. In 2014, due to lack of funding, the California Network of Mental Health Clients was no longer able to participate in this project.
California Memorial Project Purpose
The main goals are to:
1) Restore cemeteries or graves and place monuments where individuals from California State Institutions are buried;
2) Document the history of the client and consumer movement in
3) Preserve the stories and personal experiences of individuals who lived in state institutions by collecting their oral histories; and
4) Hold annual CMP Remembrance Ceremonies at locations throughout the state, including many at the sites of the institutions or burial grounds.
Some of the burial sites now have monuments that were privately funded and/or paid for with fundraising efforts. The organization has plans to place more throughout the state as funding allows.
We know from our experience with the POW/MIA Memorial, Blue Star Biway Marker, Gold Star Bench and other specific monuments dedicated to our service men and women, how important these can be for their loved ones as well as the larger community that may have not had a personal connection with those the monuments represent.
To learn more about this valuable year-long community resource, please click here.