The Dr. Edwin Coleman Jr. Community Center
The Dr. Edwin Coleman Jr. Community Center is home to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley (BGCEV), which has been serving Eugene and the surrounding communities since 1999. In 2018, the City of Eugene named the community center to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Coleman. The BGCEV inspires and empower all young people, especially those in need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.”
The plaque outside the Community Center includes this short biography of Dr. Coleman:
“Dr. Coleman was born in 1932 in rural Arkansas to an educated, free Black family who supported his musical interests at an early age. When he was a teenager, his family relocated to Alameda, Calif., where they were forced to live in racially segregated housing. His strong achievement in high school enabled him to be admitted to junior college, state college and the Air Force as an officer, while continuing to develop his musical abilities. He toured the U.S. with various musicians and faced overt racism when he wasn’t allowed to use the same hotels or restaurants as his fellow white musicians.
Dr. Coleman and family moved to Eugene in 1966 so he could work on his Ph.D. in theatre and communication. After completing his degree, he was hired by the University of Oregon (UO) Department of English to teach courses on African-American literature. This helped lead to the creation of the Department of Ethnic Studies. He gave countless hours working with student athletes as an academic supporter, and as an advisor for the Black Student Union and Cultural Center. He was an instrumental force in the Democratic Party of Lane County, the naming of MLK Jr. Blvd. and the dedication of Rosa Parks Plaza. He served for many years on the boards of Sponsors and Community Alliance of Lane County. In 1991, he received the UO Office of Multicultural Affairs Outstanding Faculty and City of Eugene Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement awards. After his death in 2017, the Eugene City Council named the community center in his honor.”
The Friendly Area Neighbors’ Association Dr. Edwin Coleman Jr. Mural Project:
On the South and West Walls of the Community Center, the Friendly Area Neighbors’ Association championed a set of murals that were completed in the summer of 2020. In a tribute for the mural dedication, the association wrote the following:
“Dr. Coleman's imprint on the thousands of lives he touched in Eugene is immeasurable. This honor reflects one of the places in Eugene he loved most: the Westmoreland Park and Community Center where he raised his family and spent countless hours volunteering his time and resources to the betterment of all Eugene.”
The following descriptions of each mural can be found on a plaque outside the community center. They read:
South Wall: Features images of Dr. Coleman as an educator, musician, civil rights activist, writer, and community and UO campus organizer.
West Wall (right): Illustrates two of Dr. Coleman’s passions: social justice and music. Dr. Coleman plays in a “magical” jazz band of iconic musicians, with whom he performed, and literary giants and visionary civil rights leaders, some of whom he met. Pictured are Edwin Coleman and his wife, Charmaine; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; poet Maya Angelou; jazz musician Cal Tjader; novelist James Baldwin; folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary; and Mahatma Gandhi, the father of nonviolent protest.
West Wall (left): Students at the Boys & Girls Club painted this mural through an artist-in-residency coordinated by Lane Arts Council. The theme is “Building a Better, More Just and Equitable World.”
The South Wall mural was painted by Jessilyn Brinkerhoff.
The West Wall mural was painted by Esteban Camacho Steffensen.
Directions to the next stop: Head north on the bark path and follow it around Westmoreland Park until you reach a wooden exercise structure near the tennis courts.