OAKLAND -- More than a decade and millions of dollars after the first glimmer of inspiration, the massive "Remember Them: Champions for Humanity" memorial was completed Friday with the installation of the fourth segment, which bears the likeness of Joaquin Miller, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Harvey Milk, "Mother" Mary Ann Wright and Fred Korematsu, an Oakland native who took his challenge of the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"You can see their sense of humanity," Kaiser Permanente Chairman Officer George Halvorson said. The medical group was a key donor to the $8 million project. "Oakland needs this place of healing," Halvorson told a crowd of about 150 gathered for the ceremony in the small park on 19th Street near the Fox Theater named for Henry J. Kaiser, whose likeness is also embedded in the newest and tallest addition. "California and the nation needs this place of healing," he said.
The artist Mario Chiodo was inspired by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to create the memorial installed in the park section by section since September 2011.
The first section bore the likeness of 25 leaders who the artist said influenced the world for the better, such as Malcolm X, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez and Maya Angelou.
"It's been a long time since I looked up at hope as if it weren't a slogan but an act of protest," Oakland School for the Arts poet Kerby Lynch told the crowd. "Let this be for you, so you can remember what an act of courage looks like."
The final touch Friday was a "visually impaired wall" to allow those with sight impairments to explore the characters on the monument through touch.
The sculptures "show us who we are and who we should emulate," said Gary Newell, of the Lions Center for the Blind and a consultant who helped design the wall. He said until he encountered "Remember Them" he did not know Malcolm X wore glasses. "No one ever told me."
John Paul Marcelo, a local landscape artists, called the monument amazing. "The size of it, the natural color of the bronze and, of course, the figures."
Friday's installment was supposed to be in place by mid-2012 but the pace of fundraising delayed the completion¿ of the project donated by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Complaints arose several years ago when the city gave the chamber $182,000 in redevelopment money to help pay for the installation that was supposed to be a gift.
Now complete, the memorial -- designed on a spiraling axis emulating "the helix of the common DNA of all humans" -- fills the small park where OSA students skateboard or just recline on the base of the statues. "Remember Them," however, also sparked controversy early on over aesthetics.
"Mario took insults along with accolades," said Ruby Bridges, known as the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South. She is also included in the monument.
"Mario did not do this on his own. You brought this to life," she said Friday, crediting the donors, fundraisers and army of people who "played a significant part in making this a reality."