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San Diego Musician Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez Honored Locally, Nationally

Evening Edition

Aired 6/12/13 on KPBS News.

A San Diego musician and Chicano rights activist is being honored locally and nationally, with the naming of a school auditorium in Logan Heights and a prestigious arts fellowship.

— A local charter school is dedicating its newly renovated auditorium Wednesday, naming it for a legendary San Diego musician and community activist, Ramon "Chunky" Sanchez. Just last week, he was also announced as a recipient of the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts.

Ramon "Chunky" Sanchez plays his guitar inside the auditorium at King-Chavez Academy.

Inside the auditorium at Logan Heights’ King-Chavez Academy, Sanchez played a song he wrote called "Rising Souls" and dedicated it "to all the kids at King-Chavez."

Sanchez is a resident artist at the charter school, where the auditorium was renovated before being renamed for him. Its walls are now covered in bright murals depicting historic people from social justice movements.

"For the kids, the important thing is that this is history on the walls for them," Sanchez said. "All they have to do is look up there and see history and understand, if they read a book about Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez, they’ll say, ‘Oh yea, we have a mural of those guys at our school.’”

The newly renovated auditorium at King-Chavez Academy includes murals by Chicano artist Salvador Barajas.

Chicano artist Salvador Barajas painted the murals inside the newly named Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez Auditorium. They were funded by a school improvement grant for King–Chavez Arts Academy.

"When they see this, they don’t just see a wall with some painting, but hopefully they see me, Chunky Sanchez, somebody who cares about them," he said. "And that’s what school’s ought to be."

A younger Sanchez indeed appears in the mural. He’s been playing music and advocating for Chicano rights in San Diego for more than 40 years, dating back to his time performing on the picket lines with United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez.

Ramon "Chunky" Sanchez appears as his younger self in the murals inside the newly renovated auditorium at King-Chavez Academy.

“I remember being on the picket lines, things were very boring,” Sanchez said of his time marching with Chavez. “So one day, we decided to bring a couple of guitars, so we brought them. Lo and behold, we began to make some noise and we noticed that the spirit of the farm workers began to elevate.”

Now, Sanchez is being recognized nationally. He was announced as one of this year’s nine recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowships, becoming the first San Diegan to receive the prestigious fellowship. But Sanchez said the award isn’t just for him.

"I was very honored, but not just thinking about myself, Sanchez said. "My family, my grandkids, my wife, and also all the wonderful people here at King Chavez that have beared with me through hard times."

In September, the 61-year-old Sanchez will travel to Washington D.C. for the first time, where he’ll be awarded the $25,000 fellowship, earning him a place among fellow winners and musical legends like B.B. King and Bill Monroe.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | June 12, 2013 at 7:39 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

This is going to make CaliforniaDefender so sad and depressed. Would it have killed King-Chavez Academy to name the auditorium in honor of legendary Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson? At least that way, our unique California culture wouldn't be destroyed.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | June 12, 2013 at 9:31 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

One of ours (San Diegan, Californian) wins a national award! I hope the NEA throws in a chorizo sandwich. (Fans will know what that means.)

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | June 12, 2013 at 2:24 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago


No it doesn't make me sad, but thanks for thinking about my well-being.

The King-Chavez Academy is 97% Hispanic. By any measure, it is a segregated school. In such an insulated environment they promote their own culture and that is perfectly fine.

But to call Ramon Sanchez a San Diegan is a far stretch. "Resident" would be more appropriate. If you or I moved to Tijuana, it would be laughable to call us Tijuanan.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | June 12, 2013 at 3:02 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

What % Hispanic under 97 does a school have to be before you consider it unsegregated? By referring to Hispanic culture as "theirs" and not "ours," you're the one who sounds like a segregationist.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | June 13, 2013 at 7:39 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago


Chunky is not a San Diegan? You can regale and enlighten the audience with your definitions of what a true San Diegan is when you accept your own national award. Then, you can move on to the history of surf music and get laughed out of the room. You're being needlessly provocative and IIk is right in calling you out for it.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | June 13, 2013 at 2:35 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago


There isn't a percentage. One could simply say it is a Hispanic (or more appropriately Mexican) school based on the name, iconography, and the musician in the article without any figures. But then you would likely demand figures.

Under a more enlightened definition, segregation is used today to preserve culture not race. It is also not prohibitive, but voluntary. You see lots of these schools around, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, French, Mexican, African, Chinese, etc. All are voluntary segregationists and many get government funding to facilitate it.


Needlessly provocative? Perhaps you should examine post #1.

I always try to be constructive and informative, although I suppose some information is provocative, wouldn't you agree?

As for Chunky, I'm sorry, but none of his background suggests that he is San Diegan.

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Avatar for user 'Ltemca'

Ltemca | June 15, 2013 at 12:12 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps you need to look further. If you knew Chunky and his family you would know he is from Blythe CA. yes, but he came to San Diego and raised his family and became a San Diegan. His love for the city and people shows in all his has done for the community and children . Look into Chicano Park history , listen to his music , meet people that know him and his family . Majority of people in San Diego are not originally born here . Chunky is a huge part of San Diego , all of us that know him and his family have nothing but respect and love for him , he is very deserving of this .

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