Stockton, California, an agricultural city in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, was the center of Filipino life in the United States for much of the 20th century. Beginning in the 1920s, thousands of Filipinos called Stockton home. The intersection of El Dorado and Lafayette Streets in downtown Stockton was the heart of what was fondly called Little Manila. Yet, much of this rich history is unknown to most of America, and sadly, to the majority of Filipino Americans.
However, the history of Stockton’s was not lost to one Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon. Dawn was a born and raised Pinay Stocktonian who spearheaded the reclamation of Stockton’s Filipino American history. As developers threatened to demolish the three remaining buildings of Little Manila, she helped to organize community members to stop the further erasure of Filipinos in the city. Ever the scholar, Dawn also documented the history of Stockton’s Filipinos in her much lauded book, Little Manila is in the Heart. She was truly a pioneering scholar and leader of the Filipino American community.
Dawn Mabalon. August 17, 1972 – August 10, 2018.
TFAL was set to interview Dawn Mabalon along with two other community leaders on August 19. However, Dawn passed away a week prior to the recording. In this episode of TFAL, Joe and Gerlie speak with two of her compatriots, Gayle Romasanta, co-author with Dawn of Journey for Justice, a children’s book about the life of labor leader Larry Itliong, and Dillon Delvo, Executive Director of Little Manila Rising, an organization dedicated to the well-being of Filipinos in Stockton. In the episode, Gayle and Dillon remember the life and legacy of Dawn Mabalon, her impact in their respective work, and the importance of reclaiming our history as Filipino Americans.
To donate to the good work of Little Manila Rising, go to their website here: http://www.littlemanila.org/donate/
To purchase Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong, go here: https://www.bridgedelta.com/purchase/journey-for-justice-the-life-of-larry-itliong
For more on the history of Stockton’s Little Manila, check out this video:
To see the power of Dawn Mabalon, check out her speech during the dedication of Little Manila in 2002: