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  • Dawn Bohulano Mabalon (1972–2018)
  • Matt Garcia

On August 10, 2018, the profession experienced a profound loss with the passing of Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, associate professor of history at San Francisco State University. Lives cut short are always shocking, but for me and so many others, her death seemed especially devastating, not only for what she meant to us, but also for what she promised to give. While we had her, she delivered the most personal and insightful treatment of a Filipino community in her magisterial Little Manila Is in the Heart: The Making of the Filipina/o American Community in Stockton, California. Accessible as it is profound, the book is a loving portrait of a city and a people that have been neglected for far too long. It established Dawn as a major voice in history as well as in the allied, interdisciplinary fields of American/ethnic Studies and labor studies. Regarding the latter, research for her first book led her to the radical Pinoy (Filipino Americans), who built the modern-day farm worker movement that became the United Farm Workers (UFW).

At the time of her death, she was working on what I routinely referred to as the most important history of the farm worker movement yet written—the Filipino origins of the UFW. She partially and powerfully delivered on that project with a children's book, Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong, about Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee organizer and UFW co-founder and Vice President, Larry Itliong. She also advanced our knowledge of the Filipino farm worker struggle in several lectures and numerous conversations with the public, including the fiftieth anniversary of the Grape Strike at California State University, Bakersfield on October 31, 2015, captured by C-SPAN. I was privileged to be there that day, and witness her effervescence and humor as she spoke about the generation who made that moment in California and US history possible, some of them her relatives. She told the story of how, as a ten-year-old girl, she wondered why her uncles named the Queen of the Stockton Filipino Festival "Nina Van Zandt." When she returned home, she looked up Van Zandt in her encyclopedia to discover that she was the mistress and eventual wife of one of the perpetrators of the Haymarket Riot. "Oh my god," she closed, "my uncles are all Marxists!" We miss you, Dawn. Rest in Power. [End Page 5]



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